Barbecue 11: The afternoon after

We hastened on with barbecue 11 on the Sunday after MattFest 2010, to use up a few of the spare ingredients we had. A simple affair (so much so that I forgot to take enough pictures, d’oh!), but a tasty one.

I'm really loving this thing.

Weather

Swelteringly hot, which is nice. We had the gazebo up to cool down underneath, and Gem’s mum and sister around to gobble up remaining food.

Food

On the menu this time was whatever was left! Two beef burgers, two lamb and mint burgers, and four cumberland sausages (time for a Top Matt Tip: don’t prick sausages on the barbecue. They lose all of their juices, and the fat makes the charcoal flare up). We also had some very tasty garlic tomatoes with the burgers – yum.

Cream. Cheese. Frosting. Need I say more?
Being as there was plenty of American-themed dessert going spare, there were even cupcakes! You don’t need to comment saying how jealous you are of these cupcakes. But you could if you want.

That’s it for eleven… simple stuff. Often, the best barbecues are the quickest!

Barbecue 10: MattFest!

It’s my 26th birthday! Or at least, it was on the 19th (just making sure you don’t forget for next year). Every year, around the time of my birthday, we hold a barbecue with a fancy dress theme – thus the birth of MattFest (home of MattBurgers). This year, the barbecue was on the 22nd, and the theme was America. As usual, people rose to the occasion…

Weather

It turns out (for once) that the 22nd was the hottest day of the year so far, so no rain!

Food

Given that Gem‘s mum bought me the grilling holy grail that is a Charcoal Chimney for my birthday, this was its first outing. We had veggies coming too, so had to resort to using a disposable barbecue for the veggie-only food (more on that shambles later).

Burgers, Chicken and Frankfurters!

The theme was American, so naturally there were MattBurgers! As a twist on the normal sausages, we also went with frankfurters (which barbecue quite well), along with some normal cumberland sausages, chicken with a dry peri-peri rub (confessions: 1. I didn’t make this, 2. It’s not really American. Sorry), and a few other beef/lamb burgers that people bought with them.

Matt's Barbecue Moral #4: Never, ever use disposable barbecues.

For the veggies, the food was handled by Chris. Quorn burgers, quorn sausages, corn on the cob and some quite tasty-looking cheese and leek potato sausages. I’ve got no beef with veggies (ho ho, see what I did there?) but the barbecue we used was, to be honest, dire. It lit easily and was ready to go quickly, but it lasted for no more than half an hour. For an all-evening thing, that’s crappy. It was so bad, in fact, that we lit our Chiminea and used that to cook the food from underneath. Which leads me nicely to a Matt’s Barbecue Moral: never use disposable barbecues. Trust me on this one – just get a cheap non-disposable one if you have to.


Anyway, enough of that. There was one other, special, burger, made by Gem and I:
Don't pretend you don't want a slice.
I know, it’s awesome. But since this is a barbecue blog, I’ll just say that it’s a madeira cake with cream cheese buttercream and coloured icing. Mmm.

The usual suspects went with the food – nachos, salsa, guacamole, and American things like Popcorn and jelly beans. We even had a special guest

MattFest 2010 was a very enjoyable night. Fuelled by beer and such, and of course food. Here’s to the next one.

Charcoal Chimney!

For my birthday (26 – getting on now), Gemma‘s mum was kind enough to buy me a wonderful bit of apparatus that I’ve been hankering after for a while: a charcoal chimney (or to give it its proper name, a Rapid Fire Chimney Starter. It’s glorious:

Charcoal. In a chimney. See what they did there?

You all know that I’ve been using instant lighting stuff for a while. But it’s expensive, and it feels like cheating. I don’t like cheating (one could argue the same about this, but hey).

The idea is pretty simple – charcoal briquettes (or lumpwood stuff) in the top – a varying amount depending on the size of your barbecue, and loosely screwed up newspaper underneath a metal cone-shaped frame in the bottom. The paper burns, the chimney acts like a chimney (!) and therefore the charcoal burns too. In about 15 minutes the charcoal is ready to pour onto the grate.

