The sun is out (finally), and you know what that means… pasting unwanted sun-cream onto the kids’ faces, getting out those pasty winter legs and donning the shorts you’ve been eyeing up since March and rolling out the BBQ for that quintessentially British summer staple.
The days of blackened bangers and burnt burgers are a thing of the past. We are now a far more astute nation of grill cooks in this modern age thanks to cooking programmes such as Masterchef, Great British Menu, The Great British Bake Off, Saturday Kitchen (the list goes on), which we tune into by the millions each week. We not only know how to cook, we do it well!
Being a chef, people don’t often cook for me for fear that I will be judging their food (I mean, of course I do, though I would never be rude…), but I honestly look forward to summer because people aren’t usually nervous to get behind the BBQ.
In fact, I have some non-chef friends who grill better than most of the professionals I have worked alongside so far in my 21-year career! Complex flavour combinations, marinades with explosive taste, low and slow cooking that any Memphis smoker would be proud of - and don’t even get me started on the sauces and sides!
The design and technology of our BBQs has also gone up a notch and gone are the days of a pile of scrap metal in the corner held together by rust and what appears to be magic. We now see professional setups leaking into the mainstream with Big Green Egg, Komodo Joe, Weber, Traegar and Napoleon rolling out some serious bits of kit for the keener home cook – while the likes of Argos, Tesco and Aldi all provide some more affordable, but just as effective options.
So, you’ve checked the weather forecast and its going to be sunny this weekend. The garden is fit to have people in again, the beer is on ice and it’s calling to you!
But what should we prepare, I hear you ask? Well, here at The Cheshire Dining Experience we’ve got you covered:
Slow Cooker: Pork Shoulder (Feeds 8)
A solid favourite of mine and something good to pre-prepare for the following day. This will make you look like a pro as you cruise around your summer shindig, drink in hand, while everyone reels at how good the food is! It’s a cheap cut of meat so you can feed the many and save on the pennies.
What You’ll Need:
2kg of pork shoulder from your local butcher, boned and rolled
30g Smoked paprika
1 handful of chopped rosemary
Carrot, celery, onion, garlic bulb & thyme
Pre-heated oven at 180 degrees celsius
Take some baking parchment and tear off at about 60cm. Place the pork on this and remove the string. Unroll it and place it flesh side up. Sprinkle all of the paprika evenly over all of the meat. Now do the same with the honey and massage it into every nook and cranny. This can take a few minutes of work but it’s worth it. Next, sprinkle over the rosemary along with a good crack of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Into a deep tray (this is essential), chuck in a halved onion, halved carrot, two sticks of celery, a halved bulb of garlic and a bunch of thyme. Place the joint meat side down and put into your pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.
Once the 25 minutes has passed, pull out the joint and put baking parchment over it (this prevents the foil from sticking). Now cover the tray with foil and crimp it tight using a tea towel. Turn your oven down to 130 and leave in the oven for 10 hours - yes, 10 hours! Low and slow is best.
When it’s done, carefully remove the tray from the oven. Remove the foil and parchment then remove the joint and place on another tray to cool down.
In the tray you’ve removed from the oven will be some liquid. Put this into a pan and reduce by half. After your joint has cooled a little, use some tongs to shred the meat - do this in a bowl and mix through your reduction liquid.
Keep this in a tray that can warm through on the BBQ and put it into a toasted bun. I love mine with a good slosh of hot sauce and fennel, celeriac and apple coleslaw. BOSH!
Grill Sizzling Halloumi Kebabs (Feeds 4)
This is a sure-fire winner for the vegetarians that will have all of the carnivores asking for one. Simple and fun to prepare, this is a great one to do with the kids.
What You’ll Need:
1 Pack of halloumi
1 Jar of ruby rose harissa (100g)
1 handful of rosemary
1 handful of mint
50ml olive oil
Mushrooms, courgette rounds & chopped pepper
Kebab skewers (soaked in water if wood/bamboo)
A cranked BBQ!
The night before your BBQ, prepare this. You can do it with the kids or guests as a fun activity.
Remove the packaging from the halloumi and chop it into 2cm cubes. Place this into a bowl. Cut your lemon in half and squeeze all of the juice out into the bowl onto your halloumi and place in the lemon halves too. Tip your harissa, oil and herbs into the bowl and give it all a good mix.
Cling film and leave overnight. While the BBQ is warming up, skewer your halloumi cubes and cut veg. Put it onto your sizzling grill for 3 minutes, flip it over for another 3 minutes and you’re ready to serve.
I like to eat mine with a fresh salad with a good side of garlic and cucumber yoghurt.
Banging Beef Sliders (Makes 10)
This is a recipe I’ve honed over the years to something I really cherish. There is something very special about a good burger off the BBQ. If you want to impress your guests, look no further. I’ve yet to have a burger that beats this recipe.
What You’ll Need:
The night before your BBQ, put all of your ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Divide into 10 patties and form them into your desired shape. Place on a tray, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge.
The next day, when your BBQ is ready to go, place them on the grill and give 5 minutes on each side.
I serve mine in with a slice of melted smoked cheddar, a good glug of hot sauce, crisp lettuce, a big old pickle and a slice of tomato in a toasted bun. If you’re feeling adventurous you can throw a dash of bourbon onto your burger while its on the grill. You’ll get a spit of flame which does a little southern magic on that patty!
Ok, so here is the low-down on your sausages…. Don’t trust your supermarket to be giving you the best bang for your buck. Go to your local butcher and speak to them. They should make their sausages on-site. These guys are professionals and want to give you the best product for the best price. The supermarkets just want your money so will more often than not fill their sausages with undesirable powders and chemicals to make them look or taste better.
Butchers have moved with the times and not only put the best locally sourced meat into their bangers, but all manner of exciting flavourings that are the real deal. So, if you want to serve up the best hotdog in the street, keep it simple and shop local.
I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do - you may even end up adapting new ingredients and processes the more that you use them. With food, there are no rules! Enjoy and let us know how you got on!