I always find barbecues disappointing. Any easy upgrade ideas?
“Vegetables and fruits are the real stars of barbecue – this is the wisdom of the Middle East,” says chef Itamar Srulovich, whose latest cookbook, written with his partner Sarit Packer, is called Chasing smoke. “Everything that hits the grill gets sweeter and smoker, even the cabbage.” For something “really special,” Srulovich dresses charred wedges of the humble vegetable with minced shallots, chili and garlic, all fried in butter with a large handful of dill stirred at the end. Steve Horrell, Executive Chef of Roth Bar & Grill In Somerset, meanwhile, top the charred hispi cabbage with Caesar dressing or aioli, pangrattate, and Parmesan, then “melt it all.”
But perhaps the easiest upgrade is to invest in a basic smoker, says Mursal Saiq, co-founder of the Afghan BBQ team. Reference point in west London. That way it will impart more flavor: “We use oak, which works amazingly with beef and lighter meats like chicken and pork.”
A multipurpose marinade will also help, Horrell says. “For the pork, we make a sweet cider brine: a bottle of cider, a little water, cider vinegar, fennel seeds, demerara sugar, salt. Dip a branch of herb into the brine and beat the meat with it as it cooks. ”Any leftover brine also forms a cracked dressing.
“The whole process is food, so enjoy it,” says Srulovich. This means lighting up the barbecue, putting foil-wrapped potatoes on the side of the grill, tossing in some pea and bean pods “to snack on” and lamb chops marinated in barbecue tahini sauce (tahini, pomegranate syrup, anchovy, garlic , chilli, vinegar). Grill alongside stone fruits (also a great dessert, FYI) for a “chutney-like situation,” then serve with the potatoes cut in half and topped with sea salt (“perfect”), olive oil, or butter ( “most perfect”), and / or sour cream and chives (“heaven”).
Speaking of potatoes, Rukmini Iyer has a touch of genius in his latest cookbook, The green barbecue, mixing blanched gnocchi, chopped peppers, pesto, and olive oil, then skewering the batch on skewers. Of course, you could mix things up even more, writes Iyer: “Try cherry tomatoes and halloumi or tofu, or cubes of fresh fennel and figs cut in half.” While afternoon snacks are no better than French toast, for which Iyer whips shredded cheddar cheese, minced chili, and sage in an egg-yogurt mixture, drowns the donuts, and then grills until to “be ready.”
For desserts, Saiq is sweet with brownies, pouring a classic batter (“delicious with caramel”) into a buttered cast iron plate and placing it in a smoker over high heat for an hour and 15 minutes. And chef Chet sharma, whose first solo restaurant, BiBi, slated to open in central London this summer, ups the ante by infusing smoky milk for an ice cream base. “Put a trivet on top of a shallow milk bowl and a small metal bowl on top.” Sharma then adds hot charcoal to the latter, along with spices (cardamom, cloves) and a tablespoon of clarified butter. “He will smoke like crazy.” Cover and leave for up to 30 minutes, depending on how strong the flavor you want is: “You can always add fresh milk to temper it.”
Alternatively, go back to basics. “The natural thing after a barbecue is watermelon or ice cream,” says Srulovich. “Or both, actually.”