Skye Gyngell

How to spice up your summer barbecue

How to spice up your summer barbecue
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Summer barbecues open up a wealth of opportunity for culinary exploration. Here are four tips for taking your barbecuing to the next level, followed by three of my recipes to try for yourself: lamb cutlets with asparagus, garlicky prawns and the delightfully colourful Pepper Piedmontese. Each of these dishes have been paired with wine chosen by Andrew Peace so that you can bring out the very best of those barbecue flavours. 

Choose your charcoal wisely

Food cooked over an open fire has a different flavour altogether than food cooked on the stove or in the oven. For the best flavour use sustainably sourced British charcoal which burns longer so you’ll use less and isn’t packed with chemicals like mass-produced charcoal.

Don't rush

Make sure your meat is at room temperature before you cook it - meat cooked straight from the fridge will take a lot longer. It’s really important to allow meat to rest once it is cooked; this will improve the texture and flavour. 

Mix it up

All manner of things can be cooked on a barbecue– not just sausages and burgers but all the lovely, robust summer vegetables such as aubergines and red peppers. One thing that you can try quite easily, and that is really different, is to grill little game birds. Things such as quail are fantastic because they are naturally so tender and succulent. First, you need to spatchcock them, which you do by taking the backbone out (or ask your butcher to do it for you). This leaves them flat and easy to cook. Season them the day before, then put them in a hot oven for about eight minutes and grill them on the barbecue on both sides for about two to three minutes.

Any of the small, oily fish - sardines or mackerel are cheap and delicious when grilled. They're also easy to handle on the barbecue and served with lovely sauces such as salsa verde or aioli to spoon over the top.

Prepare

Finally, the key to a successful barbecue with friends or family is to do as much of the prep as you can, such as marinating and seasoning, in advance so you're not dashing in and out of the kitchen, but free to sit back and relax with a glass of wine. 

Why not try these recipes to start you off?

Garlicky prawns with parsley, lemon and radicchio

With all the flavours of the summer, these juicy prawns drizzled in butter and topped with fresh herbs and leaves make an impressive centrepiece without being difficult to make. It can be prepared ahead leaving you to relax and enjoy a glass of wine with your guests. Served with crusty bread that can be griddled on the barbecue for a smoky flavour – they're a real showstopper dish for outdoor entertaining.

Serves 4 

2kg fresh raw prawns

100g unsalted butter

1 teaspoon of dried red chilli, crumbled finely

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped

The juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon of dry sherry (Fino)

Leaves of radicchio

Crusty bread, torn or thickly sliced

1. Start by peeling the prawns, discard the shell but reserve the heads.

2. Place a large, heavy based pan over a medium to low heat. When warm add the butter and allow to melt.

3. Once the butter is melted and beginning to foam add the prawn heads. When they are bright red squeeze the juice from the heads into the pan (the easiest way to do this is by using tongs).

4. Remove the heads and discard. You will be left with a beautiful, flavourful sauce that will really enhance the flavour of the final dish. Add the chilli and garlic, reduce the heat slightly and cook for 30 seconds or so, being careful that the garlic does not burn.

5. Add the prawns and cook for 1 minute or until just translucent.

6. Squeeze over the lemon juice, add the sherry and parsley and stir well to combine.

7. Finally add the radicchio. 

8. Meanwhile, griddle on the barbecue or lightly toast chunks of the bread until slightly charred / browned.

To serve

Enjoy al fresco, by spooning onto a warm sharing plate and serving immediately with crusty bread.

Wine Pairing

You don’t need to pair with expensive wines; serve with a fresh white wine such as Andrew Peace Signature Chardonnay. It’s seriously refreshing and rich white with subtle flavours of tropical fruit and a splash of delicate citrus. And it’s £5.50 from in selected Co-op stores 

Tips 

If radicchio isn’t available substitute with any fresh greens and it will be equally delicious.

Don’t skip cooking the prawn heads as they add so much flavour to this dish.

This also makes a great pasta sauce - simply cook some pasta and once cooked add to the pan with the prawns and toss together well to combine.

Pepper Piedmontese

This colourful dish screams summer and can be prepared ahead so it’s ideal for entertaining in the garden with friends or family. A classic Mediterranean recipe, it can be served as a starter, as a light lunch or side dish or on a bed of lentils to make a more substantial meal.

It can easily be adapted for vegetarians by leaving out the anchovies and for vegans without the cheese.

Serves 4

8 ripe tomatoes

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 red peppers

12 basil leaves

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

6 good quality tinned anchovies in oil, drained and finely chopped

2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil

Lentils (optional)

Mozzerella or goat’s cheese (optional)

1. Place a large pot of salted water onto boil. Using a small paring knife, remove the core from each tomato and mark a small cross on the base. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. The skin will quickly curl back at which point remove them from the water and set aside until they are cool enough to handle.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°. Halve the peppers lengthwise and remove the core, seeds and white pith. Lay the pepper halves skin side down in a shallow baking tray that will hold them comfortably.

