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
Planked Pork Char Siu
Spiced Griddled Courgettes and Potatoes
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.
- 6 – 8 lamb cutlets
- 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
- 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.
- Mix thoroughly with the lamb and marinade over night in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
- Prepare the BGE for direct heat using the cast iron griddle and heat to about 220C.
- 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).
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.
- 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
- Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour or preferably over night.
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a pot and simmer, covered, on gentle heat for 10 minutes.
- 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.]
- Preheat the BGE for direct heat and heat to about 180C.
- Place the soaked plank on hot grill and heat for 3 minutes.
- Remove pork from the marinade and discard remaining marinade.
- Flip the plank and place the pork on the heated side of the plank.
- 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.
- 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:
- Heat the oven to 220º.
- 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.
- Reduce the heat to 180°C to avoid burning and roast for another 12 to 13 minutes.
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.
- 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
- Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast and salt and mix well.
- Make a well in the centre, add the sunflower oil, honey, water and yoghurt and stir well until a dough forms.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the discs on the preheated Baking Stone and close the lid. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Serve immediately or keep warm in a conventional oven until the rest of the meal is ready to be served.
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.
- 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
- Pour the water into a small cup, add the saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes, then strain, reserving the water.
- Put the yogurt in a small bowl, add the saffron water, mint, lemon juice and salt and stir well.
- Transfer to a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.