Food Focus: Barbecue summer

BARBECUE weather! We actually seem to be having the “barbecue summer” that we were promised last year.

The sun is out, and every barbecue I have been to has had sunny, dry weather, as well as really tasty, interesting food. If the summer continues into September, I thought readers might like a few more ideas for the barbecue.

One friend celebrated his birthday by cooking a whole leg of lamb on the barbecue and another served entirely vegetarian food, so the British are definitely venturing beyond traditional burgers and sausages.

If you want to get new ideas for the barbecue, the best idea is to ask someone from a hot country who is used to cooking outdoors. Kevin Cunningham runs Bok & Rose in Park Street and is originally from South Africa. Kevin has been a butcher for 42 years and has run Bok & Rose for three years.

One of his specialities is Boerwors sausage which he makes on the premises with beef or beef and pork, as well as a mix of traditional South African spices that he has sent over for the authentic flavour.

He sells the sausage by length, depending on how many people you need to cook for. I first tried it at a friend’s barbecue; he had bought enough sausage for about 20 people and it came in a huge pin-wheel shape that he placed straight onto the barbecue.

When the sausage was cooked, he snipped pieces off using large scissors. It tasted excellent and was a real talking point! Many of Kevin’s customers are Jewish, so he sells a lot of beef sausage, but you will also find a range of pork sausages too.

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You can also buy minted lamb chops and kebabs made with Aberdeen Angus rump steak. For the real meat enthusiasts, Kevin also sells T-bone steaks that have been matured for seven to eight weeks. Kevin pointed out that his prices are below that offered by the supermarkets; they have to be for his business to survive, so do go and try something different.

A&C Meats, Catherine Street, St Albans are selling some excellent marinaded chicken and pork ribs as well as their usual selection of sausages which are made on the premises from pork from Oaklands College. They are always worth a visit.

I have discovered a good fish shop at last! Over in Battlers Green, Radlett, Maine Sail Fishmongers is selling some excellent quality fish, with much from British waters. I spoke to the very knowledgeable manager Peter Ralls who has lots of ideas for what would be good on the barbecue.

You could try sardines, Scottish salmon, trout or sea bass, and serve them each whole, depending on how many people you want to feed. Peter will gut the fish for you, and all you have to do is score the fish with a sharp knife and stuff a few herbs into the fish. Brush with olive oil and season, then place straight onto the barbecue.

Cornish squid would be a good choice, especially if you have just got back from holiday and want a reminder, and is really quick and easy. When you get it home marinade it in olive oil, lemon juice and whatever fresh herbs you might have in the garden.

When the barbecue is ready, place the squid on it and cook for no more than 30 seconds on each side; it really will be cooked enough, and will taste fresh and delicious.

Scottish scallops would make a fab kebab, and only take minutes to cook through. You could also make kebabs from monkfish. Peter will fillet and cut it into cubes for you, so all you need to do is thread it onto to some wood skewers (soak in water for an hour or so first to prevent burning) and thread with some vegetables.

Maine Sail will also order John Dory, turbot, crab and lobster for you, but give Peter a call the day before to order (01923 853177).

If you prefer someone else to do the cooking there are some good local places to eat barbecue food. The Portland Arms (63 Portland Street, St Albans) has a good local reputation for home-cooked Sunday lunches, as well as lots of local customers who go for live music on a Sunday.

On Bank Holiday Monday (August 30) they are holding The Portland Arms Garden Party in aid of Help the Heroes. It is not a large pub but they do have a small beer garden and car park at the back which I am sure will be packed with people.

They plan to have live music from St Albans musicians and bands. Currently signed up are Anja Rodford, Katie Masson, Nik Hiftle and Rae Kelly. They will be selling barbecue food, so you can enjoy their cooking while listening to the music. They also plan to hold a charity auction for Help the Heroes, so go along and show them your support.

The Farmer’s Boy pub on London Road, St Albans, is gaining a good local reputation for home-cooked food. They are doing barbecues in the small garden every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, so if the weather is good, go and have a look.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!