Genius! But it does have a few issues, which I’ll get to grips with:

  • Where do I put it? After making charcoal super hot, it is also super hot. Can’t put it on the grass, nor on the patio in case the dog gets near it. Luckily I’ve got a raised ledge covered in slate chips, which did the job.
  • If your charcoal dies too early (which, for an whole-evening barbecue like MattFest, it might), you need to get some more on the go. It’s not really practical to do that in the barbecue, so you’ve got to light the chimney again, with more charcoal, somewhere else. Difficult with aforementioned dog on the loose and looking for burger bits. We managed, though, and this won’t usually be a problem.
  • Using crumpled newspaper is either not great, or I’m not doing it right. It has to be loosely crumpled, but I’m finding it goes out too quickly. The box does also recommend using firelighters in place of newspaper, which, according to Stu, works well.

The main benefit, of course, is that it saves a lot on fuel. And it looks so freakin’ cool!

Barbecue Nine: May 17

Well, we’re drifting closer towards a third of the way to our target of 30 barbecues this year. As I write this, it’s my birthday (hooray!) and I received (amongst many other things) a Weber barbecuing cookbook, and a charcoal chimney (more on that soon). This particular barbecue was a couple of days ago, and took the form of “whatever is left in the kitchen plus some salmon and steak” 😉

Weather

Mmm, sun.

Glorious! Hot day, cooling down slightly, with lashings of sunshine.

Food

Fairly simple fare, with a few added extras. We’re trying to cut back on carbs, but you can’t have a burger without a bun, can you?

Anyway, we had a couple of lamb and mint burgers going spare, and a bit of left over chicken in the fridge. Couple those with some salmon steaks from the freezer, and a lil’ piece of steak, and now you’re talking. (Now I mention it, that sounds like a lot of meat. Oh well, we went for a long walk afterwards. And had salad with it. That balances out, right?)

Burgers, chicken, steak and salmon? Are you nuts?

I decided to experiment a little with the steak. The Argentinians (food geniuses that they are) came up with Chimichurri Sauce eons ago. It’s a sharp, slightly spicy parsley-based sauce which cuts through the richness of meat like rump steak, and through the oiliness of fish like salmon or mackerel. It needs to be prepared well in advance (about a day before), and left to mingle in the fridge. I served the meat with the sauce on top of it. Yum.

Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri Sauce

I tried this one out with Barbecue Nine to go with steak. It’s an Argentine recipe, which (I think) gives a good combination of spice and sharpness to cut through the richness of steak, and oilier fish.

There are literally loads of recipes on the Internet for this. My ingredients list is simply what I thought would be nice, so as usual, feel free to change bits of it to your own taste.

Ingredients

  • One large red chilli, deseeded, and very finely chopped
  • Lots of garlic! I put around four big cloves in mine – minced or crushed into a paste
  • 2tbsp cold water
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tbsp either white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar or lemon juice. I used red wine vinegar, which Gemma really liked, but I’m not a big fan of wine vinegars, so I’ll probably use lemon juice next time. Personal preference, ya see?
  • About 2tsp each of oregano and basil, fresh, chopped fine, and 1tsp of fresh thyme
  • A large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1tsp salt, 1/2tsp freshly ground pepper

Recipe

The recipe is, as usual, quite simple. Combine all the ingredients into a bowl (as pictured at the top). The important part is that you need to leave the sauce covered and well alone in a fridge for as long as you can before using it – at least 3 hours, preferably a whole day. The flavours will combine, and it’ll be lovely. Try the sauce after that time – if it’s too oily, add lemon juice or vinegar (whichever you used).

To Serve

This sauce goes really well served over any rich meat. It’s traditionally served with steak, which is crackin’, but it goes great with salmon, mackerel, and so on. Whatever you combine it with, the sauce has a strong flavour – make sure you don’t kill the flavour of the meat. If you’re vegetarian, the only thing rich enough to take this sauce is probably avocado  – though if you’ve got some avocados, consider my Guacamole instead 😉

Chimichurri with rump steak
With steak...
Chimichurri with Salmon
...or salmon!

