Barbecue, roast and smoke in the Char-Broil Big Easy

So today I’ve got something new and different for you. Isn’t that exciting? I have recently been delivered the UK’s first Gas three-in-one barbecue. It’s called the Char-Broil Big Easy and it’s a neat grill (barbecue), smoker and roaster with a stylish somewhat sci-fi look to it.

It’s now occupying pride of place in my garden and over the next few months I’m going to be telling  you all about it and publishing recipe ideas for this wonderful addition to my cooking alternatives. And you all know how much I love cooking outdoors – must be in my blood.

Ready to go and looking good: My new Big Easy

Roast, smoke and grill

Okay, so here’s the low down. First up is the roasting option – and with the capacity to cook up to 11kgs of meat and vegetables in the basket insert you’ve got those large family gatherings covered. There’s also a special way to cook spare ribs by hanging them on four integrated stainless steel hooks – but more of that later.

For hot smoking, the Big Easy has a pull-out box to fill with wood chips of your choice – and who knew how many different types there were. I’ve ordered a selection in anticipation of some serious smoking coming up.

Finally, if all you’re after is a quiet barbecue, the Big Easy has a handy grill that fits to the top.

Rotisserie-style roast chicken

Today I decided to start with the simplest of tasks. My love of rotisserie chickens and my consumption of them (particularly in Spain) is widely known. And I had the thought that cooking a chicken in the Big Easy’s roasting basket would be a very similar process. So, keeping it simple like I said, I rubbed my chicken thoroughly all over with a little olive oil and propped it up in the basket. At 15 mins per 450g it was ready 35 minutes later. And perfectly ready! The aromas as I lifted the lid washed over me and transported me back to those rotisserie sellers in my favourite Spanish markets.

Char-Broil: chicken in the Big Easy

The chicken browns in the roasting basked

You can see from this picture how large the basket is. Having said that, it roasted with my smaller chicken (big enough for 4-5 people) perfectly. It’s also a really healthy way of cooking as your chicken isn’t sitting in any oil though it still comes out with lovely crispy skin.

Char Broil: Roast chicken in the Big Easy

Close up on the roasting chicken

Change the flavours of your roast chicken

Be adventurous and add international flavours to your chicken but making a butter or olive oil rub. Add fresh ingredients to butter, blend together and smear under the skin of your chicken or mix ground ingredients with olive oil and rub over thoroughly. Here are some ideas to get started.

Thai butter

Blend ginger, garlic, chilli and basil leaves with butter

Mediterranean oil rub

Mix lemon juice and dried oregano into olive oil

Moroccan butter

Blend dried cinnamon, cumin, saffron strands and fresh mint with butter.

Indian oil rub

Mix ground cardamom, cloves, coriander and curry powder with oil oil.

Watch this space for plenty more ideas on cooking with the fabulous Big Eas.

Up next I’m going to be smoking salmon – with some very special ingredients.

Find out more about the Big Easy and Char-Broil’s other products by clicking here.

Recipe: Vietnamese-style grilled chicken thighs

So I’m getting very excited as I’m going to be heading off to Vietnam soon. A country I’ve never been to and have been longing to visit for a while. I don’t quite know what to expect but I do know the food is going to be fabulous.

So, inspired by my upcoming trip, here’s a simple and totally delicious recipe to bring a little bit of Vietnam into your homes.

I love cooking with chicken thighs, they absorb so much flavour and don’t dry out. The addition of sugar to the marinade means there’s a slight caramelisation when you grill which adds a delightful sweetness and a little bit of crunch.

You could serve this with rice or noodles for a more substantial dish. For a light meal it’s perfect with this simple, crunchy salad – including a much-used ingredient in Vietnam – fresh mint.

Enjoy!

Vietnamese-style grilled chicken thighs

Serves 2

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The succulent sliced thighs on a bed of green

4 deboned chicken thighs

2 tbsps soya sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsps brown sugar

1 tbsp chopped ginger

1 dried chilli, chopped

Juice of 2 limes

Mix together all the above ingredients well to make a marinade. Add the chicken thighs and coat well. Cover and marinate for 3 to 4 hours, turning a few times.

Heat the grill and cook the chicken thighs flat for about 8 mins on each side until slightly blackened and caramelised. Baste with the marinade throughout the cooking process.

In the meantime make the salad by mixing together the three ingredients below.

For the salad

1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into chunks

1 small packet of peanuts

1 large handful of mint, leaves torn

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A simple salad adds crunch to the dish

Remove the chicken from the grill and slice diagonally.

Serve with the salad.