3. When the tomatoes are cool enough to peel, cut in half and remove the skin and seeds. Roughly chop the flesh. Tear the basil leaves into pieces.

4. Fill the pepper halves with the pieces of tomato, garlic slices, basil and anchovies. They should be generously filled. Drizzle with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and bake on the middle shelf of your pre heated oven for 35 mins or until the peppers are soft and slightly blackened around the edges but still holding their shape.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the basil oil

1 x large bunch of basil

Sea salt

100 mils of extra virgin olive oil

Remove the basil leaves from their stalks and place in a food processor, add a good pinch of salt and drizzle the olive oil in through the funnel at the top. It should be sludgy, very green and aromatic.

To serve 

Simply arrange the peppers on a big serving plate and spoon over the basil oil. For a heartier dish, serve the peppers on a bed of lentils.

Choose a full-bodied red to complement the sweetness of the peppers and the aromas of the basil. Blended from Shiraz with a touch of Tempranillo, the Andrew Peace Signature Shiraz is smooth, with typical ripe black fruit flavours with a hint of cherry. And it’s £5.50 from in selected Co-op stores

 Tips

These peppers are great as part of a larger meal, especially a barbecue but can also be served on their own. I often add a little mozzarella or goat's cheese.

They are best on the day of serving and should always be served at room temperature as their flavour is much better.

Do not be tempted to omit the anchovies even if you think you don’t like them - they add a depth of flavour that cannot be replaced - it won’t taste fishy just perfectly seasoned!

Grilled lamb cutlets with asparagus, horseradish and salsa verde

Little lamb cutlets are delicious griddled or barbecued and cooked on the barbecue they are packed with flavour. Here they’re served with asparagus that can also be griddled over the coals. All the preparation can be done ahead and then it’s just a few minutes on the barbecue to create a stunning dish.

Serves 4

12-16 little lamb cutlets

A little extra virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 asparagus spears

For the salsa verde

1 tsp. of toasted, ground cumin seeds

A bunch of mint, leaves only

A bunch of basil, leaves only

A bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves only

A bunch of rocket

1/2 tbsp. of Dijon mustard

2 anchovies

1/2 tbsp. of capers

1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp. of red wine vinegar

200mls of extra virgin olive oil

Horseradish cream

2 inches of fresh horseradish root grated

1 tbsp. of red wine vinegar

A pinch of sea salt

180mls of creme fraîche

To make the salsa verde

Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Pour in the oil slowly through the funnel in the top. You should have a sludgy, vibrant green sauce. Set aside until ready to use.

To make the horseradish cream

Place the grated horseradish into a bowl and pour over the red wine vinegar. Season with salt. Stir in the creme fraîche and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Place a large pot of well salted water on to boil. Trim the woody ends of the asparagus.

To make the lamb

Lay the lamb cutlets on a board. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper and brush with oil.  Heat the barbecue or a griddle pan until smoking, and cook the cutlets 1-2 mins per side.

While the cutlets are cooking blanch the asparagus by dropping it into the boiling, well salted water. Cook for 40 seconds - it should still have a nice bite. Alternatively, griddle on the barbecue alongside the meat.

Remove the cutlets from the grill and squeeze over the lemon juice. Let rest for a few minutes to allow the meat to relax.

To serve

This is a real star of a dish so invest in the prep so you can simply griddle the lamb and serve on the day.

Arrange the cutlets and asparagus on a serving plate, spoon over the salsa verde and serve the horseradish cream alongside.

Choose a red that works in summer and well placed for lamb; The Unexpected Red is an offbeat blend of three classics; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo with Sagrantino, which work together to create a smooth and full-bodied wine that is a rich, deep blood-red garnet colour with flavours of blackcurrant, bright cherry and hints of spice and violet. It’s in selected Co-op stores and inexpensive at £6.75

Tips

Make sure your meat is room temperature before you cook it - meat cooked straight from the fridge will take a lot longer.

It’s really important to allow meat to rest once it is cooked - it will have a much better textures and flavour.

The horseradish cream can be made the day before but salsa verde is best made on the day of eating as the herbs will keep their flavour a lot better.

Both Horseradish cream and salsa verde are incredibly versatile and can be used to brighten and flavour vegetables, fish and meat.

Written bySkye Gyngell

Skye Gyngell, is an Australian chef who is best known for her work as food editor for Vogue, and for winning a Michelin star at the Petersham Nurseries Cafe.

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