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Issue 52 - flaming good

Scotland Magazine Issue 52
August 2010


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flaming good

Sue Lawrence lights the fires and chucks another shrimp on the barbie.

Do you know, I used to hate barbecues. It was the inevitability factor. You knew there would be chops, ribs and sausages with rice and pasta salad. The males, armed with barbecue tongs and unmanly aprons, would drink copious amounts of beer while sharing tales of derring-do on the golf course and stabbing either the raw or the burnt meat in front of them. The females drank far too much wine while impatiently waiting. Because, no matter how well planned the great Scottish barbecue was, we never seemed to get it quite right. All too often the barbecue recipes were way too complicated which is why the meat ended up burnt or dangerously raw inside. Also, the accompaniments were dull and boring, the fire was never lit in time, the rain stayed away until just before the first shrimp was being thrown on the Barbie then a downpour ensued.

Thankfully, we have moved on. With more experience and better equipment, the doomed Scottish barbie is a thing of the past. You can virtually cook anything on barbecues, especially if you have an all-singing, all-dancing model. I recently barbecued a whole fillet of beef (about 1.2 kilos). It was marinated in olive oil for one hour, seared on a high heat for 10 minutes then wrapped in foil and cooked over a lower heat for 30 minutes.

After 10 minutes’ resting, it cut into beautifully tender slices. A whole chicken can be cooked in the same way, but for longer, until the juices run clear.

Prawns, langoustines and scrubbed mussels can be placed directly on the grill in their shells and barbecued until the mussels open and the langoustines and prawns are cooked. But keep the whole thing simple – no fancy cooking methods or marinades that make everything stick to the grill!

For, since in Scotland we have such good raw ingredients, you can buy top quality meat or fish and treat them as simply as possible – perhaps a little marinade of olive oil and seasoning – but then serve with interesting sauces and salads .

And strange though it seems, I often take my lead from the countries hotter than Scotland for these accompaniments. During a recent trip to Mexico – to the fabulous Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende north of Mexico City – I learned at their cookery school how to make the most wonderful salsas and sauces that are perfect adjuncts to simply barbecued meat or fish. Chef Gonzalo Martinez taught me how to sear chillis and tomatoes first before combining either with avocado or fresh coriander and lime, to make a perfect sauce to go with grilled meat or chicken or seafood. He also made a cactus salad flavoured with oregano and coriander, although I reckon that Scotland has yet to find an everyday use for cactus!.

This approach though, helped me realise that really, barbecues are all about quality local ingredients simply treated on the heat of the barbecue coals, and accompaniments in the shape of salads and salsas being really interesting and perhaps a little exotic. And if you don’t like too much chilli, just take a smaller spoonful of salsa with your perfectly grilled Scottish rib-eye steak or seared West Coast lobster.

So now I know: the ideal barbecue in Scotland is using our local beef, lamb or fish – simply moistened with olive oil and perhaps a few garden herbs – cooked then served with aplomb – and with good bread and fiery Mexican-style salsas. Perfect.

I am now a convert to the barbecue. Now all we need is a long hot Scottish summer The following recipes are from Chef Gonzalo Martinez from Casa Sierra Nevada, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

20 small tomatillos OR 4 large unripe red tomatoes, halved
2 green chillis, topped and tailed but whole
1 fat garlic clove, peeled
half a large onion, peeled, chopped
2 ripe avocados, peeled
30g fresh coriander
the juice 1 lime
Brush a solid griddle pan (or frying pan) with some oil then, once hot, add the tomatoes ( or
tomatillos) and chilli. Add the garlic and onion after 5 minutes and roast until slightly charred.
Place the avocadoes in a blender with the coriander and lime juice (lime juice is not
necessary if using tomatillos), tip in the contents of the griddle pan. Add salt and 100 ml cold
water then blend, add more water if required: you want a soft puree.
Taste and add salt if necessary.

This is a HOT salsa!
4 large ripe plum tomatoes
1 garlic clove, peeled
half onion, peeled, chopped into large pieces
5 green chillis, whole but stems removed
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Heat a solid griddle or frying pan and “dry-fry” the tomatoes, garlic, onion and chillis until
blackened all over and soft. Remove and tip into a pestle and mortar and pound to a paste,
adding salt and pepper and the coriander to taste.

This is a variation of the salad Chef Gonzalo made for me using cactus paddles (nopales)
which are tricky to find in Scotland!. So, use okra instead as they have a similar texture.
450g / 1 lb okra, prepared, chopped
4 tbsp vegetable oil
half onion, peeled, chopped
1 garlic clove, peleed, chopped
4 tbsp coriander, chopped
1 heaped tsp dried oregano
lettuce leaves, to serve
Par-boil the okra for three minutes then drain well.
Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the onion and garlic and sauté for two minutes then add
the okra. Stir well then add the coriander and oregano and salt to taste. Let it cook over a low
heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until it has thickened and is tender.
Serve in a shallow bowl lined with lettuce.

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