We're really warming up for the barbecue season now and it's time to start thinking about getting creative with what you can put on your bamboo or barbecue skewers and how you can serve them.
Skewered food doesn't always have to be cooked on the barbecue, either – you can introduce the concept at a dinner party by either serving skewers cooked under the grill, or on a ribbed griddle pan, as a separate course, or part of a selection of dishes.
The Japanese are past masters when it comes to serving simple but sophisticated skewers – yakitori – and on my trips to Tokyo I've been pleasantly surprised to discover delicious little bits and pieces such as duck hearts or fish collar on bamboo sticks.
Veal meatballs with morels and leeks
Finally, British-reared veal really seems to be taking off and that poorly-reared meat from the past which had no flavour is almost forgotten, thank goodness. Your butcher may stock British veal – we buy our veal from Bocaddon Farm down in Cornwall (bocaddonfarmveal.com) and Brookfield Farm in Dorset and it has an absolutely fantastic flavour. Down in my home town in Bridport, Philip Frampton has a great butcher's shop under the town hall and he sells various cuts from Brookfield Farm.
You will find that just a little minced veal actually goes quite a long way when you cook it in the form of a kebab, on an open charcoal grill or a griddle pan for maximum barbecue flavour.
400g minced veal shin or flank
6 large spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 bamboo skewers
A little vegetable or corn oil
2 large leeks, halved, roughly chopped and washed
100-150g morels or any other seasonal wild mushrooms, halved and washed, cut into even-sized pieces and cleaned
200g double cream
2tbsp chopped parsley
Mix the spring onions with the veal and season. Mould the mixture into 16 flat meatballs and skewer 4 meatballs onto each skewer.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the leeks with a lid on for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the cream, season and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the cream is just coating the leeks.
Meanwhile, preheat a barbecue or griddle pan, season the meatballs and brush with a little oil. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side, keeping them slightly pink.
To serve, spoon the leeks on to serving plates and lay the meatballs on top, either on or off the skewer. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Chicken teriyaki with wild garlic
This is a really easy and quick barbecue dish to rustle up, especially as there are plenty of good-quality teriyaki marinades available in local Asian shops, markets and supermarkets.
I have also used some end-of-season wild garlic leaves for a base; they just need to wilt briefly in a frying pan, but you could serve them with some Asian greens like pak choi or choi sum.
8 boned and skinned free-range chicken thighs
4-5tbsp teriyaki marinade
4 bamboo skewers
A couple of handfuls of wild garlic leaves or Asian greens
1tbsp light sesame oil
A few sprigs of coriander
Cut the chicken thighs into 4 pieces each and marinate them in the teriyaki sauce for a couple of hours in the fridge. Thread the chicken on to the skewers. Preheat a barbecue or griddle pan and cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan with the sesame oil and quickly cook the wild garlic leaves for a minute or so (the greens will need a little longer).
Spoon the wild garlic on to serving plates and serve the chicken on top, either on or off the skewers and scatter the coriander on top.
Grilled peppered pineapple with coconut rice
Pineapple lends itself to grilling and serving with piquant flavours such as pepper or chilli. I've served this as a dessert with coconut rice, a perfect match for the sweetness of the grilled pineapple.
1 small pineapple, peeled, quartered, core removed and cut into 2cm chunks
1tbsp cracked black peppers
4 bamboo skewers
60g pudding rice
80g caster sugar
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
First make the rice. Put the rice, two-thirds of the milk and the sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer gently (preferably on a simmer plate) for about 20-25 minutes. Halfway through, add the rest of the milk, stirring every so often and adding more milk if the rice is getting dry, until the grains are tender. Add half of the coconut milk and continue simmering for a few minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the rest of the coconut milk and stir every so often until the rice is cool. The rice should be a fairly creamy consistency; if not, you can adjust it with a little more milk.
Meanwhile, preheat a griddle pan or barbecue. Thread the pineapple pieces onto the bamboo skewers and season with the black pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning the pineapple as it's cooking so it gets nicely caramelised. To serve, spoon the rice on to serving plates and arrange the pineapple on top.