Barbecue Joe comes to Cloughjordan House

It’s strange the way good things happen. On Friday afternoon last, a quiet weekend in prospect, I dropped into The Corkscrew on Chatham Row and spotted that signed copies of Neven Maguire’s MacNean Restaurant Cookbook were on special offer for €15. I hopped on Twitter to broadcast this good news – this great cookbook includes lots of the recipes that feature in Neven’s latest series on RTE in which he makes his more complex dishes accessible and gives you the confidence that you can recreate them at home. At that price his book is a steal and includes recommendations for wines to match the recipes which you can pick up at The Corkscrew. But I digress…
I don’t usually visit Twitter at that time on a Friday afternoon but skimming through my time line I spotted a tweet from @sarahbakercooks with a competition for a free cancellation place at a barbecue class at Cloughjordan House the following day. Now I’ve been meaning to visit that cookery school for some time so the prospect of a barbecue course, just as I need inspiration to get going on my Big Green Egg for the summer season – was enough to make me willing to drop everything and re-arrange my weekend. And so when Sarah tweeted later that evening that I had won the place I did just that and headed off at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning to North Tipperary. Derry came along to take the photos.

"Hmm is any of that for me?"
“Hmm is any of that for me?”

The course was given by Brendan of BBQ Joe who specialises in low ‘n slow cooking. Ireland being such a small place it turned out that I had met Brendan once before when he was restaurant manager at Sheen Falls in Kenmare. He has now re-invented himself and caters for weddings and other large events, cooking the best of Irish produce on his own custom built charcoal grills, smokers and pits. Watch out for him later this year when he barbecues on a grand scale for visiting american footballers and their fans.
I was delighted when we arrived to discover that he would be cooking on a Grill Dome. This Kamado style ceramic barbecue is very similar in concept and performance to the Big Green Egg so I felt right at home. I remain devoted to my Egg but it’s great to know that there are alternative products on the market that fulfil a similar function.
This was Brendan’s first cookery demo and I loved his relaxed and informal style as he shared his passion for barbecuing and the tips and insights he has picked up as he builds up his business. He has travelled widely to study techniques in places as different as Texas, Turkey and Georgia.  He works alongside professional chefs but brings his own un-cheffy and intuitive approach to producing tasty food for sharing.
Picking up a tip or two
Picking up a tip or two from a master

Brendan took some time at the beginning of the class to talk about different types of charcoal fuel and ways of lighting your barbecue – a “weed burner” has been added to my wish list as a result. He confirmed that it’s important to use the best quality lump wood charcoal you can get hold of – the heavier and denser the better. I’ve been using Big Green Egg Organic Lump Charcoal and Big K Restaurant Charcoal with good results. Both are available for delivery from A Room Outside in Limerick. Brendan also encourages the use of local wood shavings as a way of adding flavour – a handful of oak wood shavings or left over wood chips from whiskey barrels from your local distillery can work wonders. My next door neighbour in Duncannon left me in a bag of oak wood shavings  recently which I will now put to good use.
Then he spent some time on the basics of putting together a good BBQ Rub and BBQ Sauce as well as how to prepare a Charcoal Salt which is a nifty way of adding a little delicate charcoal flavour to your meats.
Micro-planing a little charcoal into the salt
Micro-planing a little charcoal into the salt

First up in the cooking, Brendan showed us how to prepare pulled pork – that quintessential barbecue dish beloved of Texans. While it cooked away low and slow, and Brendan explained the internal temperature “plateau” at around 70 degrees c which scares the wits out of most wannabe BBQ chefs the first time we encounter it, he produced one he prepared earlier (as all good cookery teachers do!) and showed us how to serve it in buns mixed with barbecue sauce and layered with a fresh crisp coleslaw including fennel and some paprika mayonnaise. That was our brunch – or breakfast in my case.
Pulled pork in a bun
Pulled pork in a bun

The edge taken off our appetite we went on to prepare rib eye steaks on the bone, each about 6 cms thick. We seasoned them simply with charcoal salt, cooked them over high direct heat, flipping them often and rested them on a board dressing of oil, parsley, pepper, garlic and chilli. The trick here lay in the quality of the well-aged steak and simple seasonings that allowed the flavour of the meat to come through.
Now that's what I call a steak
Now that’s what I call a steak

Or three..
Or three..

