Something that cannot be debated is that Kiwis love a good barbecue.
With that in mind I thought this week it was time to make sure the barbecue is all prepped and we have at least one new dish in mind for the coming season.
To be fair, during my early years our barbecues were basic - sausages and rissoles were about as exotic as we got. That's not to say they were any less enjoyable and the fact that we were able to congregate around the barbecue with family and friends taught me at an early age that it really does suit our relaxed and casual lifestyles. I guess that's the greatest thing about barbecuing - a glass in one hand and barbecue tongs in the other. There is little you cannot cook and present from a barbecue. Once you have mastered the technique of heat control you really can cook almost anything.
My barbecue rules It is really important you start with a clean barbecue plate or char-grill plate.
Just as important, always clean it as soon as you have finished using it.
The easiest way to clean a flat plate is to simply pour water over it while it is still hot and then, using a paint scraper or barbecue scraper, scrape all the remaining remnants from it. Once completed and dry simply oil it ready for its next use.
The char-plate is best handled with a wire brush when it is cool.
Try to get into the habit of heating your barbecue to the required temperature well before you need to use it. This will allow the plates to hold the heat much better once you start the cooking process.
Have a spray bottle of olive oil on hand along with a salt and pepper grinder. You will find you have much better control using the olive oil spray than a brush and use less oil.
Think about what you are cooking and ensure you have all the appropriate tools at the ready - tongs, scrapers etc - and ensure there are no forks anywhere.
Check your gas bottle is full (if you are using a gas barbecue) or at least has sufficient gas to last the time it will be required for this effort.
Be careful to ensure you follow safe food procedures. Do not allow cooked and raw meats to combine.
Ensure you have fresh, clean chopping boards for raw and cooked products and make sure the raw or cooked food is not sitting in the direct sunlight.
Appreciate the social occasion but also ensure that you concentrate on the cooking so you don't end up with a somewhat cremated meal. It is important to socialise but more important to ensure your guests have an enjoyable eating experience.
Last, but far from the least, enjoy barbecuing. The more you show the barbecue and the goodies on it respect, the more respect they will show you in return.
This week we will have a look at some pork, a product where most of the cuts suitable for grilling, pan grilling or pan frying will be suitable to be cooked on the barbecue.
Ensure you use pork that has been cut to a good thickness. Thinly sliced pork will dry very quickly if exceptional care is not taken on the barbecue. I prefer to use cuts around 2cm in thickness or a dice (for satays etc) of about 2cm cubes.
It is really important with pork that you do not overpower the flavour so rather than marinate on this occasion we will simply baste the meat during the cooking process. This will enhance the flavour rather than overpower it once the pork has been cooked.
As with all cuts of good-quality meat you should turn it only as required and avoid poking or prodding it unnecessarily during cooking. Poking will allow the natural juices to escape and create a drier finished product.
BARBECUED PORK MEDALLIONS WITH FRIED RICE AND A FRESH PINEAPPLE SALSA
For the fried rice
2 large free range eggs lightly beaten
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 Tbsp peanut oil
4 cups cold cooked long grain rice
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 spring onions cleaned and sliced
Method: Season the eggs with the salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place two tablespoons of peanut oil on to the flat plate of your barbecue at medium heat and add the eggs. Cook stirring until they are lightly scrambled but not too dry. Remove the eggs and scrape clean the plate.
Add a further 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and then the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break the rice apart. Stir in the soy sauce and mix well.
When the rice is heated through add the scrambled egg and mix thoroughly. Stir in the green onion and place on the plates for service.
For the pineapple salsa
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
cup chopped fresh mint leaves
zest of 1 fresh lime
about 1 Tbsp lime juice
sprinkling of brown sugar
freshly ground sea salt
Method: Carefully remove the skin and dimples from the pineapple then cut into half, then half and half again lengthwise. Remove the core and then slice the pineapple into half-centimetre slices. Place into a bowl.
Add the chopped chilli, mint leaves, lime zest, lime juice and sugar then sprinkle with a light grinding of fresh sea salt.
Mix together and taste. Add additional sugar if required. Allow to stand for 30 minutes before enjoying.
FOR THE PORK (for 4 people)
Allow 1 good sized or 2 smaller medallions per person
cup apricot jam
2 Tbsp light soya sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp mint ginger
Method: Place all the ingredients in a microwave-proof bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until the apricot jam has softened.
Mix together and leave ready for basting the pork while it is cooking.
Cut the medallions from the eye of the pork loin and cut into 2cm-thick slices allowing one good-sized piece for each person.
Once you have the barbecue up to a medium heat and it has been at that medium heat for at least 10 minutes, lightly oil the pork medallions on each side and place on the char-grill of the barbecue, cooking for 3 minutes on each side, basting at least twice during that process.
Place the pork medallions on to the flat plate of the barbecue and baste once again.
Continue cooking for a further 3 minutes on each side.
Test to see if they are cooked by checking they are firm to the touch and the juices (if any) run clear.
If they require further cooking take care and just cook for a further minute or so, basting at least once per minute.
Remove the pork from the grill plate and allow to rest for 3-4 minutes.
Place the pork medallion on top of the fried rice and add a generous portion of pineapple salsa.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times