Posts Tagged ‘social’

The Neanderthal in me; challenged as I strategically pile the charcoal around the fire lighters, comforted as I watch the sunset-red flames dance around the coals, rapturous as I fan the fire to make sure the black coals are turning white. BBQ season is upon us. And in my household (i.e. me!) it means being as adventurous grilling as it does cooking in my kitchen.

Yes, grilling. Not barbecuing. In much of the English-speaking world, “barbecuing” and “grilling” are used interchangeably. However, in USA’s South “barbecue” describes a cooking method in which food is cooked slowly over the indirect heat and smoke from a charcoal or hardwood fire. The food is never placed over the hot coals hence closing the lid helps to create an oven-like environment to retain the heat.

Whether you have a large family-sized terrace, garden or 2m x 1m balcony, cooking over a live fire is neither a weekend ritual nor a professional technique. Everyone can do it. And in Gibraltar, during the Summer months, everyone does. As you walk around the different housing estates, you can smell the characteristic chemical smell produced by firelighters or alternatives and burning charcoal. But if you’re really lucky you also get to smell the delicious offerings the grilled meats and fish fill the stifling, summer evening air with.

“Pinchitos, burgers, sausages, steaks, ribs, lamb kebabs, seafood…”

BBQ Rack of Maple-Glazed Ribs

1st: Once the flames have died down on the barbecue, place a saucepan onto the grill and add butter, maple syrup and dark muscovado sugar. Mix together.

2nd: Rub olive oil, salt and pepper onto the rack of ribs and place onto the grill. If your bbq set has a lid on it then you can choose to “barbecue” it. Make sure to place the ribs on the coal-free area as you are cooking indirectly.

3rd: Regularly baste the rack with the maple syrup glaze.

4th: Once the ribs are cooked, it is always a good idea to split the individual ribs to give it one final basting on all sides.

Fork test: stick a large fork into whatever you’re cooking and try to pick it up. If the fork slides out of the meat without grabbing onto it, it’s done; otherwise, keep cooking.”

Essential Grilling Tools

Having the right tools will undoubtedly make the task easier. A pair of heavy-duty, long-handled, spring-loaded tongs are the undisputed number one grill tool. Like an extra hand that doesn’t get burned, they are ideal for placing food on the grill, moving it around whilst it’s cooking, picking it up to check for doneness, and taking it off the grill. Don’t buy those cheap supermarket barbecue kits with tongs & spatula as they are both disastrous to use!

Convenience is the order of the day, especially if there are guests. Use disposable skewers for pinchitos and kebabs and disposable foil trays. Foil trays have many uses other than being disposable. Whilst grilling, they are ideal for covering thick cuts of meat or bone-in chicken that’s not quite done but that you don’t want to burn to a crisp. Without the use of a lid you can create a mini-oven.

Next to tongs, your favourite beverage, may be the most indispensable grilling tool. It helps keep you calm and collected while you’re tending the fire – a key to success.

So why not relish in the near-mythic social ritual that is the barbecue and stand, like Homer Simpson, with tongs in one hand and beer in the other.

Do it alone, invite people round, keep it cheap or go crazy at the supermarket – either way light the fire, open a beer and grill away… come on…unleash your inner caveman!

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The Five Senses

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Introduction
Tags: , , , ,

I previously mentioned that eating was a sensory experience, however, there are some restaurants which actively campaign against this. They try to make the philosophy of their establishment about taste and not about the social experience that is a meal.

Dans Le Noir? serves food in a pitch-black room. Another serves food dyed in blue! By concealing the presentation of food, dining becomes a process whereby only taste and smell matter.

The theory behind these gimmicks is that by denying yourself of the sense of sight you highten the sense of taste and smell. Whether this works or serves mainly to attract customers I am not sure.

What I am sure about is that unless I am going to be treated to an absolutely divine, heaven made meal by the most talented chef there is no point to all this fuss. Food must fill your eyes before your belly, therefore colour and presentation are necessary to attract you to a particular choice.

Watching a sizzling clay dish of prawns pil pil come rushing from a kitchen and being placed in the centre of your table alongside a basket of crunchy bread is visually dramatic. As is the sizzle itself.

But what is just as important is the subtle silence that ensues as our eyes digest what has arrived and our mouths start to salivate.

As both bread and fork stab the dish, conversation resumes. Invariably, this is violently breached as everyone burns themselves on the bubbling oil from the dish!

Seen, heard, smelled, touched and finally tasted (albeit minus a few taste buds). The five senses have worked as one; a tour de force to provide a comforting, friendly and indulgent moment certainly worth repeating.