Genevieve Taylor isn't just a live fire and barbecue expert, she also teaches, writes books and is a keen Wine Society member. When we asked Genevieve for some foolproof barbecue recipes to share in our Flavours of Summer issue of 1874, we asked too for her summertime reflections and what, if anything had been different for her in the summer of 2020.
Cooking over fire is a skill to be honed and Gen has some brilliant advice on how to make it work well, which she was really keen to share with you too, so scroll down for top tips on managing the heat and getting the right coals. All this plus more delicious recipes can be found in her book Foolproof BBQ.
Although I barbecue all year round there is no denying that long summer evenings are my very favourite time to light up a fire and cook outside. There's something about the smells of cooking in summer – a little smoke combined with the wafts of heady spices and garlic, or the aroma of grilling meat or fish – that instantly conjures up food memories from long ago. Cooking outside reminds me of holidays and of endless, carefree days that end in feasting with family and friends. When I remember long ago adventures it's often associated with the smells of cooking – grilled sardines outside beach tavernas in Portugal, fresh tuna grilling over a driftwood fire on a beach in Tobago, spiced skewers of pork or chicken from the street food stalls in Cambodia. For me barbecue equals good times; a celebratory way to eat.
Last summer was a right-off in so many ways – the festival circuit was cancelled, long-arranged pop-up restaurants and supper clubs had to be shelved, holiday plans binned – but we managed one, just one, amazing evening with a group of dear pals in our garden. Dubbed 'Brisket Fest' by my friends, it was the absolute highlight of a very strange year, and a late afternoon lunch that turned into a very long evening that will be remembered forevermore. The night before, I fired up my smoker and added a huge piece of spiced brisket (or 'half a cow' as my kids called it) to cook slowly to melting succulence over the next 12-14 hours. By the time my friends arrived for a late lunch I was a little frazzled to say the least but as soon as the food was served and the corks started popping, the lack of sleep was soon forgotten over raucous chatter and laughter.
But even cooking a simple meal for my family is elevated by taking it outside – there's a lot to be said for making a little micro-adventure out of grilling a few sausages or burgers for tea. Memories are made in a way they never would be if I was just cooking inside, the best way I know of releasing myself from the treadmill of domesticity.
Recipe: Butterflied spiced lamb leg
Lamb's rich succulence works so well with a little fire and smoke. It can be fatty, so always set up your grill for both direct and indirect grilling* (even if the recipe calls for direct grilling). That way you can move the meat away from the heat to prevent flare-ups if need be. Serve with my grilled aubergine with feta, currants and pine nuts.
- 1 leg of lamb, about 2kg
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
- Zest and juice of 2 oranges
- 50g dried cranberries, chopped
- 50g shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped
- A small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Lay the lamb leg fleshy side down on a chopping board. Starting at the thick end, use a sharp knife to cut through the meat down to the bone. Continue to make small slices on both sides, following the line of the bone as closely as possible and easing the meat away. Remove and discard the bone. Where the meat is thickest, make a few deep slashes to open the meat out further to a more even thickness. Set aside in a large shallow bowl while you make the marinade.
2. Set a small frying pan over a medium heat on the hob (stovetop) then toast the cumin and coriander seeds for 1 minute. Tip into a pestle and mortar and roughly grind. Add the smoked paprika, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar and the zest and juice of 1 orange (reserve the other to serve). Season with salt and pepper, stir well, then pour the marinade over the lamb and rub it in all over, working it into the meat. Cover and leave to marinate for 2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge for maximum flavour.
3. Light the barbecue and set up the fire for indirect cooking.*
4. Rest the lamb on the grill bars away from the fire and shut the lid. Cook for 45 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times and basting with any leftover marinade. Use a digital probe thermometer to test the temperature of the lamb at the thickest point. For medium-rare, remove from the grill when the temperature is at 50°C. If you prefer it cooked less or more, adjust the temperature by 5 degrees or so. Rest on a plate covered loosely with foil for 10 minutes. The lamb will continue to cook a little as it rests and the temperature will continue to rise by about 5 degrees.
5. While the lamb is cooking, stir together the cranberries, pistachios, parsley and the zest of the reserved orange in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Serve the lamb on a platter, with the juice of the orange squeezed over, then scatter over the cranberry mixture before carving.
Serve with Genevieve's recipe for grilled aubergine with feta, currants and pine nuts.
When it comes to grilled lamb, you can't go far wrong with a bottle of Argentine malbec, mellow Rioja or a southern Italian red like primitivo. Rosés, are always welcome at barbecues and are surprisingly versatile and robust in the face of full flavours too.
* Barbecue techniques & fuel
The fundamental skill needed for barbecuing success is understanding how to work with the heat and the most important technique is to master how to set up different heat zones. Put lit charcoal to one side of the barbecue to allow two zones – one 'direct' (over the fire) and 'indirect' (off the fire) and in between for moderate heat. Control the temperature by moving food closer to or further away from the heat source. Never flood the base of your grill with charcoal – once it is alight you will have nowhere to hide if the heat becomes too fierce. Cook with the barbecue lid down where possible. Doing so will hugely increase the energy efficiency and speed of cooking.
While gas barbecues can give excellent results my recipes are really designed for cooking over charcoal. This is the single most important ingredient and using sustainable lumpwood charcoal is not only more efficient but has environmental benefits too. Good quality charcoal is smokeless, so I use chunks of wood on top of the coals to add smoke. If you're using a gas grill, wrap a bundle of wood chips in foil, pierce a few holes through the parcel and put onto the flames.
Foolproof BBQ - by Genevieve Taylor
Wine Society members can purchase a copy of Foolproof BBQ for the special price of £9.99 (RRP £12.99) with free p&p (UK mainland only). To order please call 01256 302699 and quote code UM1.