How-to: Barbecue with panache

By Zoe Walker, Nici Wickes, Fiona Ralph

Think outside the square for your next barbecue. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Think outside the square for your next barbecue. Photo / Babiche Martens.

Barbecue feasts are the ultimate in relaxed summer entertaining, the combination of fresh air and fine company making the food that much more delicious.

However, after a week or two, the chargrilled sausage and steak formula can get a little tiresome. We asked some creative friends how they ensure their barbecue food shouts "stylish". Their clever tips range from table-top flowers to the best rubs and relishes.


Al Brown, Depot
Use solid fuel for that X-factor (hard wood, charcoal) - the flavour is incredible. Then to balance out the smoke and char, which is slightly bitter, I always lay on a huge array of chutneys and relishes, and add into the mix a creamy potato salad and, of course, a fritter.

My favourite is what we call sundowners - the scraps of fish left over after we've been fishing, small bits from around the fins, flaps etc - we toss these through a pikelet batter and fry them. You have these gorgeous little morsels that we call sundowners because you're always doing them at the end of a big day out fishing.


Damaris and Renee Coulter, Coco's Cantina
By keeping it real and rustic, and having wild flowers with a vintage tablecloth.


Sean Connolly, The Grill
I cook on Japanese charcoal, usually roasting vegetables until soft and sprinkling with a good balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.


Jacqui Dixon, Sabato
A few easy options for barbecue food, which you don't need recipes for:

* Julie Le Clerc harissa rubbed underneath the skin of a butterflied chicken, served with Sabato aioli.

* La Chinata smoked paprika, ground with fresh garlic and oregano and enough extra virgin olive oil to make a paste, rubbed over lamb.

* Fresh fish served with Sabato salsa verde.

* Steak served with a dollop of Sabato porcini crema, Pronto Rosso or Salvagno olive paste.

* Salumeria Fontana sausages with Julie Le Clerc smoked paprika sauce or Martin Bosley's "Marty's" sauce.

* Prawns tossed in Colonna or Mas Portell lemon evo - maybe sprinkled with some Piment d'Espelette flakes when cooked. Serve with the Sabato tartare mayo, if you like.

* Mussels steamed with Romulo or Capirete Sherry vinegar; can also be sprinkled with La Chinata paprika or Piment d'Espelette.


Josh Emett, Ostro, Madam Woo, Rata
I always include some nice fish dishes, either baked whole or grilled, amazing salads and my take on a great coleslaw.


Mike Van de Elzen, Food Truck Garage
Condiments - these are the things that really elevate barbecue food. It's great if everything can be done on the barbecue. Imagine schnitzel dipped in tamari sauce, lightly grilled on the Weber, then served with pickles.


Elizabeth Lind, La Cigale
Whenever I'm planning a barbecue feast I think of a theme or food style and plan my menu around that. Sometimes it's French, particularly the South of France, other times Spanish or Italian.

At the moment it's most likely to be something that combines influences from Mediterranean parts of North Africa and the Middle East, but next week that could just as easily change to be something fabulous from Asia or the South Pacific.

Whatever the style, I use the best and freshest seasonal produce I can find and a choose a stand-out piece of meat, free-range organic chicken or great fresh fish and seafood. To make the plan easier I always keep my well-stocked spice and herb box handy to enhance the flavours and add depth, complexity and a certain "je ne sais quoi".

As well, I make sure I have top-quality extra virgin olive oil, a couple of different vinegars, a variety of nuts which can be toasted, dried fruit, small jars of anchovies, some sort of sauce made from pomegranates and plenty of herbs growing in pots or in the garden. Finally I think about the colours of both the food and the plates I serve on. Are the colours balanced? Is there a "wow" factor?

My standby barbecue recipe invariably involves lamb - most often a leg, with or without the bone in. It's very easy to change the seasonings according to the food style that I've decided for the whole meal. If it's a particularly special barbecue, I splash out on a milk-fed lamb: it's so delicate and delicious.

This is one of my favourite recipes when I'm cooking Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food. The idea came from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem, but I use a different mix of spices.

Ingredients

• 1 leg of lamb
• 2 tbsp cumin seeds
• 1 tbsp fennel seeds
• 1 tsp coriander seeds
• 1 tsp cardamom seeds
• 2 tsp black peppercorns
• Pinch of dried chilli flakes
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground cloves
• 1 tsp ground ginger
• 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
• 2 tsp sweet paprika
• 1 tbsp sumac
• ½ tbsp sea salt
• 5-6 cloves garlic, crushed
• Bunch of fresh coriander including stalks, finely chopped
• Zest and juice of 2 lemons
• 150ml olive oil

1. Roast all the spice seeds, peppercorns and chilli flakes in a hot frying pan for a minute or two until they pop or brown a little and you can smell the aromas of the spices. Remove from the heat and add the cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves and paprika. Heat them through. Grind everything using a mortar and pestle and then mix the spices together with the rest of the ingredients (except the lamb).

2. Make small incisions all over the lamb using the tip of a sharp knife. Push the mixture into the slits and rub it over the skin. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, the longer the better.

3. Preheat a lidded barbecue to a moderate heat. Either place the lamb on a grilling rack on top of barbecue rack or in a foil roasting dish. A medium-sized leg of lamb should take about 1 hour. If the spices start to burn, cover the lamb with foil.

4. When the meat is done, remove it from the barbecue and leave to rest for about 15 minutes. Serve with at least two different salads.

For a Provencal version of the lamb, I replace all the herbs and spices with plenty of freshly crushed garlic, sprigs of fresh rosemary and a 80g jar of anchovies including a little of the oil. Mix the crushed garlic with some of the anchovies and oil to make a paste. Push the paste and a small piece of rosemary into the slits in the lamb, cover the lamb with the rest of the anchovy fillets and surround the lamb with more rosemary. For an additional hit of garlic, roast 2-3 whole heads in the pan with the lamb and use the roasted garlic flesh to make aioli.


- VIVA

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