Tuesday, 20 September 2011

013 - Chocolate Cake on the Barbecue

Recently I've been wondering whether I could use my Smokey Joe for indirect cooking. I've also wanted to do more desserts on the barbecue. So I decided to kill 2 beer-can-birds with 1 briquette (...sorry!) and attempt to cook a chocolate cake on my little Weber.

My initial reservations about whether indirect was going to be possible on the Smokey Joe was to do with whether I could get enough separation between the charcoal and the food itself in such a small space. As I was planning to bake the cake in a disposable foil tray, I was hoping that as long as none of the charcoal spilled vertically under the cake, that any diagonal radiated heat would be partially reflected by the shiny surface of the foil.

To remove my own baking skills, or lack of baking skills, from the equation I opted to buy a ready-made cake mix rather than attempt my own. I opted for a new one from Mary Berry. It actually came with it's own non-stick cardboard tray which I thought was quite novel - but I wasn't sure it would last very long in the barbecue!

After adding some sunflower oil and 1 egg, I whisked it up for a couple of minutes before adding the mixture to the tray.

Then I prepared the Smokey Joe for indirect. Using about 1/4 chimney of briquettes, I pushed them as far to the sides as I could get them - leaving a long cake shaped space in the middle of the barbecue. Then I put the lid on and walked away, hoping it would work.

One advantage of baking a cake on the barbecue like this rather than in a conventional oven is that I could test how "done" the cake was without having to open up the barbecue - I simply poked a skewer through the air vents! :-) After about 30 minutes the skewer came out looking relatively free of liquid, and only a little sticky - so I decided to open the lid and take a look.

I was really quite chuffed with the results - it looked like a cake! And, at only 30 minutes bake time, it took only 5 minutes longer than the packet recommended.

After it had cooled in the tray, I added the chocolate icing on top and stood back to admire the finished result :-)

I'm not saying that I'll be baking everything on the barbecue from now on. After all, this was a simple tray bake that was probably quite forgiving in terms of what temperatures it could be baked at. But it might be a fun thing to do if you're ever out camping and want a bit of cake :-)

...and no, the Butt Rub wasn't added to the cake mix!

Monday, 19 September 2011

012 - Bacon Wrapped Peppadews Stuffed With Cream Cheese

Last week, as I was tweeting with some fellow barbecue enthusiasts, somebody mentioned they would be making ABTs that weekend. I had absolutely no idea what ABTs were, but after a quick Google search I had my answer... Atomic Buffalo Turds! 
... I completely understand why they chose to abbreviate it - they don't sound very appetising do they?! :-)

Apparently, the name is derived from hot chicken wings nicknamed Atomic Buffalo Wings. Usually, these are made with jalapenos but as my girlfriend really isn't into spicy things, I decided to opt for peppadews for my first attempt. Peppadews are bred to still have the tangy spicy flavour, but without the after-burn that most chilies have. Playing on the safe side, I ordered the mild versions!

The peppadews come jarred in a pickling liquid, so first they need to be drained. The best way to do this is to place them face down on some kitchen towel. You could rinse them beforehand, but it's not essential.

Next, I piped some of the cream cheese into each of the peppadews. @timbossenger suggested I used a sandwich bag to pipe and this method worked really well. Then, each is wrapped in half a piece of streaky bacon (secured with a toothpick) before being dusted with some Bad Byron's Butt Rub - I love that stuff! :-)

Because they are quite delicate I smoked them in the disposable foil tray rather than transfer them directly to the cooking grate. I placed them over indirect heat, and added a handful of soaked woodchips to the coals every 15 minutes. After about 1 hour of cooking... voila, the perfect BBQ entre!

As I had some bacon left over, I also made some pigs in blankets and served them both with some macaroni cheese.

Juicy, creamy and sweet, we really enjoyed this version of the ABTs - all of the flavours mixed really well to create one perfect mouthful of peppery smokiness. I've ordered some jalapenos, so next time I'll go 50/50 peppadews and jalapenos and turn the heat up a little!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

011 - Roast Dinner With All The Trimmings

Last week I really had a craving for a traditional english roast dinner. But, as I'm currently trying to BBQ 100 different things - I wanted to try and cook the entire thing on my Weber Kettle!

Having already cooked a whole chicken beer-can style, I decided this would be the star of the show - all I needed to do was figure out how to cook roast potatoes, sage and onion stuffing, yorkshire puddings and veg on the grill at the same time.

I'd planned to cook the meal in a 2 hour period, and try to only open the lid 3 times - to make sure the temperature was kept as high as possible. So, here's the plan I followed:

First things finrst - I set up the barbecue with 2 medium sized direct heat zones on either side, leaving a large indirect zone in the centre.

First 30 minutes:
- Beer can chicken, prepped with a little oil and some Byron's Butt Rub, placed in the centre of the indirect zone.
- Yorkshire pudding batter mix made up and left to settle in the fridge.

