Entries in BBQ (14)

Saturday
Jun032017

The first BBQ of Summer 2017

In the North if we lived our lives by the weather we would never do anything.  Our wee country is most known for having four seasons in one day.  I remember a flight back from Chicago where my seating companion was so excited to be heading over to visit the country she told me she had even packed for our weather bringing thermals and flip flops.  We grew up hardy weather rarely ever stopped us doing anything unless it was life and death dangerous and that included BBQ's cooked in waterproofs under huge golf umbrellas.  Rain! Pa.  That is not going to put us off and it shouldn't put you off either.  Especially with the yummy Spirit of Summer BBQ range in Marks and Spencer.  


Thick wedges of Halloumi cheese cook quickly on the bbq and are delicious on their own for veggies or shared with the adults to have on top of burgers.  They do disappear quickly so always get much much more than you think you'll never.  There is never any leftover Halloumi.  Slices of Halloumi tossed with rocket and the Marks and Spencer Hasselback garlic potatoes are delicious add a squeeze of lemon for a big of zine.

Chicken when cooked properly on a BBQ is always incredible.  The sweet smoke and crisp skin with succulent chicken meat pulled off bones is a little bit of heaven.  The Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer range have lovely chicken bravas tenders with a rich alioli and some seriously smoky and sharp Louisiana Barbecue Chicken Flatties.  

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.

Burgers and slices of grilled pineapple go togther perfectly. 

Salad is a key BBQ ingredient - I make a huge tossed salad with mango, chive flowers, pomegranate seeds, cos lettuce and lots of coriander, tossed in a mustard and honey dressing.

 

When you BBQ don't stress with perfect table settings or lots of washing up load up on Marks and Spencer plastic wine glasses and disposable cutlery - you won't regret it!  The wine peaking through in the background is one of my favourites Marks and Spencer Marlborough  Silver Frond vibrant dry Sauvignon that is bursting with ripe gooseberry flavours.  A herbal aromamatic nose with undertones of luscious fresh lime and crushed nettle palate, it is fun and sparkly.  M&S winemaker Jeneve Williams made this wine with local winemaker Andrew Blake of Giesen, sourcing grapes from a number of prime vineyards to really show off the quality and clarity of the region’s fruit.  Grape Variety: 99% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Pinot Gris.

 

Get out and get the BBQ lit - have a fabulous summer!

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Sunday
May152016

BBQ season begins 2016 with Marks and Spencer - Spirit of Summer

 Summer has finally come to Ireland.  Temperatures have started to rise, rain has been banished and BBQ's have been dusted off and lit.  Hazey skies are filled with sweet smoke and scents of grilling meat.  There is nothing like it.  I would BBQ 365 days a year, it is without doubt my favourite way to cook.  Social, enjoying - outside and relaxing.  If you are new to BBQs or want to brush up on your skills check out my Top Ten BBQ tips - refined and developed in nearly 30 years at the grill.

Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer range is full of the delicious flavours of the American Southern States - BBQ capitals  - and the South Americas.  The product developers have travelled widely and created a range that is delicious.  Our favourites include the Jamaican spatchcocked chicken which had a pimento chilli and Rum rich spice rub/marinade.  The meat was succulent and well flavoured.

We always serve slices of grilled pineapple at a BBQ.  Not only is it delicious there are health benefits too - the pineapples enezymes breakdown the fatty tissues of meat making it easier to digest. 

 

 The Louisian BBQ Spatchies came with a tangly BBQ sauce that when grilled caramelised and enriched the flavour of the tender chicken.

Marks and Spencer understand BBQ and the need for things to be spatchcocked for easy grilling.

 Always keep an orderly grill - don't just whack everything on in a haphazard method - check out my top ten BBQ tips for more BBQ essentials

 Boys love BBQing - men and fire, it goes the whole way back to ancient prehistoric times ...

 

 

 Eating outside is simply glorious and relaxed.  We aim for chillaxed atmosphere's which creates its own genuine form of perfection.  There is no striving to get everything right.  Marks and Spencer have taken all the hard work out of the cooking - and while I love preparing meat etc for the BBQ from scratch my increasingly busy lifestyle means I have a choice to make.  Be chained to the stove cooking from scratch or enjoy my downtime with the fabulous Spirit of Summer BBQ Range from Marks and Spencer, that allows me to actually chillax, rather than simply create the atmosphere for everyone else.

