Over the weekend of September 16th & 17th I got to cook with the most amazing backdrops and local produce on the Isles of Scilly for the 2023 Taste of Scilly Festival.
On Saturday I had my toes in the sand on Porthmellon Beach, cooking smoked Moroccan beef and spiced chicken thighs served with flat breads, pickled cabbage, garlic mayo, romseco and za’tar. Then on Sunday we set up the Drumbecues on the slipway at The Mermaid Inn on the harbourside in Hugh Town where I cooked Lebanon style lamb leg with anchovy dressing, and pulled pork with smoked paprika (served again on flatbreads with pickled cabbage, garlic mayo, romseco and za’tar).
It was an incredible weekend and amazing getting to spend some time on these beautiful islands just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall. Thanks so much to Visit Isles of Scilly, Victoria Bond and Anna Mahoney for inviting me over to be a part of Taste of Scilly.
St Ives Food Festival is always such a great weekend. Taking place in mid-May, this food festival on Porthminster Beach has the most incredible backdrop for the chefs lucky enough to be invited to demonstrate a recipe on the Asado Fire Pit stage.
On Sunday 14th Rupert shared with the crowd how to make mechouia salad, a fantastic traditional Tunisian dish of grilled Mediterranean vegetables that goes incredibly with barbecued meats or works as a stand-alone dish. It’s a frequent favourite at our Wooodfired Cooking courses!
Mechouia (also known as slata mechouia in Tunisian Arabic) has a base of char-grilled tomatoes, onions, peppers, chillis and garlic, which are coarsely chopped and seasoned before being dressed with olive oil. Rupert cooked a tomahawk steak over the coals, serving it medium-rare, sliced over the mechouia.
Cook your steak to your preference, remembering to oil your steak (whether or not you use a pan) and, once placed on the grill, not to move it until you come to turn it. And, of course, rest it before slicing and serving!
Here’s how to make the mechouia to serve it on:
4 Medium Tomatoes
2 Red Peppers
2 Large Jalapeno Peppers
2 Small Onions, the outer paper leaves removed
1 Teaspoon Caraway Seeds
½ Teaspoon Coriander Seeds
2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon red wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Using either a grill or BBQ fire, char the outsides of the tomato, peppers, and onions until they’re completely blackened and blistered, turning frequently to char all sides. You can put the onions directly into the coals of the fire. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow them to steam in their own heat for 15 minutes.
Peel the char off of the vegetables, coarsely chop them and place them in a bowl.
Toast the caraway and coriander seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Grind them into a powder in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.
Add the spices with the olive oil and vinegar to the chopped vegetables and stir well. Salt and pepper to taste.
Header image by Nik Read, article images by Sam Buckle. Thanks to both for sharing their work with us.
We recently welcomed the team from our Roseland near-neighbours Wild Cornwall to Philleigh Way, to work on some summer recipes utilising their range of seasonal foraged and homegrown condiments, oils, vinegars, relishes and rubs. First up, spatchcock sweet chilli chicken!
This dish of whole barbecued sweet chilli chicken, wedges and coleslaw is perfect for cooking and eating outside now that the sun’s come out, but you can just as easily make it in your kitchen (then carry it outside to eat). It uses Wild Cornwall’s punchy Rambler’s Sweet Chilli Sauce that features Calendula flowers for an earthy flavour to add balance and depth, and foraged water pepper (Arsesmart) for a hot and peppery punch.
Wild Cornwall Rambler’s sweet chilli sauce Whole medium chicken White potatoes Half red onion Half a white cabbage Half a red cabbage Vinegar (red or white wine vinegar) Plain natural yoghurt Mayonnaise Coriander leaves (optional) Spring onions (optional)
For The Coleslaw Finely slice half a red onion Season with salt and pepper Add some vinegar to reduce the acidity of the onions Slice the red and white cabbage Add Wild Cornwall Rambler’s Sweet Chilli sauce Add the yogurt and mayo Give it a mix and that’s your coleslaw done Here you could add coriander or spring onions as extras.
