There was a time when, hearing the words ‘you are invited to a barbie’ would make me physically cringe. It’s got nothing to do with not being True Blue, nor is it about snobbery. What it conjured up in my mind was images of steak sacrificed at the altar of barbeque, with all it’s juices cooked out and ending up as tough as old boots, chops – which have no meat on them at the best of times – grilled to this black lump on a bone, and sausages so charred and blackened that given a blind taste test, you would have said they were charcoal. In fact, if asked what flavour any sort of sausages were, you would have had to say ‘tomato sauce’, as that was the only way they would ever have had any flavour. This was not my idea of fun eating, and is really a terrible thing to do with good food. I’ve never quite got my head around the whole concept of an inedible meal, served up with a bland salad and bread rolls that had been too long in the sun – all captured on a flimsy cardboard plate balanced on your knee. No wonder the dog got a good feed. If you weren’t sneaking it to him to avoid eating it yourself, the same plate would disintegrate as you tried to saw your way through the steak with plastic cutlery, giving him access to the whole meal – deliberate or not. Okay, I am a bit of a food snob, but I didn’t flog my arse off at TAFE, squeezing a 12-month course in commercial cooking into 6 months, usually starting at 7.00 in the morning, to see food ruined in the tradition of barbequing. Thankfully, evidently enough people got sick of it to see it turned in to a new form of cuisine, raising the bar and making the great Aussie barbeque a tradition to be proud of instead of shunned and delegated to the world of beer swilling and football. The mother-in-law was kind enough to buy David & I a barbeque for the first Christmas after we moved into our house. I have to admit it’s a beauty with 4 burners heating both an open grill and a flat plate, and a wok burner. It perhaps doesn’t get as much use as it should – David gets home a bit late for barbequing in the dark – though it regularly gets hauled into position for guests to cook on at our regular soirees, always held in the jungle we call a yard.
This column is for those who have not as yet discovered the world of gourmet barbequing, of aromatic rubs and spicy pastes, forever changing the face of the good old fashioned Aussie barbeque.
FOR ALL RECIPES INVOLVING SKEWERS, IF THEY ARE BAMBOO SOAK FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES IN COLD WATER BEFORE SKEWERING FOOD AND COOKING. THIS HELPS TO STOP THEM BURNING.
All recipes serve 4
Pork Skewers in Green Ginger Wine & Soy Marinade:
800g pork filet, trimmed
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved ginger in syrup (from supermarket)
¼ cup Stones Green Ginger Wine (from liquor shop, usually pretty cheap)
2½ tablespoons kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce)
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon oil
Cut pork into 12cm x 2.5 cm (5” x 1”) strips and put into a non-metallic bowl with ginger, garlic, preserved ginger, green ginger wine, kecap manis and oils, turning to coat. Cover, refrigerate and leave to marinate for at least two hours, or overnight. Thread S-shaped pieces of pork onto 12 wooden skewers. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat barbie to medium, and cook on chargrill plate for 2 minutes a side or until cooked through (ALWAYS cook pork thoroughly) and glazed. Garnish with coriander and serve.
Five-Spice Roast Chicken;
1.8 kg (Size 18) chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon five-spice
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Wash chicken and pat dry inside & out. Whisk soy sauce, garlic, ginger, honey, rice wine & five-spice together in a small bowl and brush all over the chicken, ensuring every bit of skin is well coated. Place the chicken on a wire rack over a baking tray and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat a covered barbie to medium indirect heat and put a drip tray under the rack. Brush the chicken liberally with peanut oil and place breast-side up in the middle of the barbeque over the drip tray. Cover the barbie and roast the chicken for 1 hour 10 minutes or until the juices run clear when you pierce it with a skewer between the thigh and body. Check every so often, and if appearing to over-brown cover it lightly with foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Wok fry some Asian greens and cook some jasmine rice to go with it.
Thai Beef Salad:
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar or soft brown sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
1 stem lemongrass (white part only) finely chopped
2 small red chillies, finely sliced (remove seeds if you want milder)
2 x 200g beef eye fillet steaks
150g mixed salad leaves
½ red onion, sliced into fine wedges
½ cup coriander leaves
1/3 cup torn mint leaves
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Lebanese cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
Mix together lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, chopped coriander, lemongrass and chilli until the sugar has dissolved.
