Now spring is officially here and the weather is finally getting warmer, the food industry, in the form of the supermarkets, will begin rolling out its adverts for cut-price crates of beer and bottles of rosé – and, of course, barbecuing cuts of meat, fish and burgers. Homeware stores will be advertising deals on garden equipment and BBQs while, in the publishing world, it means cookbooks full of light, flavourful and colourful plates of food and what to cook on barbecues.
Surprisingly, given this nation’s propensity towards blackening its BBQ food, there’s a dearth of good cookbooks on the subject. Thankfully this is changing, but more, I think, as a result of restaurants using BBQs; wood fired ovens and grills are spreading like wild fire, especially in of Spanish restaurants and American style BBQ joints. Leading the way in the former category is the Salt Yard Group and its Chief Director, Ben Tish, whose new book, Grill Smoke BBQ, is hitting shelves as I write; and it’s the first barbecue book that could be called a bible on the subject.
While Tish includes the ubiquitous steaks, ribs and burgers, all done in an upmarket way I might add, he also gives recipes for far more creative and interesting dishes. There are family favourites like the leg of lamb, given a flavour upgrade with BBQ cooking, bringing out a sweet, charred smokiness on the skin that mingles so perfectly with the sweetness of the lamb itself and the wild garlic pesto he prescribes as an accompaniment. You’ll also find recipes for more delicate ingredients like wild bream, or brill with seaweed butter, recipes for vegetables such as parsnips with manchego, and desserts like caramelised fig tart and smoky bitter chocolate pudding. Simply put, the book is filled with one mouth watering dish after another. It will have you hosing off the bits of charred sausage from last year’s BBQ, eager to light it up and try out some of these superb recipes and flavour combinations with all your friends and family.
For many it’s the recipes that will be the star of the book, but for me the introductory chapters steal the show. In these opening chapters, Tish shares with us all that he has learnt from his years of smoking, barbecuing, grilling and travelling through Spain and Italy, where these techniques are central to creating the flavours and dishes they are famous for – and that we have been going mad for since places like Salt Yard, The Opera Tavern and other such tapas style restaurants have brought them to our tables. Not only does he go into the details of how to set up your BBQ, as you would expect, but he instructs us on the best woods to use according to the flavours you want and the ingredients you’re cooking with. Types of barbecues, along with direct and indirect cooking techniques, are addressed in detail, allowing the user to properly understand the pros, cons and uses of them. How to smoke ingredients is also addressed, and is done, like all other aspects of the book, in a clear way that even a novice will find easy to understand and follow. It even has a few pages on booze and BBQs that encourage you to try something other than the usual beer and cheap wine.
The only thing really missing from this otherwise superb book is the recipe for my favourite dish from Opera Tavern, the mini Ibérico pork and foie gras burger; served with chilli, it is like manna from heaven.
Grill Smoke BBQ is the perfect guide to the BBQ, how to cook with it and what to cook. Whether you have stayed clear of barbecuing out of dislike for the typical burnt on the outside, raw on the inside fare that comes off so many British barbecues, or if you consider yourself a BBQ god, this book will have something for you, opening up new worlds through new recipes.
Grill Smoke BBQ by Ben Tish of Ember Yard Published by Quadrille £25 ISBN: 978-1-84949-715-2