To spatchcock the chicken with a pair of scissors or secateurs for reduced cooking time, cut alongside the back bone from one end to the other and the same on the other side. Turn it over Give it a push down Season with salt Brush on wild Cornwall sweet chilli sauce Put the chicken in a barbecue with a lid, or the oven Leave to cook for an hour and a half to two hours Keep basting with the sweet chilli sauce
To check the chicken is done either use a thermometer or check the juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife in the thigh.
Cut the potatoes in wedges and par boil for 10-15 minutes. Drain and give them a little shake to rough up the outsides. Preheat a roasting tray with a slug of oil, then spreads out the wedges and put in the barbecue or oven to cook and crisp up.
On Friday November 4th, the evening before Bonfire Night, we lit fires of our own at Knightor Winery to cook a Bonfire Feast. It was a fantastic evening and it felt like a great way to welcome winter – outside, around fires, with warming glasses of smokey mulled wine before retiring into the Winery barn to sit at long tables and share plates of seasonal food.
Here’s a gallery of some photos from the night, and for those of you who missed and it want to torture yourself, the menu that we served. If you’re interested in hosting a similar event this winter and you’d like to have us entertain and cook for your guests, or if you like the idea of your staff Christmas party looking like this, then drop us a line to discuss what we can do for you.
Smokey mulled wine ~0~ Autumnal canapés ~0~ Smoked pork shoulder, woodfired apples dauphinoise served with Knightor gravy and pangrattato Or Stuffed squash cooked over coals with pearl barley and cavalo nero salsa verde (vegan) ~0~ Knightor Vermouth polenta cake with smokey plum syrup and nut brittle with vanilla crème fraîche
At this time of year, lots of us are taking every opportunity that we can to cook outside, over fire. Unlike in your kitchen, where you turn on the stove and easily controllable heat just happens, cooking over fire involves you creating and managing your heat source, as well as cooking. That means selecting fuel, lighting a fire and tending it until it is at the right temperature to cook over. Most people barbecue over charcoal, although you may also use firewood to start or feed your fire. But not all charcoal is created equal. What’s the difference between different charcoals, and which is best?
What Is Charcoal?
Charcoal is wood that has been burned (or cooked) slowly in a kiln in the absence of oxygen, burning off the water and volatile compounds and leaving black carbonised material. Artists draw and sketch with it, and chefs cook over it. When you burn it again it burns as embers do, hot and pure, and holds an even heat for a long time. This makes it easier and more predictable to cook over than flames from a live fire.
Lumpwood Charcoal vs Briquettes
There are two types of charcoal that you can buy to barbecue with: lumpwood charcoal, and charcoal briquettes. Lumpwood looks like black and broken up bits of branches – it is still recognisable as something that was once wood. It is made from hardwoods (such as oak, ash or beech) and you can still recognise it as something that was once wood. It is pure, however less uniform in size and shape and it can burn faster and hotter. It can impart a woodsmoke flavour so you can treat it like an ingredient when cooking with it. Charcoal briquettes are manufactured using compacted charcoal sawdust, but made into uniform shapes (like small cakes). They often have other material or additives included to bind them together, to help them catch and burn, and to make sure that they burn at a steady rate. They are more predictable and can provide cooking heat for longer, but many chefs don’t like the fact that they have other ingredients that could potentially taint the flavour of their food. If you need predictable heat over a long period (if you’re cooking large cuts or joints of meat, for example) they can be a good option, and they’re a cheaper option too.
Where To Buy Charcoal
You can buy charcoal from supermarkets or even your nearest garage, but this will almost certainly be briquettes. Try to avoid the “ready to go” disposable barbecues or pre-pack bags, as most of these have additives to help them catch fire and burn faster and will almost certainly taint your food. Good quality briquettes will provide a reliable and even cooking temperature, and the heat will persist for long enough for you to cook over.
Restaurant quality lumpwood charcoal can be ordered directly from producers, and is well worth it if you’re serious about cooking over fire. I use Cornish Charcoal but you should be able to find a good producer local to you. Reputable producers will be using hardwood from well managed forests, and you can be confident in the provenance and quality of the product. None of us want to be cooking over the remains of virgin rainforest.
How To Cook With Charcoal
A hand-held charcoal chimney is a great bit of kit. Rather than starting your fire in your barbecue, you start it in the chimney and add charcoal. The chimney is designed to get a fire burning incredibly hot and incredibly quickly, and once your charcoal is glowing red hot you can tip it out into your barbecue or cooking base. If you need to add more coals later to prolong your cooking time or to expand your cooking area, use the chimney again so that you’re adding red hot embers to your cooking fire rather than messing with it by directly adding more fuel and introducing flames.
I won’t go into specifics like offset cooking or using specific hardwoods to smoke or flavour your food here – each of those warrant detailed articles of their own, and we cover these sorts of things in our woodfired cooking and asado cookery courses. Hopefully though, you’re now a little more knowledgeable about fuel for cooking outside and will be able to make an informed decision next time you’re preparing for a barbecue. Which will probably be this weekend, right?
It’s barbecue season (in fact, at the time of publishing, it’s the middle of National BBQ Week) and this is a must-make sauce for next time you’re cooking meat over a fire. Forget ketchup. This is the original. Chimichurri is an oil-based condiment from Argentina and Uruguay that is traditionally served with barbecued or grilled meats. It’s an essential element of our full-day Asado experience, but is a great sauce to make for any outdoor cooking occasion.
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt (plus more)
½ cup finely chopped coriander
¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped oregano
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Finely dice the shallot and garlic and add to a bowl. Season, and pour over half of the vinegar and let it sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, using a fork to whisk in the oil.
The short season for English asparagus is now underway, and because this incredible produce is only available for six weeks or so I’d encourage you to eat as much of it as you can whilst you have the chance!
This recipe makes a great light lunch and if you don’t have a lidded barbecue or don’t want to light a fire to cook over then you can also cook it in your kitchen under the grill. The main thing is that you cook it in a sealed or covered environment (such as a smoker or lidded barbecue) so that the steam and smoke can cook and flavour the asparagus and mozzarella.
With a long weekend coming up, it’s definitely time to dust off your barbecue if you haven’t already. Pick up a bunch of new season English asparagus and some good mozzarella, and treat yourself.
Bunch of English asparagus
2 balls of mozzarella
Good quality EV olive oil or rapeseed oil
Red wine vinegar or juice of one lemon
Pinch dried chilli flakes
Light your barbecue and allow the fire to burn down until you have a bed of hot coals.
Snap the woody ends off the asparagus spears (hold the bottom end and mid point and bend, and the spear will snap at the right place). Keep two back and place the rest of them on the grill.
Cook until beginning to char, then turn the asparagus spears over. Bunch them together on the grill and place the two balls of mozzarella on top of the asparagus, then place the lid on your barbecue (or cover with foil if you don’t have a lid). The idea is that the moisture steams the asparagus and mozzarella and it takes on a bit of the smokey flavour.
Use a speed peeler to peel the two reserved raw asparagus spears lengthways into strips.
Check after three minutes, and once the asparagus has charred on the other side and the mozzarella is starting to melt, use a spatula to remove it to a serving dish.
Place the peeled asparagus strips on top of the mozzarella.
Dress with a good slug each of olive or rapeseed oil, pomegranate molasses and red wine vinegar or lemon juice. If you like an element of heat then sprinkle over a pinch of dried chilli flakes.
You can serve this as it is, or with charred ice gem lettuce or on a piece of toasted focaccia. If you want to take yourself to dairy heaven then you could even spread cream cheese on the toasted focaccia before piling it high with your baked and burnt asparagus and mozzarella.