All dressed up and ready to serve
All dressed up and ready to serve

We tried out a few other dishes to prove the point that barbecues don’t have to be all about expensive meats. A pork bomb made with minced pork and stuffed with sauerkraut and wrapped in a bacon lattice held its shape beautifully and worked well with barbecue sauce.
Unwrapping the pork bomb
Unwrapping the pork bomb for the BBQ

Easing the pork onto the BBQ
Easing the pork bomb onto the BBQ

Pork bomb stuffed with sauerkraut
Done – pork bomb stuffed with sauerkraut

Chicken koftas made with thigh meat were glazed with pomegranate molasses and served with a satay sauce and some tzatziki.
Rustling up a satay sauce
Rustling up a satay sauce

Prawns and chorizo made an eye catching kebab needing little more than lime juice and zest to dress them.
Prawns and chorizo ready to cook
Prawns and chorizo ready to cook

Salmon was cooked skinless on a buttered tray and drizzled with flavoured honey and red pepper corns or lime to add a little flavour.
Salmon two ways
Salmon two ways

In barbecues the focus is firmly on the protein with side dishes playing a supporting role but we prepared portobello mushrooms with a filling of baba ganoush made from barbecued aubergine which would keep many a vegetarian happy. It can be teamed with haloumi cheese and roasted peppers for a more filling vegetarian option.
Aubergines roasting around the pork for baba ganoush
Aubergines roasting around the pork for baba ganoush

Portobello mushrooms on the grill extender
Portobello mushrooms on the grill extender

Side dishes were designed to add colour and we made a mango salsa and feta and watermelon salad that provided a light and refreshing contrast to the main event.
Mango salsa
Mango salsa

All through the day Brendan shared great tips such as using half an onion on a fork dipped in rapeseed oil, star anise, bay leaf and peppercorns as a “brush” for your grill, using apple juice and cider vinegar as a spray to moisten your meat, oiling the barbecue not the meat, cleaning your griddle with a wedge of lime, making board dressings… all of these will stay with me as I experiment in the coming months and try to develop my own personal style. “Taste and correct” will become my BBQ mantra. He taught us how to make the best use of space on the grill and sequence our dishes so that we got the maximum value from our charcoal.
As the day wore on and we got chatting to the other participants on the course, I was chuffed to discover that Greg from the nearby eco-village in Cloughjordan had used my recipe for turkey on the Big Green Egg to prepare Christmas dinner for his family and friends and it had worked for him too. Sometimes when you write a food blog you wonder if anyone out there is reading it and it’s so lovely to meet someone who has stumbled on it when googling for a recipe. Thank you Greg for making my day.
Cloughjordan House Cookery School is a very pleasant space in which to work for and is particularly popular as a venue for transition and fifth year students  where cooking is combined with gathering fresh produce from the community farm. The main house is 400 years old and also offers bed and breakfast and a wedding venue. Some of the participants in the course had stayed over the night before and I look forward to returning for a more leisurely visit and a taste of Sarah and Peter’s hospitality.
Thank you Sarah and Peter of Cloughjordan House Cookery School and  Brendan of BBQ Joe for a great day out and lots of inspiration to which I hope to give a Chinese twist in weeks to come.
Meanwhile to whet your appetite here’s Brendan’s basic recipe for BBQ Sauce which can be adapted to personal taste. For instance you can spice it up with chilli powder if you wish
BBQ Joe’s Sauce
Ingredients

  • 2 cans tomatoes
  • 20ml worcestershire sauce
  • 45g castor sugar
  • 50g treacle
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 30g barbecue rub (use your personal favourite)
  • ½ tin of pineapple drained
  • 150ml apple cider vinegar
  • 160 ml water

Method
Combine all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a simmer over gentle heat to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Blitz with a hand blender to a smooth consistency.
 

