Ah, England. Land of rainshowers that come out of nowhere, and random hailstorms. Land of thinking that summer has come, only to discover that you put away your coat to quickly when all of a sudden you are faced with three straight days of cold downpours. Sunshine is not anything to take for granted around here, so make the most of it when we can.
A yard as big as ours is also a hot commodity, and lately this has meant BBQing as often as we can. Last weekend we got together to have what Graeme dubbed an "adult" BBQ, i.e. our attempt to actually make lovely things to eat and not just grill store-bought burgers and hotdogs. (This is no diss on store-bought burgers and hotdogs, as plopped on a grill, they are indeed a joyous thing to behold. We were just in the mood to be creative.)
Now, before I move on to our feast, let me issue a warning to any of our UK readers who may be planning their own BBQs--DO NOT, under any circumstances, PURCHASE CHARCOAL FROM TESCO. The coal is fake, and doesn't actually...burn! It goes from black to white, without any red in between, and thus makes BBQ-ing a stressful attempt to cook things at an abysmally low level of heat. We learned this the hard way, and will now always read the fine print on any charcoal that we purchase. Because otherwise, you spend several barbeques wondering if you're crazy and incompetent, and why can't you just get the damn thing to light? It has been an ordeal, I tell you.
That caveat aside, we ate well. Lots of produce from the market, chicken from the hallal butchers, and other bits and pieces that we picked up in our BBQ fervour. The menu was as follows:
Smoked mackerel dip (Graeme really needs to post the recipe for this, it's amazing)
Whole wheat beer bread
Mozzarella, tomato and basil salad
Chorizo, pork and apple, and vegetarian sausages (we didn't make any of these!)
Tuna and prawn skewers
Goan spiced chicken
Rhubarb and strawberry pie.
Behold all the STUFF that went into our efforts:
I've only got a few photos and recipes on hand, so I'll only post about the skewers and the pie. Both of which were delicious (and cooking tuna was inspired as it was the only thing that made sense to cook on such a freaking NOT HOT bbq--no worries that it didn't cook through, unlike with the chicken!)
First, behold the beauty of the salad. I'm sure y'all don't need a recipe for it. I had been craving tomato/mozzarella/basil salad like mad for a couple of weeks. No reason why, but it sure is delicious.
And here are our delicious tuna and prawn creations:
Two nice meaty tuna steaks, cut into chunky cubes
Pack of large prawns
Package cherry tomatoes
1 bell pepper
About 10 shallots, chopped in half
First things first, put together some lemon juice (about 1 lemon's worth), olive oil (a couple of tblsp), and seasoning, to make a marinade. Throw in your tuna and prawns, make sure they're well-coated, and let them sit in the marinade for as long as you can (I think ours soaked up the lemon juice for a couple of hours).
When you're ready to put the guys together, then take out the marinaded seafood, and rotate skewering veg and pieces of prawn and tuna until you've got lovely colourful sticks of food. Grill--this should be quick! That's it!
Here is a bonus photo of Graeme lovingly crafting his skewers of tastiness:
Up next, Rhubarb and strawberry pie. I love making pies in the summer because they're so simple and rarely require a real "recipe". Just throw together some shortcrust pastry, chop up some fruit and mix it with some sugar and something to keep it from getting too liquidy, and VOILA! Simple simple simple, as summer foods should be. Here's how I made mine:
(Please note that it's a bit of a funny shape because I don't have a pie dish, and so I use a springform cake pan!)
1 batch of shortcrust pastry lovingly thrown together by one's shortcrust genius boyfriend (I believe he used 250g flour, 1/2 cup chilled butter, and 2-3 tblsp ice water. Combine the flour and cut up butter well enough that it has the texture of breadcrumbs, and then slowly incorporate the water until it form a solid dough. Do not OVERwater.)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 tblsp butter
1/3 cup flour
Preheat your oven to 200C. Roll out half the shortcrust and spread it out across the bottom and sides of your pie dish. Throw together the fruit, flour, and sugar, and mix until they're well combined. Pour this mixture into your pie dish, and spread it out evenly. Cut sliver out of your butter, and place them strategically on top of various bits of the pie. Roll out your remaining shortcrust and cover the pie with it, crimping the edges, and getting your genius boyfriend to make a cute strawberry shape to put on top. Bake in a hot over for 40 minutes or so, until the pie is nice and golden brown. Eat large slices with your hands.
I don't know why the combo of rhubarb and strawberries is so perfect, but it really is. So tangy, and so sweet, at the same time. People loved this pie.