Friday, February 9, 2007

Sizzling on a summer's night

One of the best things about summer's endless hot nights is barbeques (BBQs). Walk the neighbourhood streets on a hot night and the smell of sizzling onions and meat will have your stomach rumbling and mouth watering. BBQs are attractive for many reasons: the kitchen's hot enough without turning the oven on to cook; it's a simple meal to put together - buy some excellent meat at the local butcher, throw together a salad and dinner's done; and, best of all, barbequing is a man's domain, so you can send him out with a platter of meat, a cold beer, and make the salads in peace.

I'm fortunate that my local butcher, Eddie the Butcher in Newport, has a fabulous array of good-quality products to choose from. I often drop in on my daily walk, tempted by the enticing window display. In winter, I buy chunks of lamb or beef that become meltingly tender in casseroles, or a good roast that will fill the kitchen with delicious smells for hours. In summer, his tasty rissoles and award-winning sausages are perfect for a BBQ dinner.

BBQ cookbooks often rave about kebabs or fish or seafood grilled on the BBQ but I'm simple and old-fashioned with my tastes and a thick steak, some juicy chops, tasty rissoles or fat sausages are about as adventurous as I get. (I'm not averse to any of the other offerings, but much prefer someone else to be organising and cooking this for me!) I often par-boil slices of potatoes that are then crisped up on the hotplate and no BBQ is complete without a mountain of sizzling onions, sliced into thin rings.

The meat is easily taken care of. There are plenty of simple marinades you can use to flavour the meat (my current favourite is a steak marinade of hot English mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed garlic), and it is easy to mix up your own tasty rissoles, livened up with fresh herbs, if you prefer to make your own.

This leaves the more delicate task of salads. I like to have a few on the table to choose from: a simple green salad of lettuce and tomatoes, perhaps given a Greek twist with the addition of black olives and feta chunks; a tasty coleslaw, made with sliced cabbage and grated carrot and onion, mixed with some good home-made, or store-bought, whole egg mayonnaise; and perhaps a potato salad, with chunks of tender potato slathered in mayonnaise and finely chopped chives.

My latest salad delight is a simple pasta salad that I first tasted at a BBQ at my Auntie Jess's house. Made by her friend's daughter, we discovered there was a secret ingredient that gave the pasta a delicious twist: sweet chilli sauce. The salad is very simply put together: cook one packet of farfalle pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain and combine with one finely diced red capsicum, one finely diced red onion, and 125g (4 ounces) (or more, according to taste) bacon rashers, cut into squares, fried and drained on paper towel. Combine equal amounts (about one-third of a cup, but use more or less according to your taste and current diet status) of whole-egg mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce and stir through the salad. Enjoy!

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