Tantalising smells are wafting across my backyard — it must be time to rev up the barbecue and compete with the neighbours in our annual competition for the best summer aromas.
Whatever the type of cooker or fuel used, the secret to successful barbecues is the quality of the heat.
You don’t need a mountain of coals on a charcoal barbecue — under normal circumstances, about 25 coals are sufficient. Allow 30 minutes between lighting up and cooking. The coals should be glowing under a layer of white ash. If you find the charcoal heat decreases toward the end of cooking, tap the coals to remove the ash. Ash is the insulator and once removed the heat becomes more intense. Don’t blow it off or a cloud of ash may settle on your meal.
Flames should be avoided. Cooking over roaring flames can ruin good meat, charring the outside while the inside remains raw. A flat barbecue plate is easier for beginner chefs because it is similar to frying. Meat can be pre-cooked on the hot plate if preferred, and finished on the grill to give it that ‘barbecue’ flavour.
To reduce or eliminate excess flaming, trim any surplus fat from the meat. Use lean minced meat for burgers. If the food has been marinated, wipe off the excess marinade, start the cooking process, then baste if necessary close to serving time. If the flames jump up, douse with a spray of water from a spray bottle.
KOREAN CHICK WITH KICK
Gochujang is a Korean chilli paste. It is available from Asian food stores and some supermarkets.
3 tablespoons thick soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely grated root ginger
8 skinned and boned chicken thighs
Glaze: 3 tablespoons gochujang
2 tablespoons each: honey, lemon juice, soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Combine the ingredients for the glaze.
Preheat the barbecue to medium-high. Grill the chicken for about 3 minutes each side. Brush lightly with the glaze. Turn the thighs over and cook for a few seconds. Repeat this process until the chicken is nicely coloured and cooked through. Serves 4-6.
HERBY BARBECUED EGGPLANT
I used the award-winning Juno Olive Oil made with olives crushed with lemons.
1/2 cup lemon infused olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 medium-large eggplant, stem removed
Combine the first 5 ingredients and stand for an hour to allow the flavours to blend.
Cut the eggplant into 1cm-1.5cm thick slices lengthwise.
Brush both sides well with the olive oil combo.
Barbecue on the grill or hotplate for about 2-3 minutes each side, until tender.
Serve as an accompaniment or top with dollops of fresh mozzarella to make a tasty vegetarian meal. Serves 4.
BBQ FISH TACOS
Quick and easy.
Sauce: 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon ground chilli pepper
Extras: 6 cups shredded crunchy lettuce
1 avocado, diced
4 tomatoes, sliced
8 taco shells
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges
Fish: 600g skinned and boned white fish fillets
1-2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Prepare the extras and place aside.
Cut the fish into pieces to fit the taco shells. Spray with oil and season well with the lemon pepper.
Preheat the barbecue and spray the barbecue plate with oil. Cook the fish about 2 minutes each side depending on the thickness.
Just prior to serving, heat the taco shells either on a rack over the barbecue or in the oven.
Fill with the lettuce, avocado and tomatoes, top with a little sauce, then the fish and a little more sauce. Serve immediately with a lime wedge. Serves 4 as a main or 8 as a starter.