 Jumping off walls is the perfect way to wait for food to cook.

 Chicken skewers with lemon and bay have a fresh zesty filled sweet taste.

 Smokehouse Pork Links - are a German style sausage, they have a firm texture and a rich flavour.

We cook down several finely sliced onions in a smoke encrusted BBQ frying pan, to create sticky fried onions that are a superb match for the Marks and Spencer Vension Burgers.

 

 Condiments are an essential part of BBQ and this year as always, Marks and Spencer have it covered.  We particularly loved their Amarillo Ranch Chilli - perfect for dipping sausages into.

 

 Waiting for the BBQ to be ready and the food to be cooked is hard work - it calls for a refreshing long cool drink  - try this pineapple and coconut Rum Punch - or Strawberry Margaritas.

I serve big bowls of crisps - like these Marks and Spencer Tennessee Smoked Rib Chips and these Cajun Spiced Plantain Chips, with some Pineapple and Mint salsa, which is also excellent with BBQ'd lamb.

 

 Set up a build your own burger bar - 

Sliced  Baps

Slices of cheese

Little Gem Lettuce Leaves

Sauces

Gerkins

Then add the cooked patties of meat and let folk build their own burgers - Marks and Spencer have a superb range from Salmon to Vension - SteakCheese to Chorizo - there are lots of burgers to chose from.

Pulled pork Burger with salted cured cucumber.

 

 

 Apple Glazed pork rib rack - delicious served with or without its sauce.

 You haven't lived until you have had BBQ'd Halloumi - the chillioumi skewers from Marks and Spencer are a sure fire winner.

Butternut squash sausages - with sweet smoked onions - does it get any better for Veggies at a BBQ - I think not.  Marks and Spencer have it covered. 

After all that meat there is nothing better than a BBQ'D Smoree.  We made ours using Marks and Spencer chilli chocolate cookies and Peanut Cookies, with bbq'd marshmallows skished inside.

 

 

Skewer marshmallows then slowly cook them on the edge of the BBQ on a sheet of tin foil brushed with oil.  

 

 

After all that food in Ireland we always need a cup of tea and a wee bun - these sweet treats from Marks and Spencer, including Lime toffee popcorn are absolutely delicious and a simple elegant way to end the meat feast that is a BBQ.

BBQ is the spirit of summer - I hope you catch the zeitgeist.

Happy BBQing folks - hope you have a summer filled with long lazy hot days, grilled meat and hanging out with family and friends.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
Aug052015

Rosemary, garlic, lemon quick meat marinade

One of my closest friends doesn't believe in marinades, they feel meat should always speak for itself.  Part of me agrees with her, but that part has a prerequisite, which is that meat that isn't marinated has to be simply the best.  

And, while we all should buy the best meat we can afford, there will always be some cuts of meat that are better than others.

Sometimes meat needs just a little helping hand, something to just add a bit of zag a zoom.  

Marinades tenderise meat and add depth and flavour, and are especially good to soften cheaper cuts.

Even a 30 minute marinade can totally change the dynamic of a piece of meat, increasing the flavour, making it more succulent and easier to eat.

Marinades mix acid, herb, fruit and/or diary (buttermilk, and yogurt are brilliant bases for marinades, they break down the enzymes in meat) with some herbs and spices.  The aren't just for BBQ, they can totally transform a piece of meat grilled or fried for dinner.

This marinade is quick delicious and very easy to make, it is especially good with lamb cutlets or steak, such as the ribeyes in the photograph, but it can be used with chicken.  

I like to make the marinade then using my fingers massage the mixture into the meat.

Rosemary, garlic, lemon quick marinade

Ingredients

 

  • 3 steaks
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • juice of three lemons
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • leaves from four sprigs of rosemary

 

Method

 

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a shallow dish
  2. Lay the steaks or other cuts of meat into the dish and massage the marinade into the meat
  3. Leave for 30 minutes, or overnight 
  4. Cook the meat discarding the marinade.

Enjoy!