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The chicken sizzles and browns under the grill

Recipe: Chicken tikka kebabs with spicy Quinola

Today we’re heading from Chile to Peru (in Blogworld – not reality ) to enjoy some quinoa (pronounced keen-wha). Quinoa is an organic vegetable protein that’s packed with essential amino acids and vitamins and it’s gluten and cholesterol free. And the Quinola selection has been sourced from the best Peru has to offer.

One of their new ranges is the Quinola Express. There’s a selection of flavours that come in handy pouches that you can heat in the microwave for 90 seconds or eat cold. I decided to try the Express Quinoa with Indian style chickpeas and came up with these delicious chicken tikka kebabs to accompany it.

To find out more about the full range of Quinola products visit quinola.com

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Express Quinoa makes the perfect accompaniment

CHICKEN TIKKA KEBABS

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, cut into large cubes

150g plain yogurt

50g unsalted butter

80g fresh ginger, chopped

Half a tsp ground cumin

Half a tsp ground coriander

2 dried red chillis, crumbled

Juice of 2 limes

2 tbsp tomato puree

A dash of vegetable oil

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Marinating chicken with a quinoa background

To make the marinade mix all the ingredients in a blender until you have a thick, smooth paste.

Pour the marinade into a large bowl and add the chicken. Coat well and leave to marinate for at least 6 hours, overnight would be ideal.

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Chicken and plenty of marinade

Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers.

Heat the grill or barbecue.

Cook for 10-15 minutes, turning regularly and basting with the yogurt marinade.

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Chicken tikka skewers straight off the barbecue

While the chicken is cooking, microwave the Quinola.

Spoon the hot Quinola into a round biscuit cutter and leave for 2 mins.

Remove the round and serve with the kebabs.

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Chicken tikka kebab with a rounded portion of quinoa

HOW TO PLATE LIKE  CHEF

The way your food is presented is so important. How many times have I waxed lyrical about the way dishes have looked in restaurants I’ve been to?

If a plate of food looks good I definitely believe it’s going to taste more delicious. And it’s really not that hard to do.

When you’re serving quinoa, rice, couscous or anything similar, place a biscuit (cookie) cutter on the plate and spoon it in. Press it down gently and leave for a few minutes. Carefully remove the cutter and you’ll be left with a lovely round, restaurant-style.

 

Recipe: Summery chicken casserole

Okay, so the not-so-good British summer limps along with odd sunshine appearances making us briefly happy before plunging us back into the inevitable rain and grey-sky-punctuated days of July. So while I’d love to be lounging in my garden with the barbecue sizzling, practical considerations (barbecues aren’t so much fun when it’s raining) mean that my cooking mind is heading in a different direction…a stew direction.

Today I decided I needed to come up with a satisfying chicken casserole that also has a taste of summer about it. The flavour combination of honey, orange juice and tomatoes is beautifully light and zesty and works perfectly with the tender chicken thighs and creamy butter beans.

HONEY AND ORANGE CHICKEN WITH BUTTER BEANS AND TOMATOES

Serves 6

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The final dish topped with chopped parsley

900g boneless chicken thighs, chopped into generous bite-sized pieces

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

4cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

4 tbsp runny honey

Half tsp saffron strands

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes in juice

5 tbsps passata

1 litre chicken stock

2 x 400g cans of butter beans

Juice of 1 orange

Salt and pepper

Two handfuls flat leafed parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based casserole dish or pan on the stove. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger over a medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the honey, saffron, cinnamon, tomatoes, pasta and stock. Bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken pieces. Season to taste. Cook for about 20mins on a low simmer.

Add the orange juice and butter beans and cook for another 15 minutes on low, until the chicken is tender and everything else is thoroughly heated through.

Sprinkle generously with chopped parsley.

Serve with rice and vegetables.

I got my chicken from The Black Farmer. The company was set up by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones and produces gluten-free products that are also RSPCA assured which means the company has a vision for all farm animals to have a good life and be treated with compassion and respect. The products are also of the highest quality, these thighs were packed with flavour.

TBF_FR_thigh-filletsThe Black Farmer produces a range of sausages, burgers, free range chickens, bacon, eggs and meatballs. Much of the range is available online at Ocado and you’ll also find the beef burgers at Asda and the chickens at selected Budgens.

Find out more at theblackfarmer.com

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The chicken stew simmers on the stove

Recipe: Delectable chicken satay

I love satay in all forms and eat it frequently when I’m in Thailand – alternating between beef, chicken and pork. I just can’t get enough of it. The dishes vary quite a bit from restaurant to restaurant – different marinades, different-shaped kebabs and most importantly different-flavoured dipping sauces.

So I’ve been experimenting and come up with a truly tasty chicken satay. The marinade makes the kebabs so sweet and moist as well as adding a spicy bite and the sauce tastes really nutty and indulgent. I used my fabulous new Stellar Chef’s pan to make the sauce – most definitely are a pleasure to cook in. Read more about it and where to get one below.

MY SCRUMPTIOUS CHICKEN SATAYS

Serves 4

600g deboned chicken thigh fillets

For the marinade

1 clove garlic

2 medium chillies, chopped

3 tbsp soya sauce

2 tsp honey

2 tbsp sesame oil

Slice the chicken thighs into three equal, long pieces.

Mix together the ingredients for the marinade and add the chicken. Make sure it is well coated.

Leave covered in the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before cooking thread the long slices of chicken onto the skewers, folding them.

Remember to soak your skewers if they are wooden so they don’t burn.

Grill or barbecue the skewers for about 10 minutes on each side, turning and basting regularly with the marinade.

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Glistening chicken satays with nutty dipping sauce

For the satay sauce

You can make the sauce way ahead and keep it in a jar in the fridge – in fact it will last a few weeks, if you can resist eating it for all that time, that is.

2 tbsps coconut oil

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 medium chillies, chopped

150g peanut butter

1 tsp honey

200ml coconut milk

A splash of fish sauce

Heat the coconut oil over a medium heat on the hob and add the onion, chilli and garlic. Cook for about 10 mins until nicely softened.

Add the peanut butter and honey and stir thoroughly making sure it doesn’t stick. This will only take a few minutes to melt and blend together.

Allow to cool a little and transfer to your blender. Add the coconut milk and blend.

Stellar Chef’s pan

I made my sauce in this Chef’s pan from Stellar. It’s suitable for all hobs, dishwasher and oven safe and a pleasure to cook in with its non-stick surface and flat, wide base and tall sloping sides. The pan comes in three different sizes with prices starting from £20 for the 16cm one.

For stockist information call 0117 940 000 or email sales@horwood.co.uk

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My Stellar chef’s pan ready to go

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Reheating the nutty sauce before serving

I served my satays with a simple salad using ingredients I had in the fridge and made a zesty dressing using fresh lime juice, chopped chilli, fish sauce and sugar. Simply chop cabbage, cut carrots into batons, top with mint leaves and dry roasted peanuts and pour over the dressing.

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A simple salad adds crunch and zest

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The Stellar chef’s pan is a great addition to my kitchen

Recipe: The classic that is Chicken a la King

At long last I’m back in the kitchen. When I was deciding what to cook for dinner I suddenly had a desire for some chicken a la king. A dish I remember well from early visits to restaurants as a teenager (oh how exotic it seemed then). I’ve tried to find out where it originated and, as with many classic dishes, there are many different theories.

My favourite (and therefore the one I’m going with is that it was created by Chef George Greenwald, at the Brighten Beach Hotel in New York in the early 1900s. He prepared a special chicken dish one evening for the owners, Mr and Mrs Clark King II. It was such a success that it’s said the next day it was added to the menu as Chicken à la King for the princely sum of $1.25.

I love its simplicity and creaminess as do people of all ages. It was a favourite of my youngest nephew Cuan’s for a while, when he regularly (and very cutely) asked if he could have Chicken on a King for dinner.

My recipe uses cream, but you could make a basic white sauce instead using milk if you’re looking for a lower fat option. I also added peas, which I don’t think is traditional, as I wanted a bit of green in the mix and their sweetness and bite added something extra.

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A satisfying bowl of Chicken a la King

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks

Juice of 1 lemon

170ml double cream

2 tbsps sunflower oil

1 onion, peeled and sliced into rounds

200g mushrooms, sliced

2 tbsps butter

2 tbsps flour

250ml chicken stock

Handful of fresh thyme, leaves only

100g peas

Put the chopped chicken into a plastic bag and pour in the lemon juice and double cream. Mix thoroughly, seal the bag and leave to marinate for two hours.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion. Cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft.

Add the butter and the mushrooms, stir through and cook over a low heat for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle over the flour and stir through.

Pour in the chicken stock and stir until everything blends together and thickens.

Add the chicken from the bag and squeeze all the cream and juice into the mixture. Stir through.

Add the thyme leaves and stir through.

Cook for 15 mins, then add the peas.

Then cook for another 10 mins until the chicken is done.

Serve on a bed of rice.

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The creamy mixture straight off the stove

I’m glad I was reminded of this delicious dish, it’s one that’s now definitely part of my regular repertoire.

Do you have any classic recipes that you love? I’d love to try them, do get in touch.