In Lincolnshire, al fresco eating rarely works out like it does for Nigella and her mates on the telly. In normal years, any mention of the B word will usually result in some kind of unexpected biblical deluge, or a chill nor’easter will send your gazebo cartwheeling into next door’s garden. Even in those all too brief flashes when the weather is on your side, you normally find yourself half-crazed by thunderflies, dive-bombed by wasps, or terrorized by whatever else has decided to migrate off the neighbouring crops and feast on your flesh/undercooked lamb koftas.
2018, however, is not a normal year. It is giving us a great opportunity to live and eat well outdoors, so we’ve decided to share with you some of the dishes we’ve been cooking over the last few weekends.
Healthy Barbecue Options
Outdoor grilling doesn’t have to mean huge calorific intake, if done properly, cooking on a barbecue can be one of the healthiest ways to eat.
Skinless Chicken breast fillets are very low in fat, but prone to drying out when cooked on a barbecue grill. The key to moist, juicy chicken lies in the preparation. We like to take a large sheet of greaseproof paper, lay it flat and generously season one half with sea salt, black pepper and a combination of spices (see below). Roll the chicken in the spice mix to coat, fold the paper over to cover and then bash with a heavy, blunt instrument (a rolling pin will do) to flatten the fillets to about 2cm thickness. This will ensure that the flavour gets right into the meat and that the fillet cooks evenly.
Lightly drizzle the fillets with olive oil and turn regularly on a medium/high heat until golden brown. The spice combos we like best are:
Allspice and smoked paprika (works with everything)
Ground coriander & sumac (middle-eastern dishes)
Turmeric and ground cumin (Indian style dishes)
Cooking fish on a barbecue needn’t be scary, in fact, it a great way of ensuring your kitchen doesn’t end up smelling like Grimsby docks. Meaty cuts like Tuna and Monkfish work best, but cooking whole fish (if you can cope with the eyes staring at you) can be very rewarding. Why not try the following:
Asian seared tuna – marinate tuna steaks in dark soy sauce, lime juice and sesame oil for 2 hours, season and grill for 3 minutes either side.
Monkfish kebabs – finely chop the leaves of a sprig of rosemary, then bash up in a pestle and mortar with a teaspoon of salt and a few scrapes of orange zest. Cut the monkfish tail fillets into 1 inch cubes then toss in a small bowl with the seasoning and some olive oil. Thread the cubes onto skewers and grill for 3-4 minutes each side until they turn white. Serve with lemon wedges and a simple green salad.
Stuffed whole Mackerel – Buy your Omega-3 packed mackerel, ensuring it is gutted and cleaned (the lovely people on the counter at Morrisons will do this for you). In a pestle and mortar bash a clove of garlic up with fennel seeds, lemon zest, sea salt and black pepper, then stuff the cavity of each fish with the resultant fragrant mix. Grill on the for 3-4 minutes each side and serve immediately. Other oily fish, such as Sardines and herring, will work just as well
I LOVE my speed peeler, and we LOVE a ribbon salad. Simple to prepare, full of flavour and goodness, and very attractive looking on the plate. You can use any kind of crunchy salad vegetable, cucumber, celery, courgette, carrot, spring onion, asparagus, peppers, broccoli stalk and all manner of others. Because the speed peeler shaves the veg so thinly, even the toughest of leathery stalks can be turned into a thing of beauty. Hold whatever veg you are using directly over a large bowl and run the peeler down it, shaving the strips straight into the mixing bowl. When you are happy with your mix, season with a sprinkling of sea salt and a few twists of black pepper, chop in some leafy green herbs (mint and parsley both work really well) then squeeze in the juice of a lemon and drizzle over about a tablespoon of the best Extra Virgin olive oil you can afford. Mix well with your hands, really scrunching the veg so that the acidity of the dressing softens any tougher strips. Serve immediately
And to wash it all down…
For summer drinking you can’t beat a Nimbu Pani, the classic thirst quencher sold on every street corner in North India. If you haven’t come across this little secret before, you may be surprised about how the ingredients combine, but bear with us…
The base of the drink is very much like a homemade lemonade, except using limes. To make a batch perfect for a summer gathering, follow the recipe below:
Sugar syrup or agave nectar (about 90-100ml but this may vary depending on the juiciness of the limes)
A few mint leaves
half tsp salt
quarter tsp Ground cumin
Step 1 – muddle the ingredients except the sparkling water in the base of the jug. To extract the juice from limes, we prefer cut each lime into 8 pieces and then crush in using the end of a rolling pin, as this releases all the oil from the skin, greatly enhancing the flavour. However if you find that a bit too daunting, simply squeeze the lime in.
Step 2 – Add ice, muddle again, then top up with sparkling water. Decant into fancy looking glasses, garnish with a wheel of lime, and look proper sophisticated.
The salt is designed to both add flavour (yes, really) and help the body replace salts lost through perspiration in the sweltering heat of the sub-continent. Naturally, we find it also works extremely well after a hardcore session of Spinning or Kettlebells!
Be good to yourselves
Love, Gav & Emma x
FOOTNOTE – Yes, we know that now we have written this, it will probably rain for a month. But don’t be disheartened, these recipes work just as well under the grill or on a Griddle pan. Just be sure to Febreze the kitchen after you cook the Mackerel…