Second 30 minutes:
- Potatoes (scrubbed, not peeled), placed in a foil tray with a little water and sealed with foil wrap. Then placed over one of the direct heat zones.
- Yorkshire pudding tray added to the grill over direct heat with a little oil added to 2 of the spaces and left to heat up.
- Sage and onion stuffing mixed (from packet) and left to cool.

Third 30 minutes
- Potatoes drained and water discarded. Tossed in a little olive oil in the foil tray, with a sprinkling of some more Byron's Butt Rub. And then placed over indirect heat.

Fourth 30 minutes
- Potatoes shaken about to turn them in the oil.
- Chopped veg placed in a foil tray with a little water and sealed with foil wrap. Placed over one of the direct heat zones.
- Stuffing mix spooned in to the 2 spare spaces in the yorkshire pudding tray.
- Yorkshire pudding batter poured to heated oil, and the tray shifted to indirect heat.

The end result...

As you can see - my yorkshires were quite literally as flat as a pancake!! But I was quite impressed with everything else, and the traditional roast dinner flavour definitely came through strong. I just couldn't get the oil for the yorkshires hot enough, even over direct heat. When I poured the batter into the oil I was hoping for a satisfying sizzle.... but nothing happened, so at that point I already knew they weren't going to work unfortunately.

If I was going to do it again, I think I would probably choose to either do butt rub on the chicken OR the potatoes, not both. I love that rub but as it turns out, you can have too much of a good thing! :-)

I'm determined to try the yorkshires again. I'll let you know if I'm successful - watch this space!

Friday, 16 September 2011

010 - Chicken Fajita Skewers

Someone recently bought me a set of Weber style metal skewers. I'd been using wooden skewers for a while, but these seemed a lot sturdier and were a welcome addition to my ever-growing barbecue accessory collection!

If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll probably have figured out by now that I'm a bit of a Weber fan. So I'll try not to rave about these too much - but there's 2 reasons I prefer these over the wooden skewers:
  1. The flat handles, and flat blade make it easier to turn the whole skewer without the food slipping round on it.
  2. The metal seems to conduct the heat inside the food, so that it cooks more evenly and reduces the cooking time required, resulting in more succulent meat.
The disadvantage is that the blade itself is quite thick - so skewering something more delicate (like Haloumi) without it disintegrating is very difficult. And one word of caution - be careful how quickly you serve them from the grill - the metal handles will be HOT!

To try out my new skewers, I decided to cook a Chicken Fajita Skewers recipe. The recipe used to exist within the Weber UK website, although it seems to have disappeared now. If anyone knows where it has moved to, I'll happily link to it :-)

As with most skewer recipes I've come across, it was really simple to prepare. The veg, in this case peppers and red onions, is roughly chopped whilst the chicken was quickly marinated in a combination of spices with a little oil before the pieces are alternately threaded on to the skewer. You can use any combination of spices that you know you like the taste of - I tend to use a simple mix of chilli power, cumin, salt and pepper for a savoury flavour with a little heat.

The skewers are then placed over medium direct heat. One thing I've learned this year is that it's important to keep the lid on, even when cooking over direct heat. The obvious benefit is that it will shorten the cooking time required - but it will also help to prevent flare-ups since the air supply over the charcoal is regulated. The skewers are turned only once during cooking to ensure an even cook, with a nice char-grilled colour.

As I mentioned earlier, the chicken is left really moist because the metal skewers helped to conduct heat inside the meat, meaning the grilling time is relatively short. So short in fact that I was able to close the air-vents and re-use the briquettes the following weekend! We served it with Couscous and a ranch style salad, and it made a lovely summer evening meal.

Do you have any other suggestions, for what I can use the new skewers for? Leave me suggestions in the comments section below :-)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

009 - Beer Can Chicken

The style of cooking that I was most excited to try on the barbecue was cooking larger cuts of meat, including whole chickens. A few years ago, I wasn't even aware that this was possible - I think I've mentioned before that sausages and burgers were the staple ingredient for my barbecues. So when I heard about Weber's beer can chicken recipe, I knew I had to add it to the list of 100 things to BBQ!

I first tried this recipe back in early June, and it was one of the first few times that I had tried the indirect method of barbecuing. All of my BBQ previous fodder had been thrown over direct heat, and more often than not involved unwanted flames :-)

The process starts by making a dry rub, which is applied to the outside of the bird to flavour the skin. I used a little oil to make it stick and also to help the skin crisp up a little - there's nothing worse than chewy soggy chicken skin.

Then comes the beer! For my attempt I used a small can of Heineken. Half of the contents is poured way (into my mouth...) to allow the liquid to get up to temperature and start steaming quickly. I'd bought the Weber stand purpose built for the beer can recipe, so slotted the can into the centre space before easing the chicken over the top of it. You don't really need the stand to cook this recipe, as the chicken can simply be balanced on the can and its legs. However, the addition of some handles to the stand made moving the cooked chicken away from the barbecue a lot easier.

I prepped the barbecue with 3/4 chimney of briquettes, and arranged them at either side of the charcoal grill to leave a large indirect cooking zone in the middle. If, like me, you use a kettle barbecue, you'll need to arrange them like this rather than the 50/50 method as the bird needs to sit in the middle of the barbecue - otherwise it might touch the lid.