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Tuesday
Aug042015

A very quick bbq desert - BBQ cookie S'mores 

 

Toasted marshmallows and cookies are a perfect way to end a BBQ.  S'Mores are traditionally made using Graham Crackers, but I like to subsitute chocolate chip cookies, and serve with ice cream and fresh fruit.

Either make a pile of chocolate chip cookies, or buy some good ones, then thread marshmallows onto wooden sticks, children love doing this  (Haribo do some great BBQ marshmallows that keep their shape on the outside while inside they are soft and sticky).

Set or hold the sticks of marshmallows over the BBQ until the insides have melted and are very soft, then sandwich between cookies.

Serve sandwiched between cookies, with ice cream, or fresh fruit.  BBQ'd marshmallows are also great put onto meringue nests with some chopped strawberries.

How do you like to make your BBQ desert?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Friday
Jun122015

BBQ season begins Summer 2015

BBQs are a relaxed way of eating.  They appeal to the primal instinct in all of us - cooking over fire outside - even the most girly girl, finds something satsifying about BBQ.  She just might not admit it.

Yet the prep for BBQs can be exhausting, there are lots of balls in the air at once.  My Top Ten BBQ tips keep things simple and that is my mantra for any type of cooking - simplify.

 Preparing a lighting a BBQ is something all the family should be involved in.  It is the perfect time to teach young boys about fire safety.  I read a report once about teenage arsonist and it suggested those that decided to do this had not been exposed to safely lighting fires as a young person.  Chatting with a psychologist who worked in the probation board dealing with teenage arsonist, I definitely thought there was something in it.

Use BBQ to teach people about fire safety and cooking safely over burning coals.  It also heightens the sense of anticipation and excitement - collecting sticks, scrunching newspaper, preparing the coals - to eating food cooked over fire.

BBQs also teach children to love food its preparation, cooking and the dreaded but absolutely essential health and safety.  Cooking with children encourages them to eat well, to think about what they are eating, and to enjoy cooking.  It makes it real rather than theory, and visual learning, and learning by doing is always exciting for children.

 Today is the perfect day to GET YOUR GRILL ON.

Sitting in the sun, eating food cooked over fire, laughing with friends - that is my idea of a great time.

Even if you hadn't thought about BBQing it is still possible because Marks and Spencer Grill Range take away all the thinking, and all you need to do, is pour a long cool drink, fire up that grill, and get grilling!  What could be easier I ask you.

Life for us all is so busy, I am frequently amazed by the frantic pace of life we all work and live too.  The essence of BBQ waiting, slow and steady cooking, is the antithesis of hurry, fast, wolf it down, type living and eating.  Food is to be prepared and enjoyed, taken slowly.  

Eating together sharing life around a table is beautiful.  It is where our memories are made, we are not meant to be alone.

 The boys finding a way to entertain themselves while the coals turn white.  Their laughter was infectious and we all stood around cheering Frankfit on as he pushed up and down, with these little ones on his back.

 My brother Frankfit practicing his core strength, by pressing up three little boys.

 And he did it several times - serious kudos bro!

 I passionately love bringing people together around my table, and while the food is always paramount, I have learnt that I don't need to slave over everything myself for guests to feel radical hospitality or welcomed.  This is why I have absolutely no shame in choosing BBQ staples from my favourite high street store Marks and Spencer.  

This means we can enjoy food of a superb quality, infused with a variety of flavours, that have been carefully researched and thought about.  Again and again the Marks and Spencer Food team impress me with their desire to create dishes that are authentic.  They travel the world looking for inspiration, and then developing products that deliver.

 Some of my favourites this year from the Marks and Spencer Grill Range included the Lamb Ribs with a sticky beer glaze.  This soft succulent lamb which has already been slow cooked for several hours, and only needs finished on the BBQ.  The foil trays means the food can be cooked over the coals before, being finished on the trays sitting on the grill with the glaze bubbling over the meat.

The Grill Pork Belly Hog Roast with Kentish Apple sauce and crackling crumb was like eating your very own hog roast, without the whole hog.  Soft melt in your mouth meat, spiked with slightly sweetsour applesauce, and a crunchy crumb.

