Outdoor cooking seems ingrained in our New Zealand psyche. Let's face it - it really isn't summer unless the air is thick with the heady aroma of charcoal-infused food and the sweet sound of a sizzling grill-plate, jam-packed with a raft of delicious treats.
Open fires and/or a couple of gas burners are used the world over as standard cooking methods and there's no restriction on the fabulous cuisine that can be created from even the most basic of set-ups. And we've become far more adventurous with our own outdoor cooking in New Zealand - long gone are the days when the barbecue was used for murdering meat and charring sausages to within an inch of their lives. These days it's possible to cook myriad dishes using only a barbecue, and I adore dreaming up different creations that can all be cooked "on the grill".
Today I am using lamb, salmon and vegetables. Grilling lamb smells and tastes fantastic, especially paired with homemade flatbreads and a refreshing bulgur (cracked wheat) salad. Take a bit of time to prepare the flatbread: once the dough is done you can shape into any size you fancy, cook it and then warm it up on the grill when you're ready to eat. Either wrap the lamb and salad into it before eating or use the bread to scoop up the ingredients. These flavours always cry out for thick Greek-style yoghurt and a small spoonful of rich tahini to balance the meal.
Salmon grills well because the fillets are thick and oily. I suggest leaving the skin on because once crispy, it's delicious. Pair with a salad of crisp thin slices of radish, juicy slices of watermelon, edamame beans and a smattering of feta - all that is needed is a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of olive oil for a visually delightful, tasty, healthy meal.
Grilled vegetables are always a taste sensation and they take no time at all to cook. I have used eggplant, courgettes and capsicums, which will all be done in five minutes or so, and add fresh broad beans, lightly boiled and peeled, with creamy buffalo mozzarella. If you choose vegetables with more starch such as kumara, pumpkin, baby beetroot and carrots, slice them thinner and expect them to take a bit more time.
Chef's tip: Place food on a hot oiled grill. Don't touch until you know that the food can be easily turned over. Have a peek underneath, but if there is resistance, wait for a few moments. When the food lifts easily you will have attractive grill marks, and the food will only take a short time to finish on the other side.
For more of Amanda Laird's fabulous recipes, visit foodhub.co.nz