Garry Hughes, Executive Chef at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel, is a great advocate of the BBQ but advises that carefuly planning will save a lot of hassle and cleaning up after the flames die down
I often think that September is the best month of ‘summer’. Things are that bit quieter and the weather is often the best of the year. The gardens and countryside are looking great too, especially with the leaves changing colours and apples and blackberries and lots of other fruits are ripe for the picking
So I spoke to Executive Chef at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel, Garry Hughes for some ideas for summer lunches, dinners, barbeques and picnics – we just need to add the sunshine!
Garry and his family are themselves great fans of outdoor dining. He jokes that as soon as the sun comes out his wife brings out the barbeque! When I mentioned the many disasters we have had trying to make a good barbeque family meal, Garry offers the following advice. ‘We have a gas barbeque on the patio, and this tends to be easier and cleaner to use than a conventional one. But if you are using a charcoal barbeque, remember to let the coals burn off until they go white. This usually takes about forty-five minutes. Then you have a window of an hour to cook your food on the barbeque. Otherwise the meat will cook too quickly and burn’. He also said that he never uses a marinade on the meat prior to putting it on the barbeque, as it also tends to burn. The marinade can be applied after the meat is taken off the barbeque. Another good barbeque tip is to keep the meat in thin slices, this ensures that it will be cooked through, and not raw in the middle –another barbeque disaster for many!
As a great fan of fish, but not being sure how to cook it on a barbeque, I asked Garry for advice. He said he often cooks fish and the trick is to cook it en papilote. This is a cooking technique that uses built-up steam inside a folded piece of parchment paper, or aluminium foil. Basically the fish cooks in its own juices and is steamed. Garry recommends wrapping the fish in tin foil first, and then covering that in greaseproof paper before putting it on the barbeque. The fish actually cooks in the steam as the bag puffs up. Garry’s favourite fish dish cooked this way is so simple and yet so delicious. It is prawns with tomato and olive oil and a little basil. It cooks en papilote in four minutes on the barbeque, and is simply delicious. He also suggests cod, hake or even salmon can be cooked this way on the barbeque for a simple tasty summer dish. The other advantage of cooking in this way, is that it is clean – there is no big clean up of the barbeque the next day from grease and oil residue.
When you place the piece of fish in the grease proof paper, you put your olive oil and herbs and spice on top, wrap the fish in the grease proof paper then wrap it in the tinfoil. Cooks perfectly without any mess!
For a light summer salad Garry suggestion consists of apple, rocket and radish with a simple dressing. Goats cheese beetroot also makes a delicious salad together with iceberg lettuce. These salads are the perfect accompaniment for barbeque foods, instead of the usual coleslaw or potato salad. He also suggests coating a thick slice of sourdough bread with butter, and char-grilling that on the barbeque also. Another great accompaniment for your fish or meat dish.
Vegetables can also be cooked on the barbeque, courgettes, asparagus and aubergine work particularly well, suggests Garry. Obviously it is important to control the heat of the barbeque and not let it burn.
The gas barbeque is easier to control, and comes up to temperature quicker, but some people prefer the taste of the charcoal coming through the food.
Other light and summer time foods, for an al-fresco lunch or dinner that Garry suggests cooking a one pot dish of olive oil, peppers, aubergines and red onions. Garlic is then added together with pesto and white beans. This makes a wonderful Mediterranean one pot dish that is perfect to serve up for a summer meal. You can serve this with fish, chicken or meat and it will remind your guests of those Spanish evening meals that they enjoyed on holidays. This can be made the day before, which makes serving up the meal in the garden so easy. White fish goes particularly well with this dish.
And finally what to bring for a picnic on the beach. Garry tells me his wife recently invested in a small portable pizza oven and now they can make the most delicious pizzas to enjoy while taking a break from building all those sand castles! And I am pretty sure the smell of hot fresh pizza, with all the interesting favourite toppings that you can add, will make the other beach goers envious. An egg and onion sandwich and a flask of tea could hardly compete with a fresh homemade pizza! This is summer eating at its best, and without the fuss. With thanks to Garry Hughes for his great ideas and tips. Enjoy the remainder of our warm weather and get the most out of al-fresco dining.
To listen to Mairead Robinson’s interview with Garry Hughes in the Senior Times series of podcast