BBQ HACK -  Gently brushing meat with a mix of lemon juice, olive oil and pepper, keeps the meat succulent while it cooks.  Just watch out for flame brusts.

 The Grill range spiral sausage inspired by South African Boerewor had a good mix of spice and meat, the apple mustard dressing stopped it being dry.

 The spiral sausage looks fantastic to serve and is one children love to try and unravel.  The British pork meat has been mixed with cider and mustard, giving it a sweet smoky flavour.

 Kebabs are always a BBQ hit, maybe they kid us into thinking we are not eating as much eat as we are - especially when we reach for our fourth or fifth kebab.  Perhaps they feed into our childhood instinct to eat meat from sticks - remember the cocktail sausages a staple of all childrens parties?

One of the little boys who was visiting with us - doesn't really like food, and getting him to eat can be tough - however he was very taken with the Marks and Spencer kebabs, that his mum was off to buy some jsut after the BBQ.

Marks and Spencer The Grill kebabs - 

 

  • Tandoori Lamb Kofta - infused with aromatic spices, apricots & a hint of mint with sweet red peppers
  • Chicken Tikka - yogurt and spice marinated kebabs
  • Chicken souvlaki - with onion and lemon, baby and pieces of marinated chicken
  • Lamb Shish kebabs - minced lamb marinated with spices

 

 Sweetcorn is a huge hit whether you are young or old at the BBQ.  Marks and Spencer sweet corn this year comes fully loaded with sour cream, a dash of chilli and a bit of cheese.  It disappears very quickly I recommend buying more than you need.

Burgers and BBQ - well they really just go together.  The Marks and Spencer Aberdeen Angus steak burgers combine great meat with a deep rich flavour seasoned only with salt and pepper.  The patties are thick and juicy.  Top with a piece of chilli cheese.  We served them with a range of mayos and dips, corn bread baps, seasame seed baps, and the new Marks and Spencer broiche baps.  I like to serve burgers on platter just the bun and the meat or wooden board, and let others add their toppings.

This cheddar with smoked jalopeno burger toppers are delicious - but they are spicey, if you don't like spicey food, don't try them they are hot.  But they are yummy yummy, get in my tummy if you are a fan of heat and cheese.  Chillicheese I love it!  They work brilliantly with burgers, and sausages, as well as chicken burgers.

Marks and Spencer also have very meaty bean, cumin and chilli burgers for vegetarians and fantastic chicken and chorizo burger which is surprisngly juicy and lighter than a beef based pattie.

The Coriander, chicken and lemongrass burgers were my favourite.  I loved their spiky, lemongrass flavour, and the smoothness of the chicken, and the coriander, oh the coriander, it is one of my favourite herbs, fresh and light.  It just heightens the tastebuds.  These chicken lemongrass, coriander burgers are a firm staple in my summer bbq menus.  They really are that brilliant.

 Marks and Spencer Posh Dogs have been a fundamental part of the M&S Grill range since it launched  this year the posh dogs are Cornich Cove pork with bacon.  These meaty littly fellas are firm, lightly seasoned, sweet and yummy.  Add some spicy mayo to the picture and you might just dunk them straight from the plate.

Marks and Spencer American range of authentic seasonings and sauces are fantastic.  For someone who has spent a lot of time stateside, I am in heaven being able to pick up real American sauces and flavours on the High Street.  This smoked chilli mayo is thick and wholesome, with a good smoky chilli kick.  All the children at the BBQ were big fans, dipping and dunking straight from the plates of meat.

 

The Lamb Shish Kebabs were a big hit with children, there is something as I have said about eating meat from a stick that is just appealing.  Meats that chicken would not normally eat were quickly finished and more asked for, when the meat was presented in a different way - just something to think about to all the Mums out there struggling to get little ones to eat.

When you BBQ it is usually a meat feast, and it is worth knowing that grilled pineapple eaten after meat helps with digestion.  Simply cut a pineapple into wedges and grill for 5-10 minutes on each side on a medium heat, then serve on the meat platter.

 

The Marks and Spencer chicken breast escalopes with cocnut, lemongrass and lime leaf, are sweet and mild, perfect for those who aren't keen on lots of spice.  

 

Woman and man cannot live on meat alone, and luckily for us Marks and Spencer's have some truly delicious sides that are wonderful.

