BARBECUES AROUND THE WORLD
Most of us have heard of the great Australian barbie, but this primal cookout is popular in many other countries too. They differ from country to country, with their own local flavours, ingredients and menus. Move away from the usual chicken wings and supermarket sausages, and get added inspiration from these barbecues around the world.
COOKING IT RIGHT
Now that you’re all ready to cook, it’s time to cast an eye on the menu.
Make use of barbecue suppliers. If time is tight, get premarinated meats and barbecue ‘set menus’ comprising an assortment of ingredients from barbecue suppliers and high end butchers. With most of the work done for you, this option naturally comes at a premium, but you are assured of convenience and well-marinated ingredients. But even if you choose to prep the food yourself, don’t dismiss them: they are great places to get more ‘exotic’ ingredients such as barbecue-ready satay, sambal squid, otakotak and kebabs.
Inject it with flavour. While a great steak can get away with a sprinkling of good sea salt and pepper, most other meats taste better after a long session of marinating before they meet the grill.
Marinades are wet mixtures of spices, herbs and condiments that not only infuse meat with flavours but also help tenderise the meat. Dry spice rubs are good alternatives too: they may not penetrate the meat very deeply, but the spices form a lovely crust on grilling and give a delicious contrast to the milder flavours inside. Adding sweet elements like bown sugar, honey or even cola help the food caramelise and develop that deep, sweet coating.
Brining lean cuts. Lean cuts like pork loin can be tricky to barbecue as they can easily become tough, dry and stringy. If you’re planning to tackle such a challenge, consider brining the meat first. These are salty solutions to which spices, herbs and aromatics have been added. They help lock in the juices and prevent meats from drying out, while marinating them at the same time. Meats should be well submerged in the brining liquid—anytime from a few hours to a day or two—and kept in the refrigerator during the process.
Make your own burgers. Store-bought is convenient, but they may contain additives and fillers. Making your own is just as easy and gives you the versatility to customise your mix. Blend pork and beef for a sweeter, lighter burger; lamb and beef for a truly indulgent treat; experiment with spices and herbs for flavour, and mix in some chopped vegetables or grains too for a healthy boost.
Don’t forget seafood. For most of us, a barbecue is the perfect excuse for an all-out meat fest—chicken wings, ribs, steaks, lamb chops, and definitely sausages. But seafood also lends itself well to a barbecue. Take a leaf from the Adriatic and grill a whole snapper or seabass with some herbs and lemon; or slather sambal over squid and fish, wrap them in banana leaf and grill them up for a good Singapore-style barbecue. Alternatively, wrap pieces of fish or prawns in foil with aromatics like lemongrass, chilli and coriander and a good squirt of fish sauce for a Thai-inspired dish.
Get your sides right. Don’t forget the supporting players in your meal. As barbecues tend to be quite heavy, balance it up with lighter side dishes, such as a refreshing well-dressed salad, cold noodles, fluffy potatoes or a chilled potato salad, a sweet corn on the cob and cous cous to soak up the juices.
Keep it safe. Playing with fire has its dangers, so take the necessary precautions to keep kids away from the barbecue. While brining or marinating, store the meat in the refrigerator to keep bacteria away. Make sure raw and cooked food are kept safely apart, and never baste your meat with liquids in which raw food have been marinated. Instead, put aside some pristine, freshly prepared marinade for basting and use the rest on your raw meat.