*Drumroll please…* Barbecue 30: September 11!


There were some doubters. Some nay-sayers. But today, my friends, a victory for the small-time griller. Myself, Gemma and Rosie have achieved our 30-barbecue target, and all by September 11 (yes yes, I know it’s September 25 October 2 – so sorry! – as you read this). For the last barbecue of the year, we invited round all of our local friends (I think about 15 people. And we have a small house). Being an evening, we were battling with the light (as well as the weather – see barbecue 29, earlier in the day). In fact, most of the actual cooking was done in the dark! But that’s what a camera with a flash is for, right?

Weather

Challenging! The dark was settling in by the time most of the cooking was in progress, but, this being a special barbecue, I had been using the grill since about 4pm. At that time, there was rather a lot of rain and cloud, leading to drastic measures (see right)! Nevertheless, not to be defeated, we persevered – how could we fall at the last hurdle? At least it was dry for the evening cooking, if a little cold.

Food

Given the huge number of guests, we cooked rather a lot (and had rather little left over – my kind of barbecue). I introduced a new recipe (more on that soon), but decided to cook a few of the things that have been most popular over the past six months. (Six months? Bloody hell). We also went for an alternative cooking strategy – knowing that people like to eat as soon as they arrive, I started the barbecue with indirect coals (i.e., on the sides) at about 4pm. Once ready, I slow-roasted my amazing Dry Rubbed Pork Shoulder. A big (2kg) joint of meat like this needed a good three hours of roasting until perfectly done.

Once 7pm came around, I topped up the barbecue with more coal, and even filled a specially bought bucket barbecue just for Sam, our vegetarian (don’t let it be said that I don’t have a heart somewhere). Turns out that was much better than a disposable thing – money well spent.

Aaaanyway. On the menu for the evening were:

    Something for the meat-eaters...
  • a sort of cross between MattBurgers and American Stuffed Cheeseburgers, which were very popular, and very quickly demolished
  • a number of other burgers we’ve had in the freezer and wanted to get rid of, including beef and jalapeño chilli burgers, pork, red pepper and coriander burgers and plain old beef burgers
  • some good quality pork sausages and pork and apple sausages
  • my awesome (and quite spicy) Steak Fajitas (which I should have made more of)
  • some corn on the cob, and…
  • what barbecue would be complete without my guacamole with nachos and sour cream?

...and something for the veggies!
That’s a lot of food, folks! Just about enough for fifteen people, when combined with Gemma‘s very delicious banoffee pie.

We went on long into the night. Much beer was consumed, hence the slightly blurred photos (also due to the low light – sheesh, the problems with barbecuing in Autumn)! As a final barbecue, it was a fitting tribute to what has been an enjoyable, and enlightening experience.

That’s Your Lot…

Well, that’s it. 30 barbecues done, as promised. 27 recipes uploaded, and some lovely comments from you, the readers, about both. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this blog – it makes having written it worthwhile when I receive a nice comment. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing.

Stay tuned for a special edition Bearded Barbecuer post sometime in the near future… and maybe we’ll be back with another challenge next year? Until then, see you on twitter!

Cheers,
Matt :)

Barbecue 18: June 28

Hello, barbecue fans! It’s time for… *drumroll* … another barbecue. This one featuring rain! We haven’t done it for a while, so this time we decided upon a good old roast chicken on the barbecue. Doubters, prepare to have your doubts cast asunder.

A parasol in a plastic chair, at an angle. I know - inspired.

Weather

That’s right: rain! I can’t believe I was a little excited about it. It hasn’t rained for the past 17 barbecues, so we used our ingenuity to shield the barbecue from rain whilst allowing it to continue cooking. They don’t call me ‘bearded’ for nothing, you know. Wait, that doesn’t work…

Anyway, the rain wasn’t bad enough that we were forced to give up, but Gemma did insist on eating inside. Oh well. It still counts.

Food

Usually, when we barbecue it’s just a case of “put the coals in the middle, put the food on top”. However, if you’re going to cook a roast chicken, that won’t work. As you might imagine, the heat from underneath would cook the chicken out before the top was even browned – not good. The solution is to have the heat coming from the sides of the barbecue (in barbecuing terminology, this is known as indirect heat cooking). It so happens that if you use a charcoal chimney, it’s much easier to do this. Most Weber barbecues come with guide rails to fit into the charcoal grate, so that you can keep the charcoal pushed to the sides, as shown in this picture. If you don’t have the rails, it’s not that important – just try to make two even piles either side.

