Mark Hix: Come on, you grillers

Flaming gorgeous: now is the time to dust down that barbecue and cook up sublime summer feasts

Mark Hi
Saturday 14 June 2008 00:00

I have owned several barbecues over the years and most have failed miserably. Now, thankfully, I've managed to get my hands on a small version of the barbecue that they use in one of my favourite Turkish restaurants, the Mangal Ocakbasi in Stoke Newington, north London. It was a gift from fish supremo Mitch Tonks, who has just opened his new restaurant, The Seahorse, in Dartmouth. It's a simple rectangular box and nothing more than that. I've added some bricks to the bottom which keep in the heat while the coals are burning (it's simple things like that that you learn on the way which help to perfect your barbecueing skills).

We can all be a bit unadventurous when it comes to barbies and cook whatever appears in special "barbecue" packs at the local butcher or supermarket. If you're entertaining outside, just treat it like a dinner party and serve the main course or starter off the barbecue and give it to your guests with an imaginative salad. Alternatively, transfer it to a board and carve it in front of them.

Having the Mangal Ocakbasi just round the corner gives me loads of inspiration, as the whole of their menu comes off the grill in some form or other. I think the thing to do is pick your favourite food, whether it's lamb's kidney, pork belly, steak and chips or even a vegetarian dish, and ask yourself whether it will work if you cook it on the barbecue.

Grilled red onions with mirin and soy

Serves 4-6

Something as simple as an onion can be transformed when cooked over open flames.

4 large red onions, peeled, cut into 1cm-thick slices
2tbsp mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
4tbsp sweet soy
1tbsp ponzu (Japanese, citrus-based sauce)

Cook the onion slices for about 7-8 minutes on each side on the medium heat of the barbecue. Meanwhile mix the mirin, sweet soy and ponzu together. Arrange the onions on a serving dish and spoon over the sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Lamb cutlets with broad bean and mint salad

Serves 4

Tender lamb cutlets are a perfect barbecue main course or snack. I like to leave a fair amount of fat on mine as it melts nicely over the hot coals and crisps up. As a celebration of the opening of my new restaurant, the jeweller Stephen Webster has designed a limited-edition chop pendent, available exclusively from Hix Oyster and Chop House, at £25.

8 large, or 12 medium-sized, lamb cutlets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for brushing

For the broad-bean salad

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp cumin seeds
300g podded weight of broad beans
3 tomatoes
A handful of mint leaves

Gently cook the onion and cumin seeds in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes then put in a bowl. Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes and refresh under cold water. Take the tough outer skin off any large beans, and place in the bowl with the onions. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, then chop the mint leaves roughly and mix with the broad beans; season to taste, adding a little more oil if necessary. Season the lamb cutlets and grill on the barbecue for 3-4 minutes on each side until pink. Serve with the broad bean salad.

Mackerel with grapefruit salad

Serves 4

Mackerel is a great value fish – but make sure it's ultra-fresh. You can cook the mackerel whole, just as they are, or split them by cutting them through the belly with a sharp knife towards the back bone either side of the main bone structure then just snipping the bones and fins off with a pair of scissors to form a butterfly, like a kipper.

4 mackerel, weighing about 400-450g
Flour for dusting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of olive oil for frying

For the salad

A couple of handfuls of small salad leaves
1 grapefruit, segmented with the juice reserved
1tbsp olive oil

Season the mackerel and lightly flour the skin side and brush with oil. Grill the mackerel on a medium grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile mix the grapefruit juice with the olive oil then toss with the segments and leaves. Serve the salad with the mackerel.

Fennel, green bean and chicory salad

Serves 4

This is a nice simple salad to go with any barbecued meat or fish, or to simply serve as a starter. You can buy both red and white chicory – or Belgium endive as it is sometimes known; use a mixture, or stick with one colour.

1 bulb of fennel
200g green beans, topped and tailed
2-3 heads of red or white chicory (also known as Belgium endive)

For the dressing
1tbsp good-quality cider or white-wine vinegar
1tsp Dijon mustard
4-5tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the green beans in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender, then drain and refresh under cold water. Halve the fennel and slice as thinly as possible on a mandolin or with a very sharp knife. Prepare the chicory by cutting the end off and separating the leaves and giving them a brief wash and dry. Mix together the ingredients for the dressing, pour over the salad, toss, and serve.

Grilled pineapple

Serves 4-6

Grilled pineapple is a great way to finish off a barbecue, either served just as it is, with ice cream, or with a scattering of summer fruits such as strawberries or raspberries. I've used maple syrup, but you can also use clear honey if you prefer.

1 medium pineapple, top and bottom removed and cut into 1-2cm-thick slices
Balls of vanilla ice cream to serve
150-200g raspberries, or a mixture of raspberries and strawberries
5-6tbsp maple syrup

Grill the pineapple on the barbecue for about 4-5 minutes on each side, then transfer to a serving dish or individual plates with the ball of ice cream in the centre. Scatter over the berries and finish with the maple syrup.

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