A Middle-Eastern inspired barbecue for eight
Here's a barbecue I've dug out of the archives - a middle-eastern inspired BBQ from my book Food, Wine and Friends.
The centrepiece is a spiced, butterflied leg of lamb served with a delicious Turkish-style bulghur wheat salad called Kisir. Finish with grilled nectarines or, if you prefer to have your dessert prepared ahead, some refreshing wine jellies.
I’m not a big fan of starters with barbecues but you could offer a selection of bought-in mezze - some hummus and beetroot dip (Waitrose does a good one in their new Levant range) stuffed vine leaves, olives and flatbread. If you want to add a home-made element (which always gives the impression you’ve made the lot!) try my charred aubergine salad.
Charred Aubergine Salad
There’s a popular middle-eastern dip which involves charring or roasting an aubergine then gouging out the flesh and making a dip. I’ve never been really grabbed by it because a) it takes ages to make b) turns a dirty beige colour and c) you discard the skin which is the best bit. Here’s the solution - a salad which includes all those lovely smoky flavours.
Serves 4-6 as part of a selection of starters. Double the quantities if serving it one its own
2 medium or 1 large aubergine (about 500g)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion (about 100g), peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and diced
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley and 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper
Cut the stalks off each aubergine, cut in half lengthways then cut into cubes. Heat a wok for about 2 minutes over a high heat, add the oil, heat for a few seconds then tip in the aubergine cubes. Stir fry over a moderate heat for about five minutes until lightly browned then turn the heat down low, add the onion and garlic, stir, cover the pan and cook gently for a further 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Tip the aubergine into a shallow dish while you prepare the other ingredients. When the aubergine is cool (about 20 minutes), cut it up roughly with a knife and fork then mix in the chopped tomato, parsley and mint. Season with lemon juice, cumin and salt and pepper and serve with warm pitta bread.
Butterflied leg of lamb with cumin, lemon and garlic
A butterflied leg of lamb - one where the bone is removed and the meat opened up to create a huge flat piece of meat - is one of the tastiest, simplest and most impressive dishes to barbecue. Order it in advance from a butcher and he’ll do all the hard work for you.
1 large butterflied leg of lamb (about 2-2.5kg)
For the marinade
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp crushed chillies
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp)
3 tbsp olive oil
Put the garlic, sea salt, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, Herbes de Provence, black peppercorns and chillies in a mortar and pound with a pestle until the garlic breaks down and you have a thick paste. (Or whizz them in a spice grinder) Gradually work in the lemon juice and oil. Work over the meat with a small, sharp knife, cutting away any excess fat then cut the meat into two or three manageable pieces. Put the meat in a roasting tin, rub in the marinade, cover and leave in a cool place for at least 2 hours. Heat a gas barbecue to the maximum setting or light a charcoal barbecue and cook over an indirect heat for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat and how well you like it cooked, turning it half way through the cooking time. Remove to a platter or carving dish, cover lightly with foil and rest for 15 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with kisir (below), a mixed leaf salad and some warm flatbread.
This Turkish-inspired recipe is the perfect party salad. You can vary it depending on what you have available substituting walnuts for hazelnuts or pistachios for example, adding some olives or some finely snipped dried apricots or replacing the dill with fresh coriander.
250g bulghur (cracked wheat)
50g roasted hazelnuts, chopped
50g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
5-6 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1/2 a cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 red ramiro pepper, halved, de-seeded and finely chopped
3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons (about 6 tbsp)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli flakes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp pomegranate syrup or 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp sugar
5 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tbsp finely chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the bulghur in a large bowl and pour over enough boiling water to just cover the grain. Leave for 15 minutes for the liquid to absorb then pour over plenty of cold water, swirl the grain around and tip the grain into a sieve. Squeeze the grain with your hands to extract any excess water and return the grain to the bowl. Add the chopped nuts, sliced spring onions, and chopped cucumber, pepper and tomatoes (including the seeds and pulp). Halve the pomegranate and scoop out the seeds, reserving the juice and discarding the pith. Add the pomegranate seeds to the salad. Whisk the lemon juice and reserved pomegranate juice with the salt, cumin and chilli flakes, whisk in the olive oil and pomegranate syrup or balsamic vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Tip into the salad and mix well. Finally mix in the chopped herbs. Toss well together and check the seasoning adding more salt, pepper or lemon juice to taste. Cover and set aside for at least an hour for the flavours to infuse.
Grilled nectarines with Greek yoghurt and honey
You can barbecue fruit just as easily as vegetables though it helps to have a separate rack to lay them on so they don’t fall off or end up tasting of garlic and spices!
6-8 medium sized ripe nectarines
Flavourless cooking oil
1 tbsp unrefined caster sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large carton Greek yoghurt
Some good, preferably Greek, runny honey
Run a knife vertically round the outside of each nectarine, cutting through to the stone. Holding one half of the fruit in each hand, twist them in different directions to pull them apart. Cut out the stone if it hasn’t come away. Melt the butter gently in a small saucepan or microwave and brush or smear it over the nectarine halves. Lightly grease a rack with flavourless oil and lay the peaches on it, cut side downwards. Barbecue for 10-15 minutes (depending how hot your barbecue is) turning them half way through the cooking time and sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over them. Serve with dollops of Greek yoghurt and drizzle with honey.
* If you haven’t got enough heat left in the barbecue roast the peaches in a lightly oiled roasting tin at 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 for 15 minutes, turning them as described above.
Sparkling Shiraz and Summer Berry Jellies
About 6 sheets of gelatine (but check the pack for the amount you need for the amount of liquid you’re using)
750ml sparkling shiraz or other sparkling red wine
6-8 tbsp sugar syrup*
600g mixed berries - strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, black currants or redcurrants
2-3 tbsp caster sugar, depending how ripe your fruit is
Place the gelatine in a flat dish and sprinkle over 4 tbsp cold water. Leave to soak for 3 minutes until soft. Heat the sparkling shiraz in a microwave or saucepan until hot but not boiling. Tip the soaked gelatine into the wine and stir to dissolve then set aside to cool. Rinse the berries, cut the strawberries into halves or quarters then put them into a shallow bowl, sprinkle over 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and leave them to macerate. Check the liquid jelly for sweetness adding sugar syrup to taste - you’ll probably need 6-8 tablespoons. Put an assortment of berries in the bottom of eight glasses or glass dishes then pour over enough jelly to cover them. Put the glasses in the fridge to chill. As soon as the jelly in the glasses has set (about an hour) add the rest of the fruit and jelly. Return to the fridge to set for another 45 minutes to an hour before serving with cream or vanilla ice cream
* To make the sugar syrup dissolve 125g of sugar in 150ml of water. Heat gently together in a pan then when all the grains are dissolved, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. You can use the syrup immediately or cool it and store it for up to two weeks in the fridge.
Sparkling Nectarine and Blueberry Jellies
6 sheets of gelatine ((but check the pack for the amount you need for the amount of liquid you’re using)
750ml sparkling peach flavoured wine
200g fresh blueberries
3 medium-sized ripe nectarines
2 tbsp lemon juice
Place the gelatine in a flat dish and sprinkle over 4 tbsp cold water. Leave to soak for 3 minutes until soft. Heat the peach cocktail in a microwave or saucepan until hot but not boiling. Tip the gelatine into the peach wine and stir to dissolve then set aside to cool. Cut round the nectarines and twist each half in opposite directions to pull them apart. Cut them into cubes and sprinkle with lemon juice. Rinse the blueberries. Put a few blueberries and cubes of nectarine in the bottom of eight glasses or glass dishes then pour over jelly to cover. Put the glasses in the fridge to chill. As soon as the jelly in the glasses has set add the remaining fruit and jelly. Return to the fridge to set for another 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
What to drink:
I’d drink a crisp lemony white such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Rueda or Greek Assyrtiko or a rosé with the mezze. Almost any ripe, fruity medium-bodied red you enjoy would work with the lamb - I’d probably go for a Merlot, Syrah or Languedoc red such as Faugères or Minervois (you might also offer pomegranate juice for non-drinkers which would go very well with the salad). If you’re serving the nectarines you could serve a chilled Greek or southern French Muscat. The jellies are probably boozy enough already!
Top picture by Food Via Lenses at shutterstock.com though not a picture of the actual recipe. (You have to get the book for that 😉)
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