Last of the Summer Barbecues – Xinjiang Street Food


We are getting along better my Big Green Egg and me. I’m beginning to get to know his moods and temperament. He’s hot stuff, he can turn out a large number of perfectly seared steaks in jig time. But last weekend in Duncannon, on a glorious late summer Sunday, I wanted to get a sense of just how versatile he is and how many different cooking techniques I could use, in the course of an afternoon, and still serve the results at one meal.
The lovely people at A Room Outside in Limerick had received a new consignment of Eggs and accessories so I took delivery of a ceramic pizza stone, a half moon cast iron griddle and some cedar planks to experiment with plank cooking. With these new tools, I had a go at re-creating the kind of street food I had in China last summer, particularly the street food of Xinjiang province. I also added Pork Char Siu to the menu which would not, of course, be served with lamb by the Muslim Uighur people of Xinjiang.
On the menu

Xinjiang Chilli Lamb with Spicy Tzatziki Sauce

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Planked Pork Char Siu

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Spiced Griddled  Courgettes and Potatoes

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Naan Bread

The recipes I used are below. I cooked the Naan bread first and kept it warm in a low oven, then the Pork Char Siu and finally I ramped up the heat to cook the lamb chops and vegetables quickly while the pork was resting.

Xinjiang Chilli Lamb

I found the recipe for this addictive, mouth-numbing marinade on line here and it could be substituted for the marinade used to make kebabs in my lamb chuan’r recipe. The marinade was developed by Christina Soong-Kroeger who writes a blog called The Hungry Australian. She lived in Shanghai for three years and this was one of her favourite takeaway meals from her local Xinjiang restaurant. You wont always find Sichuan pepper used in Xinjiang lamb but Shan’s Mum, who comes from that province, adds it to her lamb dishes all the time.

Ingredients

  • 6 – 8 lamb cutlets

 Marinade

  • 2 tbs groundnut oil (or sufficient to loosen the marinade)
  • 2 tbs ground cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • A thumb of fresh ginger finely chopped or 2 tsps ground ginger
  • 1 tbs chilli flakes or a large chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 ½ to 2 tsps salt
  • Ground black pepper

Method

  1. Smash all the dry marinade ingredients in a pestle and mortar or grind in a food processor and add enough oil to create a loose paste.
  2. Mix thoroughly with the lamb and marinade over night in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Prepare the BGE for direct heat using the cast iron griddle and heat to about 220C.
  4. Grill the lamb chops, covered,  for 3 to 5 minutes each side depending on their thickness and whether you like them pink or well done (about 4 minutes each side for skewers).

Note
These lamb chops can also be cooked on any grill or conventional barbecue.
Planked Pork Char Siu
Pork Char Siu is something you come across as street food in Beijing and other parts of China. It is not normally cooked at home as Chinese households don’t usually have access to barbecues. This special way of rapidly roasting or barbecuing meat that has been marinated is typical of the southern Cantonese and can be applied to all good cuts of meat. Every Chinese cook has their own variation of a Char Siu marinade so feel free to use your personal favourite.  This time I used Rozanne Steven’s Barbecue Sauce from her Relish BBQ book. You could also use a jar of Pat Whelan’s great new BBQ sauce available from James Whelan Butchers in Avoca, Monkstown and Clonmel.
Cedar planks are available from A Room Outside. They can also be picked up from The Butlers Pantry for €3.95 each. These planks create a subtle smoky flavour when used with fish and meats that reminds me of the aromas and flavours of a Beijing street market. For me the big discovery was that cooking on a plank also has the effect of making the meat melt in the mouth tender. The outer skin of the pork doesn’t get crispy when cooked in this way but the meat is moist and delicious. When sliced across the grain, the rapidly cooked pork has a darker rim of well cooked pork with a dark crust of marinade surrounding a more lightly cooked and tender centre.
Ingredients:

  • 2 large pork steaks
  • 1 cedar plank

For Rozanne’s Chinese Sticky Marinade and Basting Sauce



  • 8 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, grated or finely chopped
  • 250 g dark brown sugar
  • 200 g honey
  • 250 ml hoisin sauce (a good shop bought version such as Lee Kum Kee)
  • 250 ml Shaoxing rice wine
  • 200 ml light soy sauce
  • 200 ml sweet chilli sauce
  • 50 ml groundnut oil (or sunflower oil)
  • 2 tbs Chinese five spice powder

 Preparation

  1. Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour or preferably over night.
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a pot and simmer, covered, on gentle heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Once cool use sufficient to cover the pork steaks and marinade in a ziplock bag or dish at room temperature for at least an hour or preferably overnight in the fridge. [You can use the remainder as a marinade for pork or chicken or to baste chicken wings, sausages and vegetables on the barbecue. It keeps well in an airtight jar in the fridge.]

Cooking

  1. Preheat the BGE for direct heat and heat to about 180C.
  2. Place the soaked plank on hot grill and heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove pork from the marinade and discard remaining marinade.
  4. Flip the plank and place the pork on the heated side of the plank.
  5. Grill with the lid closed for about 20 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 65C. You do not need to turn the pork during cooking.
  6. Allow to rest on a shallow dish for 5 minutes, tented in foil. Serve, sliced across the grain, with its own juices. It should be pink near the edges and gloriously moist and tender within.

Note – to cook in a conventional oven:

  1. Heat the oven to 220º.
  2. Place the pork steak on a wire rack over a roasting tin filled with 4 cm of water to catch the drips and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to 180°C to avoid burning and roast for another 12 to 13 minutes.

Naan Bread
Naan bread is Asian in origin and resembles pitta bread but is much softer in texture. I loved watching it being made by the Uighur women in Xinjiang Province where they slapped rounds of dough against the walls of  big clay ovens and took it out minutes later golden and steaming. The Big Green Egg’s ability to reach high temperature makes it the prefect environment in which to make this bread and it is great served with lamb and dipped in the spicy Tzatziki sauce.
Ingredients

  • 375g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 190 ml warm water (about 40 to 45C )
  • 4 tbs plain Greek yoghurt

Method

  1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast and salt and mix well.
  2. Make a well in the centre, add the sunflower oil, honey, water and yoghurt and stir well until a dough forms.
  3. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth or clingfilm and leave to rise for around 2 hours until doubled in size.
  4. Meanwhile set the BGE for indirect cooking with the Plate Setter, legs down and the Baking Stone on top and preheat to 220C. This takes at least 30 minutes.
  5. When risen, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece of dough into a ball and, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into a disc about 1.5 cms thick.
  6. Place the discs on the preheated Baking Stone and close the lid. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  7. Serve immediately or keep warm in a conventional oven until the rest of the meal is ready to be served.

Xinjiang Vegetables
I cooked the vegetables on a half moon griddle pan while the lamb chops were cooked on the cast iron grid beside them.
Cut courgettes into 1 cm slices at an angle, dip in egg white and  then a little cornflour or potato flour. Dust with a mix of ground cumin, salt and dry roasted Sichuan pepper to taste and grill them on a high heat on an oiled griddle tray on the BGE for few minutes, turning once.
Par-boil potatoes slice them thickly and grill them on an oiled griddle,  plain or scattered with the cumin mix.
Spicy Tzatziki Sauce
This recipe came from the lamb pops recipe on the BigGreenEgg.com website. I didn’t have any saffron last weekend so I stirred in a little smoked paprika for colour and flavour.
Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 125 ml plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
 Method
  1. Pour the water into a small cup, add the saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes, then strain, reserving the water.
  2. Put the yogurt in a small bowl, add the saffron water, mint, lemon juice and salt and stir well.
  3. Transfer to a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Eighteen days of Dermot – Relished

Goodbye to Shane, Shan and Dermot and safe journey back to the welcoming arms of MaMa.
Goodbye to baby chairs and travel cots and car seats and rattles and noisy toys and all the paraphernalia needed to play host to a four month old baby.
Goodbye to the constant stream of visitors – young friends like modern magi with their  gifts, chatter and wisdom.
Goodbye to conversation and the strumming of guitars drifting from the garden on rare balmy June evenings, to food served as it should be – communally, on platters, for sharing – hot from the BBQ or sizzling from the wok, to catering for an ever changing crowd.
Goodbye to the infectious sound of giggles from the kitchen downstairs as your Grandad Ye Ye teaches you a new game or soars you through the air like an airplane.
And to my own sacred moments, walking the bedroom floor to soothe you while your parents have a rare night out, feeling the unexpected weight of a buggy as I push you around Shanganagh park and show you a glimpse of the Irish sea, reading you your first nursery rhymes, proudly strolling through Stephen’s Green to introduce you to the ducks, a novice Nai Nai on the loose, holding your gaze.and rapt concentration  as you clutch my fingers and wrist from your car seat…
Singing with you each morning and waltzing to the strains of Tiny Dancer, marvelling at how in a little over two weeks your  legs have strengthened, your body lengthened, your attention span and field of vision increased, you’re even more inquisitive and the sounds you make are words in a language known only to you.
That’s what I forgot about babies, how quickly they change, but nothing, nothing in this life had prepared me for the rush of love that goes with being a grandparent.
So goodbye for now to special encounters and unforgettable moments – you  learning to play “clap hands” with your great granny Tai Tai, puzzled as your feet touch the ticklish grass of Irish ground for the first time, meeting countless O’Neill and Corcoran relatives, frowning initially and then relaxing as if to say “I have you now”…
Well Dermot, you certainly have us –  in the palms of your tiny hands…

 
Safe home little one agus go n’eiridh on bóthar leat. May the ancestors you didn’t get to meet – your great granny Alice and your great Grandads Seamus and Sean mind you on your way.
Relish BBQ
Every special time has its own soundtrack or, in my case a cookery book that keeps me company along the way.
For Dermot’s first visit to Ireland it has been my copy of Rozanne Stevens  Relish BBQ book which is already dog-eared and spattered with splashes of marinade from the grill.
I’ve cooked 8 or 9 full dishes from it so far, each one a winner. If you buy just one cookbook this summer make it this one. It’s packed with recipes with Rozanne’s unique  “ish” factor from around the world and is available from Rozanne’s website or in most good bookshops.
I’ve adapted her sticky marinade/ basting sauce below slightly to make it even more Chinesish by substituting Shaoxing rice wine for dry sherry. I made it using homemade chilli jam from the recipe given to me by Tom Walsh chef at Samphire @ The Waterside, Donabate but a bottle of sweet chilli sauce will also do the trick. It’s great with pork ribs and chicken and is already one of my favourite sauces along with homemade chilli jam and chilli oil. My Mum took home the left-over sauce from Duncannon on Sunday and has discovered it works well in the oven too basted over pork ribs that have been simmered in boiling water for 10 minutes then drained.
Thanks Rozanne for helping make our celebration meals special.
Rozanne’s Chinese Sticky Marinade and Basting Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, grated or finely chopped
  • 250 g dark brown sugar
  • 200 g honey
  • 250 ml hoisin sauce
  • 250 ml Shaoxing rice wine (or pale dry sherry)
  • 200 ml light soy sauce
  • 200 ml Tom Chef’s Chilli Jam (or sweet chilli sauce)
  • 50 ml groundnut oil (or sunflower oil)
  • 2 tbs Chinese five spice powder

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a pot and simmer, covered on gentle heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Use as a marinade for pork or chicken and to baste chicken wings, sausages and vegetables on the barbecue.