After adding the chicken to the cooking grill, I closed the lid and walked away - trying to avoid the temptation to lift the lid to check on progress. Every time you lift the lid, temperature is lost and it takes a while to build up again, slowing down the cooking process and increasing the overall time required. After about 45 minutes I checked on progress, and decided it needed the same time again. After about 1.5 hours, it looked suitable tasty and the thermometer confirmed the internal temperature had reached the required level (~74 degrees C)

This recipe convinced me that whenever possible, I should use the barbecue, rather than my in-doors oven to cook roasts. The end result was a deliciously moist chicken (the result of the steaming beer), with a really tasty crispy skin - and a kitchen that didn't smell of chicken for days! To be honest, I couldn't really taste the beer - but I put this down to having only used quite a weak lager. I have tried the recipe a couple of times since, and chose to use a darker ale, which seems to help. Definitely a fun first way to delve in to the world of cooking larger pieces of meat outside.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

008 - Meatloaf Sandwiches

Along with last weekend's MOINK balls, I wanted to try cooking a meatloaf for some friends that we had round on Saturday night. I'd previously tried Jamie Oliver's recipe for meatloaf, which was cooked in the oven like a roast, but it had always been disappointingly dense and heavy. There was a recipe in Weber's Complete BBQ Book for meatloaf sandwiches, and I thought it would make a great addition to my list of 100 things to BBQ!

First things first, what does every sandwich need...? Bread! I'd been gifted a bread maker a couple of years ago for Christmas so I set that up to make an extra large loaf. I used a ratio of roughly 1:5 wholemeal to white bread flour. I find that just a small amount of wholemeal flour adds quite a lot of flavour, without making the bread to heavy (it also seems to make slicing the loaf much easier). Just before the baking stage, I glazed the top of the proven dough with a beaten egg and sprinkled some sesame seeds on top.

The main ingredients in the meatloaf were minced beef and minced pork. Beef on its own would be too dry, so the pork fat helps to keep the finished meatloaf moist. Breadcrumbs are also added, along with an egg to bind - and several other spices and flavourings. After mixing thoroughly, I added the meatloaf to a foil tray and left it in the fridge to firm up.

 I prepped the kettle barbecue with roughly half a chimney full of briquettes, and arranged the coals at ether side of the grill, leaving me 2 areas of direct heat and a large central area for indirect heat. I arranged the meatloaf and MOINK above a drip tray with some water in it, and added a handful of soaked wood chips to the coals before closing the lid. The original recipe doesn't call for smoke... but I like the smell!

After about 90 minutes the meatloaf had reached the required internal temperature. At that point, I removed it from the grill and sliced it into half-inch portions (I managed to get 9 portions from the single loaf). Each slice was given a generous slathering of sauce (I used a combination of Weber's BBQ sauce mixed with a little Heinz Ketchup), before it was placed back on the grill, over medium direct heat.

In contrast to my expectations, the end result was a really flavourful and light sandwich. The initial indirect phase gave the loaf a lovely moist, light feel and the extra direct cooking stage gave each slice a nice sticky crust. The closest thing I can compare it to would have to be a burger - but the flavours and textures were so much better than that. If you've never thought about meatloaf on the BBQ, I would urge you to try Weber's recipe for yourself.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

007 - MOINK Balls

After tweeting about my Grilled Bacon Explosion Sandwich, made with some left overs, @RacksOfRuin got in touch to let me know about MOINK balls. He had made some "MOINK in the hole" wth some MOINK left overs.

Now, please excuse my ignorance, but I had never heard of MOINK - let alone MOINK in the hole!

Created by BBQGrail, a MOINK ball is a beef meatball (the MOO part), wrapped in bacon (the OINK part). Put them together and you have a MOINK! His original recipe can be found here: bbqgrail.com

For my attempt at a MOINK (apparently, it's only a MOINK if it's spelt in caps...), I was going to be using Sainsbury's standard beef meatballs, streaky unsmoked bacon, some Bad Byron's Butt Rub and some Bone Suckin Sauce to glaze.

Each piece of bacon is cut in half, wrapped around a single meatball and then secured with a cocktail stick. Once constructed, I dusted my impressive balls with some butt rub... (the opportunities for innuendo whilst barbecuing seem endless!). The construction process reminded me very much of Christmas, and pigs in blankets.

The MOINK are then smoked over indirect heat. I was going to be serving up slices of meatloaf in sandwiches that night, so arranged the balls around the main event.

It took between 45mins to an hour before I thought the bacon was suitably golden. And at that point I coated each MOINK in a layer of Bone Suckin Sauce. I then continued to cook over indirect heat for a further half an hour. I dosed each ball with another layer of sauce half way through, to make them extra sticky and glossy.

These little balls of beef and bacon are delicious! They reminded me of toffee apples from my childhood - but replace the fruit with meat, and replace the toffee with BBQ sauce! The perfect side dish for any BBQ, I'll certainly be doing them again. And next time I'll make sure I make extra, so I can try out RacksOfRuin's MOINK in the Hole.