Barbecue 8: Hot Stuff, Coming Through…

After over a week’s hiatus (adverse weather and poorly dog – sorry), on May 9 we had our 8th barbecue. To be honest the weather’s been fairly rubbish for most of the weekend, so we didn’t expect to be able to get the Weber out at all. I did it for the love. The love of the grill. Only a couple of things cooked, but more than enough.

Cloudy, with a light chance of brrrr

Weather

See above – not promising! A few minutes after we finished we had to retire inside due to rain and cold (sorry @redhatman. But hey, the barbecuing itself was outside).


Food

Just a couple of things cooked this time. We’re on a sort-of-health-kick at the moment, and given the impending annual MattFest (big birthday barbecue on the 22nd, lots of food), we’re upping the salad and reducing the meat. Yeah, I know. Sorry.

Indian Turkey Burger, Sausage and salad. Oh baby.

But what we did have was rather nice. Some good pork and herb sausages (high meat content – yum) and some excessively awesome Indian Turkey Burgers, the highlight of the evening!

Anyway. As delicious as those were, I’m open to challenges from you.
Want me to try cooking something? Have an idea for a barbecue theme (we’re going Caribbean soon)? Let me know in the comments!

Indian Turkey Burgers

Mmm, turkey burgers. Mmm, uncooked.
I have to admit a couple of things. The naming of this recipe is a little tongue-in-cheek, as burgers aren’t in any way Indian. But they’re flavoured with a lot of my favourite Indian spices, and they taste glorious.
The other thing is that these burgers are inspired by a similar recipe for chicken burgers by Anjum Anand. I’ve adapted the recipe quite a bit, because it wasn’t quite right for me. But feel free to adjust quantities for yourselves.

Ingredients

  • 500g turkey mince. Much easier to come by than chicken mince, and it’s leaner. It also makes great burgers, with or without the other ingredients.
  • About half an inch of ginger root, grated. You could use powdered ginger if you don’t have the root stuff, but it’s not really the same. Don’t go using preserved ginger. That would just be wrong.
  • Two fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Half a red onion, chopped very finely
  • 1tsp salt, 1tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1tsp nigella (black onion) seeds, and 1tsp yellow mustard seeds, pounded in a pestle and mortar
  • 1tsp coriander powder
  • 1tsp medium or tandoori curry powder
  • 1tsp garam masala powder
  • One large red chilli, finely chopped
  • One medium egg and a piece of fairly stale bread, crumbed
  • A big handful of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

That’s a lot of ingredients! If you have them all to hand at home (as I did), the only annoying thing is getting everything in a bowl. Otherwise, if you have to miss something out, then I guess you could remove the coriander powder. I’ve not tried these burgers without egg/bread, but they might work.

Recipe

Now for the fun part. Mash the turkey mince up, so it doesn’t look mince-like (you know what I mean). Add the all of the ingredients, save the egg and bread. You may wish to add a little oil to stop the burgers sticking to the barbecue.

Finger lickin' good (oh no, wait, that's chicken).

You should have a fairly dry mixture. Try to shape it into burgers (you should get four big burgers out of the mix, or five average-sized ones). If it doesn’t seem to stick together, then the burgers will fall apart on the barbecue. In that case, add your egg. The egg acts as a binder, but can make the mixture too wet, so you need to balance that wetness with some breadcrumbs to absorb. I used soda bread because it crumbs well whether stale or not, but use whatever you have. The important thing is to not add it all at once – if you add too much bread, the mixture will become dry again. Once you’ve got a mix that seems wet enough to hold together, but not sloppy, you’re done.

If you want, add a little lime juice to the mix to balance the cumin in the garam masala. I tend to do this to the cooked burgers at the end. Shape into patties, and stick on the barbecue. They cook quicker than MattBurgers but I’d still say 4-5 minutes per side to be sure.

Really good on a burger bun with some fresh coriander on top, and perhaps a little mayonnaise or minted yoghurt. Enjoy.