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Which BBQ book to buy this summer
Barbecue, as you may have observed, has become big business not only in terms of increasingly flashy bits of kit but a whole raft of books telling you how to up your grilling game. I got blogger and instagrammer Dan Vaux-Nobes, aka Essex Eating, to take a look at three of the titles that have been released his summer. Here's his verdict on which to choose.
"I used to barbecue meat for a living. For seven years I managed a small but incredibly busy BBQ joint in Bristol and in that time I smoked more pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs and chicken thighs than I care to remember. I was personally responsible for an apocalyptic, yet ultimately delicious swathe of carnage, death and butchery inflicted on the global farm animal community.
Although, on the plus side; this also means I am well qualified to review three newly released BBQ recipe books for the summer! Yay!
Seared by Genevieve Taylor
First up, Genevieve Taylor’s latest book ‘Seared’ – ‘The ultimate guide to barbecuing meat’ provides exactly what it promises on the cover, so vegetarians can deservedly f*ck right off. I’m obviously joking here, so please don’t start throwing veg of the heavier variety at me in the street, I’m thinking squashes, baking potatoes etc. LIke you possess the physical strength to lob them at me anyway, with your undernourished, protein-less bodies.
Despite being broken down into just three broad sections, an introduction, ‘Beast’ and ‘Bird’ this is a very comprehensive, surprisingly hefty book, packed with some really interesting and mucho delicious sounding recipes, Achiote Chicken with Lime Crema or Pork Belly Burnt Ends with Tequila and Maple Syrup anyone?
The more traditional stuff gets a look-in too, pulled-pork, beef brisket, Buffalo hot-wings etc. There’s also an explanation on how to make your own Texas Hot Link sausages, which caught me eye.
The introduction is a seriously informative guide to cooking with fire, providing guidance on everything you need to consider if you really want to get the most out of your barbecuing experience - meat provenance and structure, types of BBQ, useful equipment, fuel types, brines and rubs. It’s all covered. Some of the recipes contain some fairly technical BBQ’ing skills, but they’re well written with solid explanations of the techniques involved.
If you’ve got a half-decent BBQ and want to learn how to really use It, kicking it up substantially from blackened burgers and carbonised sausages (and I can’t stress this enough, you’re not even remotely vegetarian) then this is a book you definitely want to own.
Seared is published by Quadrille at £20
Outside by Gill Meller
Gill Meller’s latest book ‘Outside: Recipes for a Wilder way of Eating’ takes an entirely more freestyle approach to cooking over fire. No BBQ? Absolutely not a problem, Gill doesn’t really mind – cook it over whatever you can lay your hands on, fire-pit, campfire or perhaps the smouldering remains of your garden shed that you’ve inadvertently burnt to the ground whilst attempting to wing-it. Gill is not fussy.
The book itself is full of beautiful, aspirational pics of gorgeous food with just the right level of char in idyllic outdoor settings, all smouldering logs and wild-flowers. It really draws you in and the latent pyro-maniac in me is incredibly attracted to the notion of getting out ‘there’ gathering some wood, throwing a grate over the embers and just cooking like our ancestors might have done. Although I doubt very much they ever ate as well as this.
The recipes are gorgeous, the sort of grub you always wished you were eating whilst camping, Venison Loin with Pears, Bacon and Sage or how about a bowl of Trout, Potato and Dill Soup cooked over the glowing embers? Yes please.
There’s a fair old selection of meat based recipes, but vegetarians and pescatarians are also looked after, as well as people who don’t want to cook over fire at all – there’s a whole section of rather lovely looking salads and picnic food.
One of the interesting things about the recipes being so ‘freestyle’ and easy-going with regards to the cooking method, is that any half-competent cook can easily adapt the recipes to cook at home. I had a crack at the Crispy Pork with Thyme, Garlic and Fennel Seeds using my oven grill and it was absolutely superb, obviously it would have tasted better cooked over wood embers whilst out in the wild, but to be fair, everything does!
This is a lovely book for those just wanting to cook something really nice over whatever fire source you can lay your hands on, whilst camping or at the beach or just at the end of the garden. Just keep the fire away from the shed.
Outside is published by Quadrille at £30
Live Fire by Helen Graves
Finally, a look at ‘Live Fire’ by Helen Graves. I’ve known Helen for quite a few years, and she’s an absolutely superb natural cook. In fact, I can honestly say, over the past decade I’ve probably spent more time drooling over pictures of her food than anyone else’s. Everything she cooks looks and sounds brilliant. No pressure then.
I’m glad to say her book lives up to her formidable reputation. The recipes are stunning, slightly less technical with regards to BBQ technique than Genevieve’s book above, but they’re a hell of a lot of fun. Helen lives in London, and obviously takes a lot of inspiration for her recipes from the melting-pot of African, Asian and Middle-Eastern cooking you find in the city. Lots of spice, herbs and bold flavours.
As you’d expect, there’s a lot of meat recipes but vegetarians and pescatarians get a solid look-in, in fact I tried a couple of the recipes out and I can hand-on-heart say the Charred Tomatoes with Cool Yoghurt, Pomegranate Molasses and Herbs (recipe here) combined with a plate of Lamb Chops with Charred Chilli Sauce, all mopped up with a heap of Easy Flatbreads is quite possibly one of the best dinners I’ve ever cooked. Word of warning – it was stunningly spicy, Helen likes a bit of chilli but bloody hell it was good, I just couldn’t leave it alone despite the scorching hot nature of it.
A real selling point with ‘Live Fire’ is that nearly all of the recipes include alternative instructions on how to cook the food and achieve similar results without a BBQ.
I can’t recommend ‘Live Fire’ enough, as I said Helen is an incredibly talented cook and a whole collection of her superb recipes in print is something to get stuck-into and really appreciate.
Live Fire is published by Hardie Grant at £26
You can follow Dan @essexeating on instagram.
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