Become a better barbecuer at outdoor cookery school
- Credit: Becky Alexander
Burnt sausages, undercooked chicken and smoke filling the garden… its barbecue season again! Brits don’t always have the best reputation for cooking outside, perhaps due to our unpredictable weather and lack of experience, but we do seem to enjoy it. So, is it time to brush up on your barbecue skills?
I’m not a great barbecuer – eating outside, yes, but we tend to cook on our reliable oven inside and take the food out with us. But I do like the idea of cooking over fire – the flavours, the drama of it, the sociability of gathering around.
So I booked myself into The Outdoor Kitchen Collective near the Osprey shop, for a masterclass with Ross Anderson, who trained with the Roux family and cooked for the Royal Family. They are running a series of workshops over the summer and autumn, and as I am often asked by readers if there is a local cookery school, I thought it would be fun to try it out. And learn how to actually cook properly over fire.
Ross started by explaining that fire is a living organism – you need to control the fuel and oxygen around it. Use decent, sustainable wood for a start, not the briquettes sold at the petrol station, which just impart chemicals all over your food.
Ross uses birch wood, which gives a consistent soft smoke without over-powering your food. You need to let the flames calm down and test the temperature before cooking – a barbecue with a temperature gauge makes sense, just like with your oven.
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Ingredients matter. Ross said to buy decent quality vegetables, fish and meat rather than ‘mask’ flavour with rubs and sauces. And cooking one large fish or piece of meat is easier to manage than lots of individual things that need flipping all the time. It also looks more spectacular served and can be part of the sharing experience.
"The UK has the best fish, vegetables and meat in the world, so use it!" Ross told us. Bring fish and meat up to room temperature before cooking so it doesn’t ‘tense up’ when placed on the heat, and become tough. He said if you have guests round, you could cook some of your food inside, and then finish it on the barbecue – you get all the flavours without trying to overcrowd your barbecue.
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I was very impressed by Ross’s approach to cooking vegetables. He placed a whole cauliflower, leaves intact, painted with harissa paste, in the corner of a barbecue, lid on, and left it there during our demo.
Whole beetroots, leaves still on, nestled into the wood of a brai, and we ate them all later, full of flavour and perfectly cooked. Generous piles of asparagus and tenderstem broccoli were cooked over wood, with roasted lemon halves squeezed over – they didn’t take long and had beautiful charred stripes on them, and lots of lemony flavour. Jersey royal potatoes were cut into hasslebacks, oil applied, and roasted too.
We sat around a large table in the pretty courtyard and ate the food, which was a lovely sociable event. It would be great to go with friends or even book a private event – do ask The Outdoor Kitchen Collective for availability on that.
While we ate, Ross baked a tray of chocolate brownie in the barbecue, lid on, as of course, it acted like an oven. He reminded us to not waste the heat after we’ve cooked a main course – you can leave an aubergine, for example, overnight and make an easy babaganoush the next day. I left the masterclass feeling inspired and more confident in my barbecue skills – I am sure this would also make an excellent gift any keen outdoor cook in your life!
The next workshop is with Theo Michaels on July 20 and costs £75 including welcome cocktail and lunch. Bridget Colvin is on September 10. Go to https://theoutdoorkitchencollective.co.uk/tokc-events for tickets and availability.