Hasselback Hedgehog potatoes are served with a rich garlic butter and parsley topping.  They are very morish, and easy to eat.  The garlic flavour is strong, so sits well with all the other BBQ tastes.

They can be cooked on top of the BBQ in a foil tray, or pop them in a really hot over to cook.


 

 The fully loaded potato salad, has scallions, cheese, bacon bits, mayo and chunks of baby potatoes, it is a great mix, that is very enjoyable.  It comes in a packet that is perfect for picnics and BBQs, or mixed together and placed in a bowl it looks very appetising on the table.

 

 This smoky, tomato, corn and black bean pasta salad is as delicious for lunch as it is on the BBQ buffet.  The sauce is rich and sweet, with a smooth flavour, the beans and sweetcorn add differing textures.  Rocket brings a peppery flavour and green colour, whereas the smokiness flavour is genuine and smooth, rather than overpowering.

 

 Bread is very important for BBQs and it is often overlooked.  Marks and Spencer have lusiciously soft white or brown rolls with seasame seeds.  There is a lovely take on cornbread with a soft white bread crumb in a bap, and some broiche rolls.  Marks and Spencer have lots of ideas on how to make burgers which might give you some inspiration.

 

 Serve kebabs on a slateplatter in a circular pattern, mixing up the flavours.

 

The Marks and Spencer Grill Range is in my opinion without doubt a brilliant, tasty, accessible and delicious selection of products.  Everything has been thought of – all we need to do is light the grill, and cook, then enjoy the tasty results. 

Pick up your favourites and 'Get your Grill on'

 

Happy Barbeque.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Thursday
Jul172014

Top Ten BBQ Tips

It's around this time of year we tend to go BBQ crazy.  When we feed our  primal instinct to get outside and cook over fire.  Things seared, BBQ'd, grilled, smoked, charred and sometimes burnt things are everywhere!  The scent of outdoor cooking lingers over garden hedges, beaches are filled with popup BBQs.  And, in anticipation of the big event fridges are stacked with ribs, steaks, burgers, sausages and ready for any opportunity to cook and eat outdoors.  Large pots of rubs are blended and marinades made.

I've been BBQ crazy since I was a child and its my favourite way to cook.  Coming from a family of BBQ enthusiasts there have been a few lessons learnt over the years, which I am going to share with you today, to get you outside and BBQing with ease.

 

Tip One - FIRE! 

This is the first thing to get right. Get the fire wrong, and your BBQ is sunk.  

Most people tend to put food onto coals too early, when the fire is still flaming, the coals haven't had a chance to heat up properly, and the BBQ is too hot.  This results in burnt outsides and raw insides, and a nasty case of food poisoning.  

A BBQ is ready to cook when the coals are all white, and you should not be able to hold your hand over the grill, because the heat is so intense.

When I light a BBQ I start with scrunched up paper, and plenty of it, then lots of kindling (you can pick this up drift wood on a beach, or sticks from a forest) or just buy a bag of sticks. Light the kindling first and get a good flame going, before pouring over the charcoal.  Some people are fans of lighter fluid at this point - I'll leave it up to you whether you want to use it or not.  All I would say is use it with extreme caution as you don't want to get burnt, or burn other people.  Certainly if you are BBQing with children do not leave the lighter fluid anywhere near them.

Depending on the size of your BBQ the coals can take up to 45 minutes to one and a half hours for them to be ready to cook on.

Light the BBQ well in advance of guests arriving and remember grill times and temperatures are guidelines. 

Things like the type, age and dampness of the charcoal, weather conditions and the core temperate of the food all affect how long it takes to grill a piece of food.  BBQing well relies a lot on feel, touch and commonsense.

Tip Two - Choose what to cook 

Use the best ingredients you can afford.  You can make up everything from scratch but don’t be afraid to cheat by buying great products already prepared from the High Street.  It’s not always practical, but it is easier if you can purchase your ingredients the days before – don’t forget things like ketchup, cheese, ice and napkins.

Think about who you are serving and how many people there are when deciding what to BBQ.  Do you want to BBQ lots of meats, chicken and fish, chops, sausages or do you want to settle on one type to grill.  Different meats need various cooking times, and all meats need space on a BBQ to cook, so don’t crowd the grill.

I’ve thrown parties where I’ve just cooked Steaks, another time it was burgers, and then for a Friday night BBQ with about 20 people sitting to eat, I choose to just cook marinaded butterflied chicken fillets.

Have fun when your choosing what to cook – experiment with pre and post cooking marinades, smoking, use dry rubs, cook in parcels and even slow cooking (I know people who BBQ their Turkeys at Christmas and Thanksgiving).

Think about your accompaniments to what has been BBQ’d.  I always recommend serving family style with several big salads, slices of bread, jars of pickles and sauces open with spoons in the middle, and either a large bowl of rice, or a bowl of tinfoil wrapped baked potatoes which you have cooked in the fire of the BBQ (don’t forget to have plenty of butter to serve with them).

My favourite salads are – Vietnamese Carrot Salad, Beetroot and Goats Cheese, Tomato and Broccoli; or mango, pomegranate and rocket. 

Tip Three – Be Prepared

Clean your BBQ and grill the day before, stock up on charcoal and sticks, and make sure you have some matches. Make your marinades the day before and leave the meat to soak.

Put a table beside your BBQ with everything the BBQ King or Queen will need when cooking – a knife, a tray to place cooked meats, somewhere else to place raw meat, oil and brush, BBQ tools, cloths and wipes.  

Before your guests arrive prepare your salads (dress them at the last moment), set the table, string the lights, get your drinks and glasses ready, garnishes cut.  Prepare everything as much as possible in advance, leaving you with more time to relax and enjoy the party atmosphere on the day.


Tip Four - Oil in a cup with a heatproof brush 

Food can dry out quickly if you just leave it there to grill.  One of the best ways to keep flavour and in the meat, and to allow it to stay succulent is to gently brush, just the meat with a little olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, salt and pepper in a cup.  Be careful just to brush the meat, or the oil will hit the coals and flare up.  You can also do this with marinade, but be careful not to brush cooked meat with a marinade were raw meat has been.

Never let a rain shower stop you from BBQing.  Here are my brother and the boys keeping it real under an umbrella.

Tip Five – Remember Food Hygiene

It is wishful thinking and seriously unhealthy to think it’s okay to let the BBQ burn off any charred  food scraps from your last grill, therefore you don’t need to clean.  Nonsense!

Clean your grill - after washing I use halved raw lemons, which I rub over the metal.  If your grill had a hard night last time you used it and is crusted with charred remains, rub a lemon over it before washing, you will be amazed at how easily the black food comes off.  But wear gloves!  I have warned you.

Have separate dishes for cooked and raw meats.  Do not place cooked meats/fish/chicken etc on plates were raw meat once rested, and never add marinade used for raw meat to cooked meat.

Your grill will be hotter in the centre and cooler at the edges, use a rack system or move food around from cooler parts to hotter ones as necessary or place food on foil to prevent it burning.

Don't cook cold meat - allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking.  Otherwise if chicken, meat, fish or vegetables are too cool in the middle the edges and outside will burn, and look done, whilst the meat remains raw. 

Use a small sharp knife to cut into the centre of meats to check the flesh is cooked and juices run clear – juices virtually always need to run clear - unless you are eating blue or rare steak.


Tip Six – Marinades

Using marinades is easy, it just requires a little bit of thought to get the meat into the marinade preferably over night but at least 30 minutes before cooking.  Marinades flavour and tenderise meat

For example if you have a piece of meat you have spent serious money on – its well hung, preferably organic etc etc etc – then just lick a brush with oil over it, and then a little freshly ground salt and pepper.  However, if your meat or veggies are from a regular shop, then they definitely need to be marinaded in order to get maximum flavour.

Some of my favourites are –

Coco Cola, garlic, honey, soy and ginger for chicken; lemon, garlic and oil for steaks, wholegrain mustard, honey and a dash of cider vinegar for sausages, yogurt, mint, lemon, cumin, and coriander for lamb, and my sister in law’s outstanding Pork Chop Marinade – soy, scallion, brown sugar, fish sauce and garlic.