All ye doubting thomases, repent. It's really nice.
Put a tray underneath what you’re cooking (the chicken) – this catches the drips, which stops your barbecue going rusty, and you can add flavours to it (wine or beer are good). Alas, I forgot to do this. Oh well, I’ll have to buy a new Weber… :) Right! Chicken on the cooking grate, in the middle of the charcoal. Lid on! This recipe doesn’t work if you don’t have a kettle barbecue that closes – the charcoal generates an oven. In my experience, a 1kg chicken takes about an hour, and comes out very succulent, and smokey flavoured. This time, I stuffed the cavity with 3 crushed garlic cloves, some oregano, thyme and lemon balm, and just seasoned and oiled the outside of the bird.

Towards the last ten minutes of cooking you can put other things directly onto the heat to cook – we did a few burgers. Of course, we didn’t eat this in one go. For dinner that evening was about half a chicken breast and a burger, with some salad. The rest was spread out over the week for packed lunches. Genius.

If you do have a kettle barbecue, I implore you to try this. You won’t regret doing so!

Barbecue 17: June 24

Hot off the heels of our June 23 barbecue, we cooked for Gem’s mum and sister this time. I even made some new beef burgers (I know, you’re excited)!

Yeah, yeah. It's hot, we know.

Weather

The usual gorgeous sunshine. Ah, the perils of barbecuing in summer. But wait – in Barbecue 18, there’s rain!

Food

Enough to feed a small army! But no complaints. We bought some lamb loin steaks from our usual orange-branded-supermarket-where-life-tastes-better, along with some chicken legs and thighs. The lamb can be cooked straight away on the barbecue, and took about six minutes per side for medium rare. Chicken with bones in, however, is a pain on the barbecue, as I’ve mentioned before. I’m willing to bet at least one person reading this has felt the ill-effects of undercooked chicken as a result. So, I’m always careful to precook chicken – I give it about 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees celsius in the oven. This is enough to colour it well, and cook it almost completely. Then it goes on the barbecue for about 8 minutes, turning once – that way, you get the charred meat and smoky flavour (nice), but you lose the salmonella (always good).

And of course, I couldn’t do a barbecue for other people without making some effort. So I came up with Italian Melting Mozzarella Burgers (hardly a genius flash of inspiration, but they tasted bostin’), which were very popular.

We rounded this off with our trademark cous-cous, guacamole (goes great with chicken) and salad. All in all, a really nice afternoon!

Cous-cous, guacamole, and... oh yeah. Great meats :)

Barbecue 16: June 23

Not much to tell here, folks! Barbecue 16 was really just a casual “got home from work and felt like it” thing. We had a few things in the freezer to use up, and a bit of salad to go with it. They don’t all have to be themed and exciting, you know 😉

Weather

Sunny, warm and dry. Perfect barbecuing weather (yes, I haven’t done a rainy one yet – sorry).

Food

Like I said, there wasn’t anything special in this barbecue. We had some rather nice beef and herb (the herbs being coriander, oregano and thyme) burgers from Sainsbury’s, and some chicken breasts, with a couple of sausages we needed to use up. We’ve gone back to using briquettes as opposed to lumpwood, which really works very badly with the Charcoal Chimney. Equates to about £2.50 for two barbecues, which can’t be sniffed at.

Chicken, sausages (one for the dog) and burgers. Simple.
Anyway. I didn’t mess with the food much, but I made a dry rub for the chicken with a teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and tandoori curry powder (cheating, sorry), and half a teaspoon each of powdered ginger and dried garlic. Again, these last two are often seen as cheat ingredients. But when you don’t want something that needs chopping/grating, or you want something that will stick well to wet food, they’re great. The spice rub was left on the chicken for 20 minutes or so, and really permeated the meat.

We served the burgers in pitta breads with the usual salad-and-burger-cheese accompaniments. All good, and it’s onto barbecue 17!


Barbecue 15: The Mexican

¡Hola! Barbecue 15 was held on Thursday, June 17: The eve of Jez and Elly‘s wedding in Somerset. Gemma and I had had most of the day off, and this seemed like the perfect way to start our holiday. Guests (seven of them) included Jen and Mark (Jen brought Mexican cheese and hot sauce), and James (who brought love). As an aside, you know you use Twitter too much when you wish more of your friends were using it so you could link them…

…ahem. So, moving on.

Mmm, heat.

Weather

Another sunny, hot day; perfect for barbecuing, perfect for Mexican food!


Bless - isn't he cute?

Food

Well, you guessed it from the title. The theme this time was Mexico, and so we tried to have everything we cooked a little bit Mexican. On the menu this time: for starters, nachos with guacamole, sour cream and Pico de Gallo, as modelled on the right by Jay. These were all rather popular!

Es muy bueno!

Main course? Ooh, a plethora of Mexican dishes for your delectation, sir (or madam). The customary burgers were this time Mexican Lamb Burgers with a little cheese and Pico de Gallo; we bought some very tasty Chorizo sausages (I know, not Mexican. But really good); and with that, delicious Mexican Pork Steaks and amazing Steak Fajitas. Everything went down very well (in fact, more complements than usual – hoorah!), and I can recommend a number of Mexican beers to accompany those dishes.

No dessert this time, but who needs dessert? See you at 16 (which, at the time of writing, happened last night)…

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.

Barbecue the 7th: It’s Guacamole Time

Ooh, it’s barbecue seven. April 24, on a sunny but slightly cloudy evening. We’re getting better at this “spur of the moment” thing.

Weather

It had been a rather glorious day, but was starting to cloud over.

Cloudier than it looks

Otherwise no complaints – lit with no issue although we really are craving one of those Charcoal Chimneys – instant charcoal is getting pricey and hard to find (donations are welcome).

Food

We’d already made a rather good salad the night before, and I’d made up some of my extremely tasty (if I do say so) Guacamole. There were some fairly run-of-the-mill lamb and mint burgers in the fridge (really should have made some), and what barbecue is complete without chicken legs?

I always find that chicken (thick chicken, anyway) is a pain on the barbecue. It cooks on the outside before being fully cooked on the inside, unless you cook it slowly, or do what I do, and pre-parcook it. We had two chicken leg/thigh joints, which I brushed with some terrifyingly good tandoori sauce and cooked at 180c for about 20 minutes. This means they’re nearly done, and need another ten minutes or so on the barbecue, turning once. Really rather good with guacamole and perhaps some sour cream or yoghurt.

Yum
Pork steaks, tandoori chicken legs and lamb burgers

The burgers were uneventful. Along with those, we’re getting rather fond of those pork rib steaks – juicy and tender. Yum.

Seven down, 23 to go…

Barbecue the 6th: April 21

Do try this at home
A word to the wise: This is not a good stage to start cooking at

Do you want to look this happy? Get barbecuing!

Anyway, our sixth barbecue was well underway. This one was just Gem and I (and of course, Rosie). As with many of our barbecues, it was somewhat impromptu.

Weather

Sunny, for a change! Cool evening.

Food

One of our favourite things to cook on the barbecue is rump steak. In this case we went for sirloin, but I’d recommend rump – much juicier, and tender if not overcooked (note that the picture on the right does not represent cooked meat. Don’t try that at home).

Steak and Salmon.
Surf and Turf or what?
Steak. Mmm.
The hashtag is #omnomnom, I believe

Apart from a couple of sausages, we went for some salmon, which we keep having, because it’s so good on the barbecue. Gem isn’t a fan of spicy food, but I am, so I gave mine a rather nice curry-spice seasoning.

Served with a dressed salad, and some houmous. If there’s demand, I’ll post a houmous recipe which is really good. Comment if you wish!

So, this was superb. Try it!

Barbecue the 5th: April 17

Our fifth barbecue was the first with our friends, James, Alison, Ad (pictured, looking suave), Jay and Ross. I’m sure you’re

Looking good, eh?
Ad, posing with the Weber (everyone wants to)

thinking “who cares? Move onto the food!”. Okay then.

