There is nothing better than the sweet smoky smell of meat as it cooks over hot coals.
Tastebuds are tantalised. Senses are heightened. Our history pumps through our veins.
There is something so intrinsically instinctive about Barbecuing to me, and it goes deeper than the taste of the food, it is a hark back to ancient times. Barbecuing flings open our legacy as humans for survival. The primal senses of our ancestors awakened, as we cook in the simplest way possible – using fire to grill our food.
What I especially love about the new Grill Range from Marks and Spencer’s is the fact the meats are marinaded, the chicken skewered, the fish filleted, vegetables cut and the accompanying sauces provided.
Marks and Spencer has done all the BBQ preparation for you.
Which means in our time strapped lives, especially mid –week, we can eat sensational BBQ, without so much as mixing a marinade. Allowing us to relax, and have our senses reawakened as meat sizzles over hot coals, enjoy the evening sunshine, after a day at work, and take part in the UK and Northern Ireland’s National BBQ Week.
The Marks and Spencer Grill Range is in my opinion without doubt their best selection of BBQ products for several years. Everything has been thought of – all we need to do is light the grill, and cook, then enjoy the tasty results.
My absolute favourite dish in The Grill range is the Pork Belly with Hoisin Glaze.
Pork Belly has become incredibly popular lately, in the foodie scene, especially among chefs who loves its low cost, high sell ratios, it is on every menu from here to Timbuktu. However, getting good pork belly is another story. Rarely is it ever as packed full of flavour as this piece of British Pork from Marks and Spencer.
I have been served pieces, which are oozing fat, rubbery, greasy, and altogether unpleasant, the only cuisine in my opinion who really know how to cook Pork Belly are the woks of the Far East. And it is to those flavours that Marks and Spencer have looked when preparing this dish.
The pork has been marinated in garlic and chilli as well as aromatic spices – and the flavours of clove, cinnamon, fennel, star anise really come through no only in the meat but muddling with the BBQ smoke to create a lingering scent of warm spice in the air as the meat cooked.
The smell of crispy pork skin, warm spices and juicy meat rose from the lump of meat as it fell apart under my knife when I shredded it. The skin had caramelised, and the strings of meat where as succulent as could be. The Hoisin Sauce that accompanies the dish was as thick and rich and the flavour of the meat. Outside of a Chinese Restaurant I have never had better Pork Belly, than this piece from Marks and Spencer.
My sister-in-law is Vietnamese and she knows a good Pork Belly when she tries one, this is how she described The Grill, Pork Belly and Hoisin Sauce. ‘Incredible, I love the textures, and the flavour is outstanding.
Sausages are the staple of the Northern Irish BBQ, they are easy too cook, relatively cheap to buy, and taste fantastic. Marks and Spencer Grill Range, have created a new sausage, using outdoor reared British Pork, which has been smoked while it is cured. These are big juicy sausages, flavoured with sage and nutmeg, and with a very high meat content – 85%, which in the sausage world is unusal, considering some sausages only have 50% meat.
These firm and weighty sausages suit their name ‘Posh Dogs’, we served them in the new Posh Dog Sub rolls, with mustard, ketchup, and salted coriander onion. I like to cook my sausages until they go a deep walnut brown, and start to
Caramelise around the edges, when I bite into these Posh Dogs, I was struck by the firmness of the meat, its succulence, and it sweet smokey flavour, which contrasted nicely with the earthy flavours of the nutmeg and sage.
Souvlaki I learned in Greece last summer, means meat cooked on a stick. The Grill Range Chicken Souvlaki brought me back to my summer holidays were meat was BBQ’d each evening over roasting hot coals, the smells mixing with the salty sea air and the scent of Gardenias and Eucalyptus. .
