Image: The Telegraph
Summer may not always be hot, but there always seems to be time to barbecue. Niamh O Regan looks at recipe ideas which can easily be added to any barbecue and ensure sweet satisfaction.
Ireland is not exactly ideal barbecue country. The winds bring rain, and the winds come often. Low pressure bands are the norm, but every so often there is a fabulous high pressure front that comes in and brings with it warmth and sunshine. While opportunities to use barbecues are few, there comes a day where you can chance it, and if you start at around two or three instead of five or six, the likelihood of comfortably being able to stay outside while you eat instead of sitting around freezing eating a lukewarm burger are higher.
In Ireland, barbecuing usually means quick cooking over flaming hot coals. In American barbecue terms, barbecuing is a much slower, relaxed process; meat is cooked slowly over a medium heat and flavoured by the smoke from the wood or coals used. This is important to bear in mind when looking at where your recipe comes from. While it may take a little more effort, preparing your own food to barbecue is always a winner.
The sweet tang of barbecue sauce compliments steaks, wings, ribs and everything in between. It can be used on its own or as a marinade to help soften meat and keep it moist. Recipes vary across sweetness and spiciness, so it’s best to shop around and see which one suits your own palate.
500g mince beef, one onion, two cloves of garlic, salt, and pepper make the basic burger base (serves between four/five). Egg can be used as a binding ingredient, but if the onion and garlic are chopped finely enough, the mince should still bind together well. Home-made burgers may be more effort, but they will have less water and much more flavour.
Chicken can be cooked in individual pieces or whole. To cook chicken whole, it needs to be spatchcock; simply cut down the chicken each side of the backbone to remove it. Turn over the chicken and flatten the breast with your hand so it’s all one thickness. Cook on the barbecue for 15-20 minutes each side until completely cooked through.
Hotdogs give the option of Frankfurters, which just need to be heated up and quickly grilled, or more traditional sausages. Good quality sausages with high pork content are easy to come by. Some ranges also sell sausages with herbs and spices mixed in which are also great choices.
Sometimes forgotten at barbecues, fish can be a really nice way to go. Cooking a fish whole is advised to help keep it together. Mackerel is in season during the summer and cooks in about ten minutes. Score both sides on the fish four times and season according to your choosing, perhaps with a lemon and rosemary rub. Mix together 1 tablespoon of salt with the zest of a lemon and 4 sprigs of rosemary, in a mortar and pestle. Rub in to the cuts on the mackerel and cover in olive oil. Cook for five minutes on each side and let stand for a few minutes before serving.
Shrimp are also in season during the summer and can be cooked quite nicely on a barbecue. For refreshing and spicy shrimp skewers, mix together a finely chopped red chilli, crushed garlic clove, finely chopped knob of fresh ginger, juice and zest of two limes, two teaspoons of honey and three tablespoons of olive oil. Peel and de-vein the shrimp, cover in the mixture and skewer, cook for about two minutes on each side.
Despite how it might appear barbecue is not all about the meat. Corn on the cob cooks well on a barbecue either still wrapped in the husk on its own or in tinfoil. If using tinfoil, place a knob of butter in the middle of the cob, seasoned with salt and paprika, and cook for ten minutes on each side.
Vegetable skewers are also quite popular. Chop peppers, red onions, courgette, and sweet potatoes into chunks, 2cm thick, leave button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes whole, assemble as desired and barbecue on all sides until soft and charred.
Vegetarian food can be harder to cook on a barbecue because the absence of fat and binding protein makes it more prone to stick and more likely to fall apart. On top of this many vegetarians are not overly comfortable eating something covered in meat juices. The solution comes quite simply in the form of tinfoil, or using the temporary perforated barbecue trays.
Of course drinks are needed to complement the food. Lemonade is thirst quenching and versatile. For simple traditional lemonade, mix one part lemon juice, one part syrup and four parts water together and serve over ice, (the syrup ratio can be altered depending on sweetness preference). To jazz up the lemonade add raspberries, (either whole or blended) or alternatively, gin. Ice tea also starts from a very simple base that can be flavoured very easily. Make black tea, double strength, sweeten with sugar and leave to cool. Once cooled flavour can be added, lemon, strawberry, mango, peach, whatever suits your palate. Either boil the fruit with water and sugar to make a syrup and add to the tea, or blend the fruit and mix it with the tea after straining. In terms of beer, an IPA is a good match to most of the food at a barbecue as is a goo