Weather

Sunny. I’m almost getting bored of saying ‘sunny’. Soon it will be ‘thunderstorm’, I’m sure. Anyway, it was evening, and still quite warm.

Food

We had some of the usual standard fare… rather nice chilli sausages (see right) plus tasty MattBurgers. They always go down well, they’re really cheap to prepare, and they’re full of much better stuff than some burgers you can buy.

Chilli and Pork sausages
Chilli, and plain pork, sausages. Not made by me. Sorry.

On top of all of that, pork rib steaks (seasoned with rosemary, salt and pepper), garlic mushrooms on the barbecue (recipe soon…), and some really, really good sea bass. Done in the same way as the trout mentioned in Barbecues 1-4, it had a lovely, mild, trout-like flavour. Well recommended. (Sorry there are no pictures of that; I guess my mind was on something else).

Five down, 25 to go…

Barbecues 1-4 (An Abstract)

Due to the lack of existence of this blog during barbecues 1-4, here’s a synopsis of the first four barbecues. You’ll just have to take my word for it that they happened. For each of the posts on the way to 30 barbecues, I’ll give a short description of what we had, the weather, and such. If you’d like to see something else, let me know. Recipes will appear in the Recipes section, and I’ll link to them from here. So here ya go:

Barbecue the 1st: April 8

The first barbecue of the year! We’d not long got back from Michigan, so were still a little jetlagged.

Mmmmmm
The first barbecue (that I took a picture of). Rosie looking on longingly.

Weather

Sunny! Evening, no rain, it’s all good. Oh and a little windy. Sometimes an issue, but not today.

Food

See the image! We cooked a couple of Kebabs (though these were with turkey – similar recipe, similar time to cook), a beefburger (not a MattBurger yet, sorry) and two rump steaks, simply prepared with a brush of oil, and some salt and pepper. For medium rare, these take 4 minutes or so per side.

With barbecue one complete, we resolved our target: thirty by the end of September. It’s on.

Barbecue the 2nd: April 10

Only two days after, we were at the grill again, this time with Gemma’s mum and sister.

Weather

Scorchingly hot, dry, low wind. Good barbecuing conditions. Evening time, so it was starting to cool.

Food

This time we did a little of the regular fare – some shop-bought, organic sausages and some burgers. My general feeling on sausages is that they should be at least 70% meat or more. You need some fat in there, because it helps the barbecue to continue cooking, and adds a lovely smokiness to the overall flavour (if you’ve had any good sausage experiences [ahem], drop me a comment).

The burgers were standard supermarket good quarter pounders. I’d usually go with MattBurgers, but it wasn’t worth the impromptu effort.

The other meat was Rainbow Trout – if you haven’t tried this on a barbecue, I recommend you do. Put it on some oiled foil to prevent it sticking to the bars, and season it. Takes about 5 minutes.

I also quite like to do vegetables on the barbecue. My favourite is garlic tomatoes (recipe coming soon), but we had garlic mushrooms too. Yum. First family barbecue of the year = a success.

Barbecue the 3rd: April 11

Hot off the trail of the second barbecue, we were onto our third. It was a Sunday

Barbecue-roasted chicken
Yum. Note the position of the charcoal, and the tray underneath

(and that means Sunday dinner). What better than a whole chicken, roasted on the barbecue?

Weather

Hot, midday sun.

Food

There’s a separate recipe for it so I won’t go into much detail here, but we only cooked the chicken, and had it with a simple salad, dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. If you haven’t tried barbecue-roasted chicken, do it now!

Barbecue the 4th: April 16

Ah, the last of this post. Here we experimented with a couple of meats: pork rib steaks and salmon.

Weather

Sunny, cool evening.

Food

The salmon was done in the same way as the trout – on top of some oiled foil, and seasoned. Because it’s thicker it takes a little longer – 7-8 minutes.

We also tried pork rib steaks. These don’t look that appetising when you buy them – they’re not expensive, and have fat running through them. But that makes them ridiculously juicy and tender when cooked. I seasoned the steaks on both sides with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary, and a brush of oil. Seriously, seriously good.

That’s all for now, but as I write this (while sitting in the garden in the sun, tempted to barbecue again), we’ve actually already done barbecues 5 and 6. They’ll be posted soon.