There are also some great pre-made marinades available, my favourites are Piri Piri and Smokey BBQ.

They say you shouldn’t marinade for too long, but on my travels I have seen meat marinaded for up to a week.  Do what works for you. 

Tip Seven - Seasoning

Seasoning is essential when cooking meat.  Don’t neglect it!  Never add salt to an overnight marinade, it can only be added a maximum of two hours before cooking, or it will dry out food.  Pepper and spices are grand overnight.  Season meat with salt just before grilling, and don’t be shy about it, season well. 

Tip Eight – Vegetarians

Veggies love BBQ’d food too, and there are plenty of ways to grill food that will make them smile.  Think grilled corn, Hallmoui and Pepper Kebabs, sticks of Asparagus served with grilled lemon wedges, veggie burgers made from lentils and chickpeas, there are also some great meat alternatives on offer, I’ve been known to enjoy the odd Linda MacCartney veggie sausage! 

Tip Nine – Pudding

BBQ’s tend to be Meatfeasts so for pudding you don’t want anything to too heavy.  I recommend serving a big bowl of sliced watermelon, and slices of pineapple that you have grilled for a few minutes each side on the BBQ.  Samores, BBQ Brownies, toasted marshmallows, cookies and an ice cream are fantastic other options.


Tip Ten – RELAX and ENJOY yourself!


What are your top BBQ tips?

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Thursday
Jul102014

Top BBQ Picks from Marks and Spencer's Summer of Flavour

 

My love for BBQ burns brightly, glowing like a hot sweet smoky hickory chip.

 BBQ is my favourite way to cook and to entertain.  Nothing else comes close to cooking outdoors, the meat and veggies infused with woodsmoke and that smoky taste of charcoal.  There is something primal and ever quite hardcore about cooking outside over an open fire (but if you grill with gas, well that's just great too).

 

'How can you be bother Nicky?' that's a question frequently asked, when I rave on about my love for the good old BBQ.  It's quickly followed up with - 'there's so much mess' and 'where do you find the time'  well let me let you into a little secret - I choose to make the time, and I am not shy about sharing my love of pre-prepared products from brilliant food retailers, like Marks and Spencer.

Repeat after me there is NO SHAME in not preparing everything from scratch.  It is perfectly acceptable to get pre-prepared food products, as long as you buy products of great quality, where thought and time have been spent developing the items.  Products like this can always be found at Marks and Spencer, especially in their Summer of Flavour Grill Range.

When I was in London this spring, I had the opportunity to meet several of the Marks and Spencer Food Developers, and we had some fascinating conversations about the amount of work that goes into the store's product ranges.  

For the summer of flavour range these guys travel across the world, sourcing produce, developing flavours with world renouned experts in BBQ.  And, they have brought to our table some real good'uns.

There are a range of burgers - beef, veggie, venison, salmon - and then a selection of toppings.  My favourite are the Grill Pickles and Polish Dog Relish.  Both of these are as good as I have had anywhere in the southern states of the USA.  They have a tangy finish which merges with sweetness and a satisfying crunch.

Marks and Spencer have strong tangy Mature Cheddar slices with red chilli pepper flakes in them.  This cheese melts easily and brings a bit of ommph to your burger.

The burgers are the best you can buy on the High Street.  The meat is succulent, full of flavour and locally sourced in the UK.  Cooked with just a hint of pink in the middle, or in traditional Northern Ireland style - well done - they still pack a punch.

Edgy Veggie burgers - fooled some of my team into believing they were actually eating meat, the texture and flavour, of these puy lentil and soy based burgers, flavoured with earthy thyme, beetroot porcini mushrooms, sweet caramelised onions and black pepper.  They are a definite on my summer table - not only for veggie's but for those who want to cut down on their meat intake, and eat something lighter.

The Vension Burgers are made from Northern Irish Venison are full of flavour and a great option for those who want to eat red meat and burgers but don't want the high cholesterol worries that come with eating normal beef burgers.  Venison is high in protein, B vitamins and iron, and is one of the leanest red meats available, with a light gamey taste.  It's important as you cook these fellas, to brush on a little olive oil across the meat as they grill, to stop them drying out.

 

The Maple marinaded flank steaks grilled easily, their sweetness enhanced as the meat caramelised over a smoky grill.  

