British Barbecue Week is a great opportunity to celebrate versatility

It’s fitting that this is British Barbecue Week. Call me cynical but it seems we have a sunny break from the grey drab weather on this week every year. So the best plan of action is to dust off the old grill and get cooking outside.

Barbecuing food has become big business and not necessarily confined to the summer months. Garden centres have dedicated barbecue retail areas now that aren’t seasonal. As someone who would cook in rain, hail or snow, if someone held an umbrella up for me, this is only a good thing.

Barbecue

Barbecue

I love it when the coals catch, the bright flames giving way to glowing embers. There’s something primordial about this way of cooking – simply burning wood and placing food on top. We now can choose what wood we want to cook with – mesquite, apple or cherry wood are only some of the many options available.

Gone are the days when burning a sausage until its black on the outside and pink in the middle can be classed as proper outside cooking. Nowadays we brine, rub, glaze and generally make the food exciting.

I’m a great believer in balance on the barbecue – a good combination of meat, vegetables and bread or potatoes. As a nine year old girl potatoes cooked in embers was one of the first things I ever ate from a fire and it still has a resonance with me. Baked potato, split and filled with butter is one of life’s simple pleasures.

For my first recipe this week, potatoes are wrapped in foil, baked in the oven first, then in the embers and filled with a chorizo and grilled corn butter.

Corndale farm chorizo from Limavady is delicious and worth sussing out for this recipe. Corn on the cob is starting to become available now – blanch in salted water, rub with oil and cook directly on the grill to scorch.

Pork ribs are a mainstay of any barbecue but beef ribs make a luxuriously rich alternative. Good butchers will source them for you. They need to be cooked beforehand and then finished on the grill glazed with a good barbecue sauce. I’ve included my recipe for the sauce but there are good bottled varieties out there – Red Dog from Kilkeel do especially authentic barbecue sauces . Paul Van Gelder who makes them hails originally from California and is a grill master who knows a good sauce!

Cedar planks are readily available now from bbq retailers and make an exciting cooking medium. The planks are placed directly on the heat, the food placed on top and then wait for the magic to happen. The wood flavour permeates through the food and keeps it moist at the same time.

My last recipe is for herb grilled cedar plank salmon. You could substitute any oily fish fillets – just adjust the cooking time if they’re thinner. I’ve suggested serving with pickled vegetables and a Broighter gold rapeseed mayonnaise – rich, herby fish, zingy, crunchy vegetables and a creamy citrusy dressing.

Not a boring burger in sight!