Preheat barbie chargrill plate to medium-high direct heat and cook the steaks for 4 minutes each side or until medium. Let cool then slice thinly across the grain.
Put the salad leaves, onion, coriander, mint, tomatoes and cucumber in a large bowl, add the beef and dressing. Toss together and serve immediately.
Chargrilled Vegetables with Basil Aioli:
1 garlic clove
¼ cup torn basil leaves
1 egg yolk
½ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 x large red capsicums, deseeded and quartered
1 x eggplant cut into 5mm thick rounds
1 orange kumara (sweet potato) and cut into 5mm diagonal slices
3 x zucchini sliced lengthways into 5mm thick slices
2 x red onions cut into 5mm thick rounds
1/3 cup olive oil
1 x loaf pide (Turkish bread), split and cut into 4 equal pieces
To make aioli, put the garlic, basil and egg yolk into a food processor and blend until smooth. With the motor running, VERY slowly add the oil in a thin stream until the mixture thickens. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Preheat barbie chargrill plate to medium direct heat. Put the capsicum, skin-side down, around the cooler edges of the grill and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the skin has softened and is blistering.
Brush eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini and onion slices on both sides with olive oil and season to taste. Cook in batches, in the middle of the chargrill, for 5-8 minutes or until they are cooked through but still firm. As vege pieces cook put them on a tray in a single layer to prevent them from steaming, then grill the Turkish bread on both sides until it is lightly marked and toasted.
Spread both sides of the bread with 1 tablespoon of the aioli and pile on some of the chargrilled vegetables. Top with remaining toast and serve immediately.
Camembert with Port-Soaked Raisins:
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons port
365g whole camembert cheese (Australian, naturally)
Canola oil spray
Almond bread, to serve
Put the raisins and port in a small saucepan over high heat until they just come to the boil, then allow the mixture to cool for about 30 minutes.
Cut a circular lid from the camembert, leaving a 2cm border. Carefully remove the lid and scoop out the soft cheese with a teaspoon, leaving the base intact. Put the raisins into the hole and top with the cheese, squashing it down to fit back into the cavity, then replace the lid.
Lightly spray a double layer of foil with canola spray and wrap the camembert to form a sealed parcel. Preheat barbeque flat plate to low (or use heat from barbie that has just been turned off) and cook the parcel for 8-10 minutes or until it is heated through and soft. Make sure the heat stays low, or the rind wil go brown and burn.
Serve with the almond bread.
Pineapple with Brown Sugar Glaze & Toasted Coconut:
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon Galliano (miniatures can be purchased from liquor stores)
2 tablespoons coconut flakes, toasted
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Either peel pineapple and remove all eyes, or use a pineapple peeler and corer to remove pineapple flesh. Slice lengthways into quarters, and remove core (if not using peeler/corer). Cut into long 1cm wide wedges.
Put brown sugar, vanilla essence and 2 teaspoons water into a small saucepan and cook it over low-medium heat for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove pan from heat, add Galliano. Then return to heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Whisk in the butter and continue to simmer the mixture over low heat for 15 minutes or until smooth and thick.
Preheat barbie chargrill plate to medium direct heat, brush the pineapple with the brown sugar glaze and grill for 2-3 minutes or until grill marks appear. Arrange wedges on a serving platter, top with the glaze and toasted coconut, and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Berry & Marshmallow Gratin:
600g mixed seasonal berries (use frozen if out of season, but drain well)
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (Framboise can often be bought in miniatures, or substitute with something of choice, or use processed raspberries, or use nothing)
150g pink and white marshmallows
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Put berries and liqueur into a bowl, stir gently to coat, then transfer to a 1.5 litre oven-proof dish. Top the berries with the marshmallows, ensuring they are evenly distributed over the surface.
Preheat a covered barbie to medium high indirect heat and put the dish in the middle of the barbie. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the berries are bubbling and the marshmallow has puffed up and is starting to melt.
Serve the gratin immediately with a big scoop of ice cream, but take care not to burn your mouth on the berries, which will be very hot.