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Cooking with fire

Everyone has been remarking on what a good summer Britain has enjoyed this year.  A stark contrast to last year, when, apparently, it rained non-stop apart from about three nice days.  If it had done that this year I think we would actually have been on a plane back to Texas by now!  As it was, we got to enjoy an English summer at its best - and that includes seizing the opportunity to eat outdoors.

At least one of my Texan friends had never heard of a disposable barbeque (which of course would be called a grill over there).  In general Americans are masters of disposable everything, so this may be surprising.  But no park there is complete without a couple of grills and a picnic bench, so I guess if you have somehow failed to purchase a gigantic three-canister supercharged gas grill - or indeed installed an entire outdoor kitchen in your back yard - this is what you resort to.  As we did on several occasions.

But anyway, back on this side of the pond, our outdoor cooking experience involved a little foil tray containing quick-light charcoal and a metal mesh, which really did the job surprisingly well.  It also usually involved Graham coming home from work and saying, "Let's have a barbeque!" so I became an expert at 10-minute barbeque food preparation.

First time: Calke Abbey; perfect weather; lamb chops with garlic and spinach pilaf, which is what we were going to have for dinner anyway; the somewhat elegant food only marred by forgetting an extra plate, so the lamb chops were served on a cardboard box; water fight to finish.

Toby getting smoked

Beautiful presentation
(We have a great video of Toby chasing me around with a squirty water bottle, but Blogger is being fussy about uploading it.  Maybe later.)

Lamb chops with garlic and spinach pilaf (The Sainsbury's Magazine Cookbook)

1 whole garlic head, split into cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander
pinch of chilli powder
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock (broth)
1 bay leaf
3 medium tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
200g young-leaf spinach
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
4 lamb loin chops

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the unpeeled garlic cloves.  Boil for 3-4 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water.  Peel.

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add spices, stir and fry for one minute, then add rice.  Pour in stock, and add garlic, bay leaf, tomatoes and seasoning.  Cover, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.  Stir in spinach and parsley and cook until wilted.

Brush lamb chops with oil and season.  Grill or griddle until done.

Second time: Kedleston Hall (can you tell we're National Trust members?); somewhat damp and the charcoal was somewhat damp too, but we got it burning in the end; nice big burgers; frozen fish in foil with a splash of lemon juice, olive oil and herbs (prep time two minutes flat); the best barbequed potatoes; Toby attempting to kill us with a frisbee.

Acting as bellows to persuade the reluctant flames to get going

Well, I'll just eat dry bread then.

Fish in foil, burgers and potatoes cooking

Frisbeeeee!!!

The Best Barbequed Potatoes

These are basically roasted potatoes, only done on a grill, but I'm giving you the recipe because they were really good.

Wash plenty of potatoes (you will eat more than you think!) and nuke in microwave until just done.  If you have time, leave to cool a bit so you don't burn your fingers, then cut into chunks.  Throw into a ziplock bag or plastic tub with a good slug of oil, salt, pepper and whatever other seasonings you might fancy, and shake well to mix.  Put on hot grill and turn regularly so that all the sides get nice and brown and crispy.
  
Third time: Back to Calke Abbey; burgers, grilled veggies and rather delicious pulled pork from our generous American neighbour; Toby helped to cook; saw a couple more tiny frogs like the one by the lime kilns.
 
Putting a tomato on the bbq


Grilled peppers, too

Stirring the pulled pork

I've no idea what recipe the pulled pork was cooked to, nor have I ever made it, but this one sounds good and involves a barbeque. BBQ pulled pork sandwich 

Fourth time: Calke Abbey is emerging as a clear favourite; MARSHMALLOWS! and strawberries; and sausages, and fried onions because I actually had advance notice this time, and more delicious potatoes, and tomatoes.
 
They're hot!


Healthy, look - 2 strawberries to 1 marshmallow!

Working off some sugar

S'mores

If marshmallows and strawberries on a skewer aren't quite decadent enough for you, try s'mores.  I haven't found an American yet who doesn't know how to make them, so here is the British version.

Packet of marshmallows
Packet of chocolate digestives

Put marshmallow on stick and toast over hot embers until nice and soft.  Place one chocolate digestive on each side of the marshmallow, chocolate side in, and slide off the stick, so you end up with a biscuit and marshmallow sandwich.  Eat stickily.  Repeat until the embers have gone cold and you feel sick.

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