The Grill Souvlaki have edges of chicken fillet are packed onto skewers alongside bay leaves, red onion and chunks of lemon. There was a freshness and a depth to these Souvlaki, as the meat as soon as it came into contact with the lemon, onion and bay began to marinade in the packet, then when placed upon the grill, the lemon released its sugars, bringing a sweetness to the critusy meat. Just before cooking I sprinkled some dried oregano, over the souvlaki, and onto the coals, before serving them when they were cooked with some humus and a feta cheese salad.
Rib Racks are a staple of the southern diet in the USA, and it was from an American chef, I learned the secret to good ribs is not only a cutting marinade, but also tenting the ribs in tin foil, and broiling in their marinade, in a baking tray over the BBQ before putting them over the coals. Marks and Spencer The Grill Hickory Smoked Rib Rack, come already broiled, and rubbed with smoked salt and pepper, so all that needs to be done is to place these bad boys over the coals to let the smoky salty flavours come alive, then serve with accompanying tub of sticky Hickory BBQ sauce.
These ribs are finger lickin’ good, and my fingers were sticky after eating them. The flavour is balanced by the combination of Chiplote chillis bringing smoky heat, while mustard, garlic, pimentos and lemon juice add sharpness, sweetness comes from the cane molasses (any southern will tell you this is absolutely crucial for any kind of BBQ and they are right, no other sugar gets the same depth of flavour) and roasted onion puree and depth from the Paprika. Eating these ribs brought me right back to South Carolina, all the while never leaving my backyard.
Vegetarians never are left out at a Marks and Spencer BBQ. Thick chunks of red and yellow peppers, deep green courgette and wedges of Halloumi cheese have been skewed together into rainbow kebabs, that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate. Vegetables take on new flavours as the hot coals caramelise their natural sugars, making them both firm to the bite, with a little hint of crustiness but soft and silky to eat. Halloumi ’s rubbery texture when barbequed completely changes, to something not unlike great toast, the outside is crispy, while the inside is fluffly and soft. The mixture of sweet vegetables with salty Halloumi infused with smoke as they cook is a combo that is difficult to beat.
All this protein needs a carb combo, which the Marks and Spencer The Grill range have in the form of thick spicy potato wedges. These come in a foil tray which I pierced some holes into the bottom of then cooked directly on top of the Barbeque grill. The little holes allowed some BBQ smoke to infuse into the rosemary, cayenne, garlic and thyme seasoned potato wedges. The sugar and starch from the potato oozed slightly in the warm heat and began to caramelise, adding a sweetness to the savoury smoky, flavour of the wedges.
Small pieces of Rump Steak need only a simple seasoning of freshly ground salt and Pepper, before being grilled. When the steak is cooked as you like it, in our case medium, all that needed to be done was to place the steaks on a platter to rest and pour the sachet Chimichurri over them.
The Grill Range also have a great range of pre-made marinades, I am particularly partial to the ‘Hot Hickory Smoke’ one, which I mixed with a little Coca-Cola and left some chicken fillet pieces in overnight before cooking the next evening, so they had a good 17-20 hours soaking in the sweet smoky sauce. When marinated meat or chicken is cooked the flavour has already permeated into in this case the chicken, bringing what can be quite a soulless meat to life, then the marinade that coats the outside of the skin, will caramelise over the coals, resulting in soft flesh with a slightly chewy outside.
My other favourite item in Marks and Spencer Grill range, are the BBQ flavour sprays, I used the soy, chilli and garlic one as a glaze for pieces of chicken fillet which had been marinated in lime, ginger and chilli. These nifty little sprays can be used inside over stirfries, salads, and vegetables, as well as a baste for oven cooked meat.
This week is National BBQ week across the UK and Northern Ireland and, we are actually having a week of reasonably warm weather, so there is no excuse not to pop into your local Marks and Spencer store, pick up a selection of The Grill range (which by the way are on a super offer of 3 for £10) and get your grill on!
How do you like to get your grill on?
Enjoy the sunny weather, and the sweet smoky smells of your BBQ.
That’s it for now …
Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable