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Barbecue - not just a guy thing!

You may have noticed I like to barbecue. On average now I barbecue 3-4 times a week (and not just in summer, all year round), not to mention using my Kamado Joe to smoke meats and fish. Even before I switched to Kamado style barbecues I used to barbecue pretty regularly.  I wouldn't say I'm fanatical but I love the depth of flavour you get out of meat, vegetables and fish and being able to play with different types of woods to either smoke or accentuate what you put on the grill.

I've signed up for a few forums, followed a few podcasts and live Instagrams associated with barbecue and it seems to be a mostly male preserve, even all the advertising is aimed at men. There is very little in the way of diversity when it comes to advertising.  All the barbecue tools are quite large (man sized) and for a woman with small hands not easy to handle. Good heat proof gloves are a nightmare to find in small sizes and when I did find a good brand they only colour for women was hot pink! Thankfully now Grill Heat Aid have expanded the colour choice and I now have some nice black ones, but I did have to order these from the US as no European brands seem to stock anything other than "one size fits all". We don't need pink barbecue tools just possibly ones that are of a manageable size. 

This isn't a feminist rant, but a comment from a friend of mine got me really thinking about this. We were discussing inviting people over for a barbecue at some point and she mentioned that I'd get a break from cooking as my other half would be doing the barbecuing. I replied that it wouldn't be the case as I was the one who did the barbecuing in our house. She was genuinely surprised at this and her reply inferred that it was strange for me to do so. Even more so when I pointed out that my other half has never cooked on the barbecue, it's always been me. 

I started off with a weber barbecue over 25 years ago and even then I cooked on that BBQ and not my other half, even my male housemates were happy for me to do all the grilling. My preference is if I've gone to a lot of trouble to prep and marinade meat or certain dishes, I really don't want someone else to cremate it. Also my housemates attempts at barbecuing ended up with a bout of food poisoning, so I thought best to take over. 

Now I'm no stranger to all male environs, I grew up with four brothers. My first job after graduating in the city of London was pretty male dominated. In some kitchens I worked in I was the only female chef. Not to mention a stage as an assistant sommelier in a Michelin starred restaurant, which is not exactly renowned for being a female dominated profession.

I recently bought the Pitt Cue cookbook in Dutch mainly because the meat cut charts would prove useful for my next trip to the Butchers (names for meat cuts differ big time between here in the Netherlands and the UK and Ireland). I know my meat cuts well but the names do vary from country to country, so best to know that I'm getting the right cut when I order. The book in English is called the Pitt Cue Co cookbook, in Dutch it's called  "Het Mannenkookboek". I'm not inferring it should be called the Vrouwenkookboek but you see where I'm going with this. 

I've spoken to many women who grill as well and they find barbecue books or advertising off putting. In barbecue magazines, there are little if any pictures of women actually doing the cooking, maybe sitting nearby or eating the food. I was recently interviewed for a barbecue edition of Entree Magazine here in the Netherlands and I was the only female in the section out of 20 chefs. Is it too much to ask that women are included more in the advertising and the magazine interviews both online and in magazines? It's inclusion, not feminising that we are looking for. There are quite a few women who do barbecue out there and maybe its time that companies started to target them too and I'm not talking about a token picture of a woman wielding tongs. 

For those of you who enjoy BBQing and want to take it that one step further, do consider a Kamado Joe. I've been using Kamado style barbecues for 10 years now and of all the ones I've had the Joe is the best option for quality and price, you get a lot more accessories with the barbecue itself in comparison to other brands where you have to buy them separately. The engineering and thought that has gone into how you use it is fantastic. The heat control is one of the best I've encountered. They may be expensive, but you won't be buying another barbecue ever again as it's a lifelong purchase, you also get a lifetime warranty with it too on certain parts. It is so versatile as you can grill, slow cook, smoke and make a really great pizza on it.

If you do buy a Kamado then consider getting the following accessories:
Deflector plates - great for indirect cooking and long slow cooks
Long handled tongs and turner
Cast Iron griddle - gets a good char on steaks and burgers
Pizza stone - don't buy a cheap one, it will only crack in the high temps needed for cooking pizza
Meat thermometer - essential to ensure the meat is cooked properly, thermapen is a good reliable brand
Grill cleaning brush - only takes a few seconds to clean the griddle down after BBQing
Silicone brush for basting your meats

If you do take the plunge and have got the accessories you now need to arm yourself with some good cook books:  

Hangfire Cookbook by Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn
Rodney Scotts World of Barbecue - Rodney Scott
Goat - James Whetlor
Serious BBQ by Adam Perry Lang 
Hete Kolen - Grillen en Kooken met een Kamado by Jeroen Hazebroek and Leonard Elenbaas or the English Language version Hot Coals: A User's Guide to Mastering Your Kamado Grill (or any of the Hete Kolen and Hete Rook books)
Pit Cue, the cookbook by Tom Adams and Jamie Berger

More importantly get to know your cuts of meat, what cooks slow and what cooks quick, what does and doesn't work on the barbecue. 
You'd be surprised at simple things like the variance in cooking different types of steak. Some steaks only work best cooked medium rare, any further and then it's like chewing shoe leather. Find a good butcher or local farmer that sells direct and make friends with them they will be happy to give advice if you're not sure what cuts are suitable for what type of cooking.

Don't get suckered into buying cheap charcoal either, some brands will have accelerants in them to help them light and please don't use lighter fluid, it will taint your food. There's nothing worse than eating meat or veg that tastes of lighter fluid. Try and aim for sustainable brands or if you are lucky to have a local charcoal producer them look at the range of charcoal you can buy. Every type of wood has it's own cooking characteristic so you can tailor your cook a lot better. 

Sign up for groups in Facebook which are good communities with good advice and tips. Follow people on instagram that inspire you. You can even join my LadyGrillers monthly with Sue Stoneman and I where we try to inspire you with seasonal local food and maybe one or two cocktails. 

If there are any women (or men who haven't tried BBQing yet) out there who want to try their hand at barbecue then go for it, you never know you might enjoy it!

Lamb heart burger

Lamb heart meat has a wonderful flavour and works really well in this burger recipe. Many of you know that I'm a fan of offal and like to use the "not so typical" cuts of meat.  I'm lucky that I have a wonderful local farmer where I can get these cuts of meat. Best to ask your butcher for lamb heart as it's not commonly sold. This is a lovely delicately spiced burger and a perfect foil for that "something a little different" to add to your repertoire. Lamb heart does not require much in the way of cooking as it will become tough and chewy. It's best to keep your burger medium rare or medium. I've used lamb neck for additional flavour but you can also use leg or shoulder, do ensure that you have minced these cuts finely. 

300g Lamb hearts finely minced, do not remove any fat
200g lamb neck finely minced
1 red onion peeled and grated (wring out any excess moisture with a kitchen towel)
2cm piece of ginger grated
2 cloves garlic grated
5g garam masala
5g smoked maldon sea salt
5g coriander leaves finely chopped
10g sweet paprika
10ml Greek yoghurt

This makes about 4 burgers

Place all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well
Place in the fridge for 6 hours to allow the flavours to come together
Remove from the fridge and form into burger patties ( roughly 150g each), place back in the fridge for 3 hours to firm up
Set your barbecue up for direct cooking at 200c
Cook the burgers for 2-3 minutes each side, aim for 54c core temp
I like to serve these with grilled onions, tomatoes and a yoghurt and coriander dressing

Beef cheek tortillas

I love low and slow cooking especially with not so popular cuts of meat. Beef cheek is perfectly suited to slow cooking and really takes on flavours during the process. This is one dish that needs very little attention, just get it on the barbecue and you can pretty much forget about it until it's ready. I tend to go by eye and feel when cooking for long periods rather than core temperature. The beef cheek just falls apart when ready and perfect for serving in tortillas with some salsa and guacamole. As many of you know now I tend to make my own spice rubs, I want to have something that compliments the meat not drowns out the natural flavours. 

500g beef cheek whole, trim off excess fat
Juice 1 orange
Juice 1 lime
10ml rapeseed oil
100ml freshly brewed strong coffee cooled

Spice mix
2cm cinnamon stick
2g all spice berries
5g cumin seeds
2g coriander seeds
2g black peppercorns
5g oregano
5g smoked paprika
5g sweet paprika
5g guajillo chili powder
2g maldon sea salt

Place the cinnamon, all spice, peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds in a heavy based pan and toast on a medium heat for 5 minutes
Allow to cool and then place in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder
Pour into a bowl and add the rest of the ground spices, salt and oregano, mix together well
Add the fruit juices, coffee and oil and mix further
Place the beef cheek in a deep baking dish or cast iron pan and pour over the marinade
Cover with cling film and place in the fridge over night or a minimum of 12 hours
Ensure you turn the beef during this time to ensure an even coating of marinade
Remove the beef from the fridge an hour before cooking
Set your barbecue up for indirect cooking at 140c with additional wood chips such as hickory or pecan for extra flavour
Remove the cling film from your dish/pan and place it on the barbecue, you'll be cooking the beef in the marinade
Cook for a minimum of 4 hours, cook for 2 hours uncovered and them cover the dish with tin foil and cook for a further 2 hours
Start checking the beef from about 3 hours to see if the meat is starting to give/become tender
Once cooked remove to a warm place and allow to rest for at least 45 minutes
After it has rested you can pull the meat apart quite easily
I like to serve this on warm tortillas with salsa and guacamole

Grilled Lamb Steaks Tandoori Style

I love tandoori style dishes in particular lamb chops. This recipe is perfect for the barbecue, the flavour of the rub accentuated by the smokiness of the barbecue. Add a little char from the grill and it all comes together quite nicely. 

Serves 2 people
6 lamb steaks or lamb chops if you prefer
30g tandoori spice rub ( you can find my recipe here)
10ml oil
70ml Greek yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
1g maldon sea salt

Mix the rub with the yoghurt and rub over the steaks,
Place the steaks for 6-12 hours in the fridge
Allow the steaks to come up to room temp before cooking
Season with salt and lemon juice
Oil the steaks before putting on the BBQ
Set your barbecue up for direct grilling at 220c
Cook the steaks for 1-2 minutes each side, I like mine rare, if you prefer yours a little more well done then cook a little longer

Tandoori spice rub

While this recipe sounds simple enough, the effort is in the making of the spice rub. For years I was using a ready made packet mix, which was all well and good. But since I started making my own spice rubs, I decided it was time to tackle a tandoori one too.
This has a lot of whole spices in it and yields fresh results in the way of flavour. It did take a while to get the rub exactly the way I wanted it, but the hard work won out in the end. This rub goes well with lamb, goat, chicken and fish, it is pretty versatile. 

Whole spices
5g yellow mustard seeds
5g cumin seeds
5g coriander seeds
5g cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 bay leaves
Half a whole nutmeg
4 cloves
10g methi (fenugreek) leaves
4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pods
1 blade of mace
15g paprika
5g black pepper
2g chili flakes
5g celery salt

Place all the whole spices in a cast iron or heavy bottomed frying pan and toast on a medium heat for 10 minutes
Allow to cool and transfer to a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder

Fresh Ingredients
5g turmeric root, peeled and grated
1 small red onion grated
2 cloves garlic grated
5g ginger root peeled and grated

You can also substitute, the above ingredients with their dried equivalents, 5g dried tumeric, 5g onion powder, 5g garlic powder, 2g ginger 

To finish the rub
Add the fresh ingredients to the ground spices and mix together well
This will keep for up to 2 months in an airtight container in a cupboard using just the dried dried ingredients 
It will keep for up to 2 weeks if using fresh ingredients in a jar in the fridge, if using dried, it will keep for up to a month in an airtight container in the cupboard

Buttermilk bread rolls

I've been playing with various bread recipes for these rolls for many years now, a tweak here, a tweak there just to find the prefect recipe that works well for burgers. This recipe yields a lovely soft bun that has a lovely rich flavour. It's like a brioche bun without all the hard work. The buttermilk and honey add a nice sweet and sour tang to the bread and it keeps well for quite a few days after making it. 

450g strong white bread flour
60g semola flour
7g instant yeast
10g salt
300ml buttermilk
1 egg beaten
50g honey
40g butter cut into small cubes

Place the flour and yeast into a bowl
Add the butter and rub together until you get rough breadcrumbs
Heat the buttermilk in a pan with the honey on a low heat until it reaches 30c
Take off the heat and stir through the beaten egg
Pour the liquid over the flour and mix to form a wet dough
While mixing add the salt
Remove from the bowl and knead for 5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth
Place on a greased bowl and cover 
Place in a warm place until the dough has risen to twice its volume (roughly 1 hour)
After the first rise, knock back and form into small rolls
Place on a baking sheet, ensure you do not place them too close together and cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes
Place in an oven at 190c (fan) 200c (normal) and bake for 20 minutes.
If cooking on the Barbecue use indirect heat 200c for 20 minutes


Paella is a dish that is versatile and moves with the seasons, it can be meat, veg or fish based or all three. It's a great dinner party dish. I first ate Paella in France about 22 years ago. An odd place to first eat Spanish food but it was cooked by a couple of Spanish guys. During my years at university some friends had a year out in Rennes, so I spent a lot of time going over and back visiting them. 

During this time the people I met came from all over Europe and we often got together to eat at one another's apartments. I used to look forward to going to the Spaniards for dinner as they would cook these amazing paellas on huge pan with all sorts of ingredients. It was placed in the middle of the table and everyone helped themselves.

The market in Rennes (back then, not sure what it is like now) was an every day market and you were spoilt for choice for fresh and seasonal ingredients. I used to love wandering around planning my menu for the evening as I saw what was available that day in the market.

So here's my trip down memory lane.

4 rabbit legs or if you can't easily get rabbit, chicken thighs on the bone will suffice
2 cloves garlic chopped
100g chorizo sausage sliced
200g paella rice
100g tinned tomatoes or three fresh tomatoes finely chopped
10g tomato purée
2g saffron soaked in 10ml water
50ml madeira wine or 50ml white wine
400ml chicken/veg or fish stock
3 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 onion finely chopped
10 ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper to season
Oil for frying

Fry off the onion and garlic in the oil on a low heat until soft 
Add the chorizo and fry off until the chorizo starts to release its oils
Add the tomato purée and cook for 1-2 mins
Add the Madeira or wine and cook on a high heat for 1 minute
Next add the tomatoes and the rice and stir for 1 min
Place the rabbit in the pan and pour over the chicken stock, add the thyme and the bay leaf
Give the pan a quick stir and then leave on a gentle heat for 30 - 40 minutes 
Season to taste and serve
This dish also works well on the BBQ as it will infuse with the smoky flavours from the coals
Set your BBQ up for indirect cooking at 150c and cook for 30 - 40 minutes
I like to leave the pan in the middle of the table and people help themselves