Outside our office with its over-enthusiastic air conditioning, the sun is shining and the air is warm. It appears that summer has come early to our shores, once again filling me with self-loathing questions about why I didn’t moisturise more, why I didn’t shop for spring when the sales were on, and why God in His wisdom chose to make me both ghostly pale, and allergic to fake tan. Summer dresses are out, plasters poke out of new sandals, businessmen sweat in their winter suits. England, like Martha and the Vandellas, loves a heatwave.
Mournful thoughts about my blindingly white legs aside, the warm weather is prompting very pleasant musings about al fresco cookery. We are blessed with a garden at the new flat and have inherited a slightly rickety looking barbecue from the previous owners – I’m thinking this weekend might be the time to christen it.
I love barbecues, not least because it’s one of the few times I get to sit back and let the menfolk sweat over the cooking. My job is over when the salads and marinades are done, and I always find it amusing to watch the way men gather around a pit of smoking charcoal, prodding sausages and looking at each other knowingly. But what will I cook on my barbie? Sorry, what will I prepare and leave someone else to cook.
Well, it might be beer can chicken. A South African dish, it consists of emptying (drinking) half the contents of a can of lager, then sitting a chicken upright on the can, and cooking it on the barbie with the lid down for an hour or so. The beer steams into the chicken’s flesh and the results are tender, fragrant and delicious. Or maybe we’ll cook sirloin steaks and I’ll make these flavoured butters to go with them. Flavouring butter is a great idea for a topping – you can put pretty much whatever you want in, and it’s way less hassle than making a sauce last minute.
As for salads, you can see by my last post how I feel about these. I love this Middle Eastern salad, a sort of bastardisation of a Lebanese fattoush and a Morroccan tabbouleh, but it works for me. Just add the pitta last minute so it doesn’t go too soggy. Another favourite is this summer greens salad, with mini roasted new potatoes through it and lots of the new season’s beans. Perfect with char-grilled prawns.
And my barbie tip du jour – try layering yours with dry sticks and hardy herbs like rosemary or thyme, the smoke from the wood and herbs really gets into the meat giving it an extra dimension to the charred flavour. It makes me think of holidays in the south of France. I’m off to get the rosé in the fridge!