Serving steaks as big chunks of meat can be very masculine, not to mention offering one big piece of meat, stops people eating some of the other meaty options you have been grilling.  Cutting these Maple Flank steaks across the grill after they have been cooked, and tossing them with the Grill Range Sweet Potato Wedges, with chipotle a flick of parsley and sour cream, allows people to have a piece of steak, without feeling they must chomp their way through a full chunk.

To get a really smoky flavour on the wedges, cook them in the oven indoors, then toss in a holey wok, allowing the scent of the hot coals a chance to quickly interact with the potato flesh.

Good kebabs are absolutely wonderful, and the selection at Marks and Spencer, this summer is authentic and tasty.  Arranged on a large platter with a few dips in the middle, you can offer kebabs as a first bite of BBQ while other meat is cooking or place on the centre of a table for people to help themselves family style.

Tandoori Lamb Kebabs are little balls of lightly spiced lamb mince, with pieces of green pepper and cherry tomatoes.  They are bite sized and perfect for serving as appetisers with drinks.  Should you wish to do this, they can be BBQ'd a head of time, then kept warm until serving in a low oven.


Chicken Souvlaki are pieces 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. 

Lamb Shish Kebabs have a good depth of flavour with cumin, smoked paprika and chilli.  The meat has a sweet lamb flavour and is not overly greasy.


Vegetarians often object to having a hard time at BBQ, but really it jsut takes a little thought and consideration, and they are very easily catered for, as vegetables and grillable cheese, also take on new caramelised flavours when they are cooked over hot coals.

Hallumoi red peppers, and courgettes are skewered together providing a pop of colour on the otherwise meat heavy grill.  I brush these kebabs with a lemon oil, and turn them regularly while cooking to allow them to cook evenly.  The firm cheese blisters on the outside, then is soft firm goo when bitten into.

I don't think there is anything better than grilled sweetcorn.  A hot grill enhances the flavour of sweetcorn, because natural sugars of the corn caramelise.  Whereas with boiling the flavour pours down the table in the water.  Grilling sweetcorn is simple the secret is to not let it burn so don’t walk away from the grill once you start, at least not for too long. 

 Rib Ticklers are authentic southern BBQ ribs, that have been broiled.  We heated ours in the oven, then transfered to the BBQ for a dose of smoky flavour, then back to the oven with the thick sachet of BBQ sauce poured over.  

Good ribs need to have layers of flavours which begin with a complex spice rub, hardwood smoke, a tangy sweet sticky sauce, held together with the pork.  Marks and Spencer have got this process perfectly, and it would be hard to find better ribs in a restaurant.  The meat falls off the bone, and is so succulent, the sauce is sticky but neither too sweet or sour.

Pulled Pork - is making a huge entry this summer into Ireland and Britain's foodie landscape - is American BBQ at its best.  Cooked long and slow, tenderly even over low coals, the meat can be gently pulled apart by hungry hands.  It is smoky, juicy, and served with a sharp tasting sauce which stimulates the palate.  The particulars of the sauce change from state to state, and a fierce battle wages at BBQ competitions as to who has got it right.

Marks and Spencer pulled pork has a gorgeous deep, smoky tang with a sauce just balanced on that blend of sweet and sour.  Shredded we added it to the top of burgers, mixing pork and beef to create an enormous carnivore sandwich.

Lamb Lollipops - that attracative name makes me smile.  These little slices of trimmed rack of lamb come in a thick citrusy marinade and lightly cooked so the lamb remains pink are melt in the mouth gorgeous.  They can be served as part of a platter and also make perfect pre-dinner nibbles served with glasses of fizz.

Butterflied Chicken fillet marinaded in ginger, soy and chilli have a lovely sweet sour flavour, which paired with light smoke makes them very morish.

Marks and Spencer have worked wonders with this Grill Range, the products have been carefully developed and thought out.  They use top quality ingredients - local produce from carefully selected farms.  The tastes are authentic and allow you to have excellent BBQ without the stresses and strains of endless preparation.  

And that's what BBQ is all about  - great food, friends and enjoyment, and M&S's grill range allow you to do this.

Happy Grilling friends.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable