Ideas and recipes for a barbecue summer: Part One

I grew up in Zimbabwe and still spend a lot of time in South Africa, where barbecuing (or braaing as we call it) is a passion and can be something of an artform. I love it, cooking alfresco while the meat sizzles and the delicious aromas waft across the garden.

So imagine my excitement when I took delivery of a brand new Weber gas barbecue. I am a big fan of gas (much to the horror of some of the more ardent braaiers of my homeland), there’s none of that messing around with wood or coal, and you can turn it on and off at will.

New barbecue assembled, I started to imagine my first alfresco experience of the summer…and then the sun came out. Yes, it is a bit of an event when the sun comes out in England so I was rather excited!

My new barbecue is compact and quite easily portable, has two handy shelves on either side for plates, marinades or condiments to use while cooking and it looks stylish, too. Easy to switch on and off and vary the temperature, it has a handy thermometer on the lid – something of a revelation for a barbecue where the heat can get out of control (or too cold). And the grill is removable  in two pieces (clever idea), which makes it simple to pop into hot water, soak and clean. Something of a relief…I’ve spent my fair share of time scrubbing unwieldy barbecue grills that won’t fit in the sink! You can see a wide range of  barbecues at http://www.birstall.co.uk/

My lovely new barbecue in my sunny garden

My lovely new barbecue in my sunny garden

So now I’m properly prepared to celebrate a barbecue summer (fingers crossed). I’m going to bring you some of my favourite barbecue recipes over the coming months. Starting with these delectable pork ribs.

For the marinade

The first time I marinated these ribs, I literally took what was in my cupboard and mixed together a combo of what I had, tasting as I went along. Since then I have refined the mixture a bit, but the great thing is that you can come up with your own marinade by experimenting, and make something just to your own taste.

Quantities will obviously depend on how many ribs you have, you need to make sure you have enough marinade to cover one layer of ribs when they are lying down. I use a mixture of hoisin sauce, rib sauce, runny honey, teriyaki marinade, ketchup, olive oil, sweet chilli and hot chilli sauce. I sometimes also add a tablespoon or two of mirin to add a bit of sweetness.

The important part about the marinating is to do it overnight, so the flavours really have time to develop. Place the ribs in a pan of warm water and bring to the boil. Turn it off immediately and let the ribs stand in the hot water for a few minutes. Drain and leave to cool slightly for about 10 minutes. You can mix your marinade while they are cooling.

Place the ribs in a single layer and pour over the marinade. Make sure they are all well coated. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge. I like to take it out and mix everything around three or four times before cooking.

Pork ribs marinating overnight

Pork ribs marinating overnight

Take the ribs out of the fridge for about 20 minutes before cooking. Cook on a medium-hot barbecue for about eight minutes each side (depending on the size of the ribs). Baste them with the marinade a couple of times while they are cooking.

The ribs sizzling on the barbecue

The ribs sizzling on the barbecue

For me, salad is also a vital part of any barbecue (though I do know South African men who will tell you that chicken is salad – such a nation of carnivores). Anyway, I love my salads and like to come up with different ideas, like this lovely mixture.

Chickpea, tomato, herb and courgette ribbon salad with a spicy dressing

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 tin chickpeas

1 tomato, chopped into small dice

1 handful of chopped fresh coriander

1 handful of chopped fresh parsley

1 medium-large courgette sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler

For the dressing

Half a cup of lemon juice

1 cup of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tsp harissa paste

Half a tsp of paprika

Gently mix together all the ingredients. Make the dressing, pour over and mix, making sure everything is well coated.

chickpea salad

Well, there’s a good start to the barbecue season! I’m going to be posting something barbecue every month through what I hope is going to be a lovely summer. I’d love to hear about your favourite barbecue recipes and suggestions, so do get in touch.

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