When I do a barbeque I usually cook a lamb leg, some chicken thighs and some steaks. I will always marinade chicken and lamb, but I will very rarely marinade the steaks. I believe that marinades are a vital part of a BBQ as not only do they impart the flavours that you wish to incorporate but they also help to keep the meat moist during the cooking process. Actually I will confess here prior to getting a gas barbeque my lovely wife referred to this as the cremating process but that’s another story.
When I cook chicken on a BBQ I almost always use thighs. I prefer this joint because the meat stays quite moist, the skin allows a little latitude in screwing up because if you do burn it a bit it doesn’t matter, just pull the skin off. Also the thighs keep their shape quite well and stand up to quite a bit of throwing around. Chicken breasts can become very dry very quickly and need a lot more care than I am prepared to give!
There are three marinades that I generally use for chicken thighs; the first is a teriyaki-style one, the second is a tomato/bbq sauce style and the third is a yummy Thai-style marinade. It sorts of depends of what else I am serving to determine which one I will use.
When I marinade meat I put it in a freezer bag along with the sauce as this way it is easier to squeeze all the air out and ensure that the marinade completely covers the meat. I also try and marinade meat for at least 12 hours but preferably longer if possible.
125ml soy sauce
125 ml mirin
2 tbs caster sugar
I tbsp chopped garlic / fresh ginger
(note – mirin is basically sweet Japanese sake used for cooking, at a push sherry can be substituted if you can’t find it)
Bring to the boil the soy, mirin and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and throw in the garlic and ginger. Leave to stand until cool. Place chicken thighs in freezer bag and add marinade. After you have removed the chicken for cooking you can put this sauce in a pan and reduce it down to a thicker sauce which can be used either to baste the meat during the cremating process or as a sauce to pour over once cooked.
This is a bit involved but really well worth it. Make a big batch, freeze it and use it when needed:
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbs tomato puree
2 tbs honey
1 thai chilli, chopped (or more)
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs Worcester sauce
75ml bourbon / whiskey
100 ml orange juice
1 shot of espresso strength coffee.
1 tsp mustard powder
Soften onions and garlic over low to medium heat in 1 tbsp olive oil, once done add all other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for about ten / fifteen minutes so that it thickens quite well. Once it has cooled a little put in food processor and whiz to a very fine puree. As this marinade is quite thick you should lightly score the skin of the meat you are marinading to ensure better flavours.
Thai Style Marinade for Chicken
This is a lovely, zingy zesty tasting marinade and is always very popular.
4 stalks lemongrass, crushed and chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
2 tsp lemon zest
3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
3 spring onions peeled and chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp ground coriander powder
2 thai chillis, chopped
3 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp peanut/groundnut oil
In the food processor whiz up the lemongrass, garlic, spring onions, lime leaves, fresh and ground coriander, brown sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients to the paste, ive it another whiz and place in a freezer bag with chicken thighs.
Grilling meats - beef
As I already said I very rarely marinade steak, I prefer to serve it the Tuscan way, which is to baste it with a little olive oil just before throwing onto the BBQ. Once cooked the steak is placed on a plate, a teaspoon or two of good quality EV olive oil, a good grind of fresh pepper and sea salt, a sprinkle of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley and perhaps a little squeeze of fresh lemon and that’s it. Perfection.
I only ever BBQ rib-eye steak, filet and sirloin just don’t work in my view, they become much too dry. A rib-eye has just the right amount of fat through it to keep it moist enough during the cremation process. Cooking a steak to the required done-ness is quite an art and I cannot understand those recipes that state for a rare steak cook it for two minutes on each side, for medium it is three minutes etc. It depends totally on how thick the steak is, how hot your fire is, the cut of the meat, on so many factors that trying to time it is absolutely impossible. The only fool proof method is to keep prodding it with tongs (do not pierce the meat). The more cooked it is the firmer it will feel…….simple really.
Grilling meats - Lamb
I love to cook a whole leg of lamb on the BBQ, it really works well, requires very little attention so you can better spend the time drinking beer and chatting. I prefer to use a de-boned leg of lamb, but one with the bone in would work just as well.
First of all the marinade, in a large bowl (or big freezer bag if you have one) combine together all of the following:
200ml white wine
Juice of one lemon
100ml mirin or sherry
30ml olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped garlic
Using a small knife stab a number of holes in the leg and into these incisions stuff more chopped garlic and rosemary. Make sure they are stuffed into the hole and not sticking out otherwise they will burn when put on the fire.
Put the lamb leg into the bowl or freezer bag with the marinade, squeeze the air out, seal bag and marinade for as long as possible, preferably overnight. This really does need as much time as you can give it to really let the flavours penetrate.
When it comes to cooking the lamb it will need about an hour. First of all take the lamb out of the marinade and wrap it tightly in aluminium foil. Place the wrapped lamb on the BBQ (not over direct heat, you will need to move some coals to one side), close lid of BBQ and leave for 40 mins. After 40mins remove foil and cook over heat as you would normally with meat, keep turning it around to make sure it is well cooked and that it doesn’t burn. The sugars in the mirin / sherry should caramelise and make the skin lovely and crispy. It will take another 20 mins or so to cook properly and you will need to keep a close eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t burn. If you have a lot of other things to cook on the barbeque you could roast the lamb wrapped in foil, in the oven for the first 40 mins and then finish off on the fire. Once it is cooked I tend to cut it into chunks and place it on a large flat platter around which I have placed dressed rocquet leaves.