Thursday, 22 September 2011

September BBQ madness

Firstly, an apology - I don't have any photos of this lot. When you've got 20 members of The Family Jay in your house, all of whom need feeding and watering, photography tends to take a back seat (and besides, having been to Nick Ilott's photography exhibition at the Brewery Tap, my little holiday snaps do look a little inadequate. I'll get over this disappointment by next week, I assure you.).

Many of my aunts and uncles haven't yet met Master Jay, even though he's coming on for ten months old, so we invited them all round for a barbeque - yes, I know it's September, and I know it's England, but we're nothing if not optimistic in this house - and we duly convened for the ritual of burned burgers and abandoned salad. But of course, chez Jay we try to do things a little differently.

We did have some burgers and sausages (none of which I made, I'm afraid) we also managed to put out:
  • Mackerel with a spicy dressing: both Mrs Jay and I love mackerel but have a golden rule never to cook it inside the house, so every bbq features them in some form. Sometimes in the summer we even light the fires simply so that we can sup on this delicious, cheap, healthy luxury, but we fear this may have been our last chance this year.
  • Pork with a lemon and herb crust. Brilliant and simple, a marinade of parsley, fennel, olive oil, bay and lemon can be applied to the pork the night before and the whole thing grilled quickly with some nice flame coming from the olive oil. We should have had more of these, they disappeared quickly.
  • Chicken tikka skewers: Delia would be proud, we cheated here. Simply mix up some supermarket brand curry paste and some yoghurt, and marinade the chicken overnight. Once they're skewered and grilled, the meat is moist and delicate and takes on all the spices. And it's p!ss easy.
The other excellent discovery of the day was the Gainsborough Spring Ale from St. Jude's Brewery. As you know, I love things that I can source locally and it was a disappointment that I simply didn't have the time to get much local food on the grill, but this beer travelled no more than a quarter of a mile to reach my kitchen, and it's damned fine too. There's been a real increase in interest in local beers and ales recently, with 99 new breweries opening in the UK over the last year, and that at a time when we're told that the pub industry is in major decline. It seems that the pubs that are thriving are those without ties to the major breweries, who can choose their produce and negotiate for themselves, which I for one think calls for a large "Hurrah!".

I can definitely recommend St. Judes but they're not the only ones around. What's the best beer for you? A refreshing lager? A potent stout from Dorset? A lovely IPA? The press tells me that real ale is making a comeback - what do you think? Would you prefer the certainty of knowing what you're getting from a recognised brand or do you like to try a little something wherever you go?

As usual, all recipes available on request.


  1. We BBQ all year long despite living in rainy Seattle. Micah smoked the most amazing brisket last year for Christmas.

  2. Excellent stuff Mr Jay.

    I live in France and I'm a HUGE fan of barbeques - being blessed with a few days more sunshine per year than in the UK.

    Barbecued mackerel is just the best - so glad to hear I'm not the only one who appreciates it.

    Would love to hear your recipe for the spicy dressing.

  3. Hi Catherine, where can I find out how to smoke things in the BBQ? I'd love to try that over the winter.

    Tom, the dressing was really easy: Whisk 2 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 tsp honey, the grated zest and juice of 2 limes, a knob of fresh chopped ginger, 1 chopped garlic clove and a finely chopped red chilli. Season and pour over the mackerel after grilling them. It's a pretty standard Thai dressing really.