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Great grills

Doesn’t time fly? It seems like only yesterday that we were ‘firing up the barbie’ for our first meal, and now the barbecue season is rapidly coming to a close. We’ve gone back to a gas grill again. I know charcoal aficionados would say that you can only get that authentic smoky flavour from cooking over coals and that clean-up is easier too but waiting at least 45 minutes for the coals to heat became a bore.

So it’s back to gas, and to be honest, we really can’t taste much difference. If you want a smoky flavour you can always do what the Americans do and use liquid smoke – not sure if you can get it here, but if all else fails, Amazon has umpteen different brands.

This year I seem to have gone kebab-crazy and have been skewering all sorts of things. One of our favourites is salmon fillet cut into cubes, wrapped in Parma ham and brushed with oil and dill. If you spear some small cooked potatoes on the skewers with the salmon, you only need some vegetables or a salad to go with them.

Pork kebabs marinated in olive oil, pesto and garlic and served with some grilled peppers and a pasta salad are pretty good, too.

To make sure barbecued chicken drumsticks are properly cooked, it helps to slash them through to the bone on both sides. For a ‘Deep South’ supper, rub the drumsticks with Cajun spice and serve them with dirty rice. It’s called dirty rice simply because it is cooked in beef stock with chicken livers and mushrooms and it looks dirty. You can make your own Cajun spice by mixing paprika, powdered garlic, dried oregano and thyme, salt and black pepper and chilli or cayenne pepper.

I’ve always steered clear of barbecuing pork chops as I still have vivid memories of the chops one of our American friends used to serve. He had them cut 5cm thick and cooked them very slowly for two hours on one of those Weber kettle barbecues, and I well remember sawing our way through cremated meat that was just like shoe leather. However, I’ve recently discovered that chops cut not much more than a centimetre thick barbecue very well in about four to five minutes each side until just cooked through, and with a sweet and sour sauce they are very tasty.

Hot dogs make a cheap and cheerful barbecue. Take a pack or tin of long franks, roll them in thin streaky bacon and grill them. Then, instead of putting them in a bun, spread some tortillas with tomato sauce made with a tin of chopped tomatoes, add the franks, top them with some sticky fried onions and wrap them up.

Salmon, Parma and potato kebabs with dill mayonnaise

(Serves 4)

12 small potatoes, halved
600g skinless salmon fillet
4 slices Parma ham, cut into
3cm strips
1 lemon
Olive oil
2 tbsps snipped fresh dill
Ground black pepper
4 tbsps mayonnaise
4 tbsps cream
Lemon wedges to serve

Put the potatoes in a pan and cook them in salted water until just tender, then drain and let them cool. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for half an hour before use.

Run your fingers over the fish and pull out any bones with tweezers. Cut the fish into chunks and wrap each chunk in a strip of Parma ham. Cut the lemon into eight wedges, then cut each wedge in half. Thread the salmon and potatoes on to the skewers, putting a piece of lemon at each end, then put the kebabs into a large shallow dish.

Mix four tablespoons of olive oil with a tablespoon of the snipped dill and a good grind of black pepper and pour it over the kebabs, turning so that they are all well coated. Chill until ready to cook.

Beat together the mayonnaise and cream, add the remaining dill and some black pepper to taste and transfer it to a small serving dish.

Barbecue the kebabs, brushing with extra oil and turning frequently, for about seven to eight minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through. Serve on warm plates with the mayo and garnish with lemon wedges.

Cajun chicken with dirty rice

(Serves 4)

8 chicken drumsticks
Olive oil
3 tbsps Cajun spice
200g long grain rice
500ml beef stock
1 large onion and 1 celery stick, chopped
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
200g chicken livers, rinsed, dried and chopped
120g mushrooms, chopped
Pinch dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Slash the drumsticks through to the bone on both sides two or three times, then brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with the Cajun spice and rub it well in. Leave them to stand for at least an hour. Cook the rice in the stock, then leave it to cool.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan, add the onion and celery and cook until they start to soften. Add the green pepper and garlic, cook gently for five more minutes, then stir in the cooled rice. Heat another two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, add the chicken livers and stir and turn them for three or four minutes until cooked through.

Stir in the mushrooms and cook for another two minutes. Add this mixture to the rice together with the chilli flakes and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper, then reheat until the rice is piping hot, transfer to a serving dish, cover the dish and keep warm while cooking the chicken.

Barbecue the chicken for about 25 to 30 minutes, turning frequently and brushing with oil until cooked through. Serve the chicken on warm plates with the rice and a green salad.

Sweet and sour pork chops

(Serves 4)

4 pork chops, about 1cm thick
100ml pineapple juice
4 tbsps sweet sherry
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps soft light brown sugar
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
2 tbsps tomato ketchup
1½ tbsps cornflour
150ml water

Trim the fat from the outside of the chops and snip the edges of the meat so that they stay flat during cooking. Put the chops into a shallow dish in one layer and pour over the pineapple juice. Leave to marinate for a minimum of two hours, but overnight is better.

Put the sherry, soy, sugar and vinegar into a pan and whisk in the ketchup. Mix the cornflour with the water and add to the pan, then bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer the sauce for two minutes. Put a couple of spoonfuls into a small bowl and reserve.

Drain the chops and add the remaining pine-apple juice to the sauce. Barbecue the chops for four to five minutes each side until just cooked through, brushing them with the reserved sauce for the last two minutes of cooking. Bring the sauce back to the boil, then serve the chops on warm plates with the sauce spooned over. Serve with noodles and baby sweetcorn.

Hot dog and bacon wraps

(Makes 8)

8 thin-cut rashers streaky bacon
8 large frankfurters
Olive oil
4 onions
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar, plus 1 tsp extra
2 tsps Dijon mustard
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tsps tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
20g butter
8 medium-sized tortillas

Wind the bacon rashers around the frankfurters, brush with a little oil and chill until ready to cook.

Cut the onions in half through the root and slice them thinly lengthways. Heat three tablespoons of oil in a pan and cook the onions gently for about 10 minutes until softened. Stir in the tablespoon of brown sugar and the mustard and continue to cook for another 10 minutes until they are very soft and browned.

While the onions are cooking, put the tomatoes into a pan, together with the tomato paste, the balsamic, the extra teaspoon of sugar and some salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 15 to 20 minutes until thick, then stir in the butter.

Wrap the tortillas in a sheet of foil and warm them in a 150ºC oven, or heat them on the side of the barbecue away from direct heat for 20 minutes. Barbecue the frankfurters, turning frequently for 10 minutes or until the bacon is crispy.

Spread a spoonful of tomato sauce on each tortilla, top with the frankfurters, then divide the onions between them. Fold in one end, roll them up and serve with a bean salad or wrapped in paper napkins plus the obligatory tomato ketchup for the little people.

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