Our second last meal on our recent trip to China was the Grill Mates BBQ with Shane and Shan’s friends in a hutong on the outskirts of Beijing. While the menu that day had all the hallmarks of a classic American BBQ, the experience of sharing good food with family and friends, everyone helping themselves from a communal table, felt quite Chinese. I arrived home looking forward to a summer of experimenting with my Big Green Egg and to putting into practice what I learnt at Barbecue Joe’s cookery class at Cloughjordan House Cookery School in April.
And so for the last two weeks I have been getting to know my Egg all over again and my go to chef for inspiration is Adam Perry Lang whose recipes push me outside my comfort zone, but in a good way. APL is one of those generous chefs who posts many of his recipes, including from his Serious Barbecue cookbook, on his excellent website. He also picks up on tweets that mention him. Let’s face it, we amateur cooks all get a great kick when the chef who devised a recipe sends us a nice comment on a photo or a tweet.
The previous weekend it had rained non-stop in Duncannon and we were up at 6 am on the Sunday setting up the Big Green Egg to cook APL’s aptly named “Get a book” Whole Beef Brisket for 12 of my family. It took 8 hours but was voted by my little nephew Jack as “the best beef I have ever tasted”.
We also cooked APL’s Beer Can Chicken, sitting two large organic birds over cans of Heineken. This was something I had wanted to try out since I tasted Elvis’ version in Beijing. The result was moist and delicious chicken which fed us for most of the week.
And let me confess a little secret. Because the whole beef brisket took so long to cook, we actually cooked the chickens on our old Outback Gas BBQ on indirect heat, covered and with a packet of wet oak chips in punctured tin foil sitting on the lava rocks. There was so much smokiness going on with the brisket and other vegetables that no one even noticed. I also skipped the last stage of APL’s recipe, that called for cutting the chicken in half down the backbone and glazing it with his sweet and sticky BBQ sauce because the skin was already nice and crispy. Instead I just served the sauce on the side. The following day though I reheated half of one of the cooked chickens, glazed with the sauce, under our ordinary grill for a feast of leftovers of sticky deliciousness.
The weekend just gone by was a bank holiday here in Ireland and Duncannon was in fete for a military re-enactment taking place in Duncannon Fort. A brother of my friend Bumbles of Rice, who also hails from these parts, labelled the village #Funcannon for the weekend and got it trending on Twitter.
We travelled down from Dublin in glorious sunshine on Saturday but by Sunday rain was threatening. Undaunted, we invited my family to another barbecue. I had an added incentive to try new recipes. Joanne Cronin who writes Stitch and Bear had given me a tin of Old Bay Seasoning which she had picked up in the States and which features in many of APL’s recipes.
On the menu we had APL’s Reliable Pork Spareribs which I served as a starter. Over seven hours on the Big Green Egg at a low temperature, they were moistened with a mustard spray, drizzled with a spicy rub, sprayed with apple juice and cider vinegar, wrapped with honey, brown sugar and apple juice, coated with BBQ sauce and sprayed with apple mist once more. The result was succulent and delicious and the four racks of ribs, with the tender meat falling off the bones, were gobbled in minutes. My brother’s dogs were the lucky recipients of the leftovers. I hope they weren’t expecting any meat as every last morsel had been sucked off by my hungry guests.
We followed the ribs with Leg of Irish Spring Lamb based on Adam’s recipe in his BBQ 25 cookbook which I downloaded from Kindle Book Store on my iPad. I scored the leg of lamb in a cross-hatch pattern and marinated it for three to four hours in a mix of rapeseed oil, chopped rosemary, flat leaf parsley, thyme and cumin. I put it on the Big Green Egg, on indirect heat, while the ribs were still cooking which meant the temperature was lower than the recommended by APL and it took longer to cook. I glazed it at intervals with a mix of a half cup of olive oil, lots of crushed garlic, the grated zest and juice of a lemon, a few tablespoons of honey and more chopped flat leaf parsley.
Once the internal temperature had reached 60 degrees C on my snazzy, new super-fast Thermapen thermometer (or 71 degrees C if you prefer well done lamb) I rested in on a board dressing of Broighter Gold rapeseed oil infused with rosemary and mixed with fresh flat leaf parsley for about 10 minutes before carving. The meat was so moist and tender that we did not need gravy.
We threw a few burgers and steaks on the barbecue for hungry young people . With the beef and lamb we served lashings of Irish new potatoes, baby peas, roasted vegetables, mushrooms cooked with thyme in butter and olive oil and asparagus. I marinated the asparagus tips in a little Broighter Gold rapeseed oil infused with lemon and griddled them on the BBQ for a few minutes on each side. Once they had nice scorch marks on both sides but still had a good crunch I removed them from the BBQ and drizzled them with a little balsamic vinegar. These were greeted with sighs of approval.
Dessert was simple – fresh raspberries, strawberries and peaches served with little meringues and cream and then my nieces and nephews entertained us for a few hours with mimicry and dance and general good humour.
Last night we had a dinner of leftovers in Duncannon – a Lamb Hash of cooked Wexford new potatoes crushed in duck fat to which I added shredded leg of lamb which had been smoked on the Big Green Egg and roasted vegetables from Sunday’s BBQ including peppers, aubergines, courgettes, red onion, tomatoes and mushrooms. When it was all sizzling away nicely and lovely and crispy on the base, I made space to crack in two eggs and flashed the frying pan under the grill to set the egg white and crisp up the topping. A drizzle of Adam Perry Lang’s BBQ Sauce and I didn’t even need to fire up the Big Green Egg to recapture the flavours of our BBQ in the rain.
As we polished off the leftover leftovers today I mused about my Big Green Egg, how it has become like an old friend now, one whose temperament I have got to know and learned to managed so his temperature and mood stay steady. I learnt a lot from my class with BBQ Joe. He taught me to understand how the fibres of the meat react at different temperatures, the importance of the temperature plateau and of resting the meat after cooking. His tips for lighting the BBQ with a Lidl weed burner, using a super fast Thermapen to check internal temperature and oiling the griddle with half a red onion on a fork dipped in olive oil flavoured with spices and herbs, have left me feeling more confident and professional around my Egg. It is a joyous learning experience.
I’ve discovered that barbecuing is a forgiving way of cooking food. A few degrees heat either way makes no difference to slow cooked meats once you eventually get to the correct internal temperature. While the Egg is a magic piece of kit, most of the recipes work equally well on other covered charcoal or gas barbecues. But leftovers from the Egg taste simply wonderful with the traces of smokiness still lingering.
Last week the Goodall’s Modern Irish Cookbook, won the Bloggers’ Cookbook Award in the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards 2014. The book includes one of the early recipes from this blog – Sichuan Seaf00d Duncannon Style. So on our “Funcannon” weekend, Duncannon was featuring, in a small way, on the world stage.
I think it’s time to develop a special Duncannon recipe for the Big Green Egg, don’t you. Watch this space.