Do you swim all year? Well why not BBQ all year too?
6.45am. Saturday morning. It’s winter. The air temperature is hovering around the -3oC mark and according to the Thames Water website the water is up to a balmy 4.2oC. I have two choices; hit the snooze; head downstairs, don my swimming trunks and head out to one of the beautiful spots we swim from along the Thames in and around the Henley area.
As any outdoor swimmer knows, once you get the bug for swimming in the river the latter is the only choice to make. There is something quite exhilarating, albeit rather terrifying the first couple of times, when you first enter the water and lose all sensation in your feet. As your shoulders go under and you fight the urge to retreat to the bank you slowly realise that this is actually, ‘alright’, dare I say it, Fun! Of course the walk back to the car to dry off and glug a warm coffee is somewhat impossible, especially as by this point my feet tend to have lost all sensation. Then there are the shivers. And in some people’s case, violent shakes as their blood starts returning to their extremities and every muscle involuntarily contracts in a bid to generate a bit of heat.
It’s at this point that my thoughts always wander to my second passion in life. As I stand in my oversized laundry bucket making the attempt to get out of my trunks whilst competing against the spontaneous shivers and maintain some kind of dignity the thought of a BBQ always brings a warm glow.
I guess for most of us, the quintessential BBQ is surrounded by a vision of warm summer evenings, some slabs of steak sizzling on the grill and the obligatory gin and tonic or other favoured BBQing accompanying beverage in hand. The thought is enough warm any cold water swimmer attempting to regain some internal heat. For me though, the British BBQ is undervalued and under used.
Many people consider the winter outdoor swimmer a little crazy and for the same reason we continue to head to the river bank week in week out, come rain or snow, I love to BBQ. Friends and family consider may near obsession with lighting the charcoal (there are no gas cookers in my repertoire of outdoor culinary delights) rather bizarre, but never has anyone complained that their meat wasn’t cooked to perfection.
My love for cooking on coals began in 1998 when my father, who always cooked Christmas dinner, invited too many guests to lunch and realised there was not enough room to cook the turkey in the oven along with all the accompanying side dishes. In what was, at the time, a moment of madness, he pulled the BBQ out of the garage and set it up to cook the centre piece for the table. It was truly the best tasting bird I had ever eaten. Since that date it has become a Crossingham tradition to have our meat cooked on the BBQ every Christmas.
Back in 2009 the guest count to Christmas dinner increased again and we needed two turkeys to feed everyone and so if fell to me to bring my BBQ and cook alongside my father. Needless to say my turkey was superior in every way and so my obsession with winter BBQing was born. I genuinely see no reason why our BBQ’s need to be confined to the summer months. It’s a useful tool to bring a whole new dimension to a winter dinner party. Guests will love the concept and appreciate the effort so much more.
In a bid to encourage more of you to give it a go I leave you with a fool proof recipe that I urge you to try before the end of the month.
Tim’s top tips
Roast Leg of Lamb
Leave your leg of lamb in the kitchen for at least 4 hours to bring to room temperature.
Make a note of the recommended cooking time – your BBQ cook it slightly faster by about 10 to 20 minutes.
Remove packaging and give a rinse with cold water. Pat dry with kitchen towel.
Using a small sharp pointed knife make at least 12 2cm deep incision evenly spaced out over the leg.
Into each incision stuff half a clove of garlic, half an anchovy and a sprig of fresh rosemary. I am not a big fan of anchovies, but give it a go. There will be no fishy taste, just the melted salt taste which enhances the flavour of the meat.
Set your leg of lamb to the side whist you prepare your roasting tin.
Get a metal roasting tin (you can use the disposable tin foil kind).
In the bottom of your tin add some vegetables to act as a bed for your meat to sit on. I use whatever tends to be lying around in the bottom of the fridge. The main idea is that you don’t want your meat to touch the metal tin.
Chuck in some more rosemary and any other herbs you like – I find 3 or 4 bay leaves work well.
Sit the meat on top of your veg and herbs. Pour half a bottle of red wine over the meat so as it falls into the tin. This will keep you meat moist and help make the world’s best gravy or red wine jus.
Double wrap the tin with tin foil and leave to rest for at least 30min (this is not essential but I think it allows the wine and herbs to start infusing with each other and it gets into the meat too)
Prepare your BBQ and light your coals. I have one of those chimneys which heat the coals quickly and more evenly.
Distribute your coals evenly to the far left and right and edges of your BBQ. Put your grill on and then your lid. Leave for 2-3 min to allow the coals to evenly heat and raise the internal temperature of your BBQ.
Place your tin on the grill in the middle of the BBQ and replace the lid. Check the vents at the bottom are fully open and the vents on the lid are open too.
Sit back. Relax and drink that preferred beverage. 30 minutes before the cooking time is up, remove the tin foil to allow the meat to brown.
Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Whilst the meat is resting, remove the veg, herbs and juices to make your desired accompanying gravy or jus.
by HOWSC member, Tim Crossingham
|Remove the foil for at least 30 minutes to allow your lamb to brown||Christmas Day 20017. Nothing like a turkey cooked on the BBQ!|
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