The weekend ahead looks set to be a scorcher. In our home a barbecue generally replaces a Sunday roast when the weather permits. When we do have a BBQ, my carnivore husband goes mad and wants to cook at least 3 different meats… This doesn’t appeal to me. I mean at no other time would you pile your plate with so much blackened animal flesh! At least it provides we with an excuse to invite friends or family to join us (how else are we going to get through all that meat???)
It’s the only time my hubby ever really does any cooking and of course he makes a big deal of it, expecting a huge amount of praise for serving up decimated pieces of foodstuff. Meanwhile I of course, spend my time preparing and marinating, running between the BBQ and the oven to keep it all warm, setting the table, assembling the accompaniments and of course clearing it all away afterwards because he has done all the cooking!! …Sound familiar?
Despite the above moans, I do enjoy everything else that a BBQ calls for: a cold beer or chilled glass of rosé; nibbles whilst you wait; music on full blast; the kids and dog running around the garden; fairy lights and citronella candles as the sun goes down; and toasted marshmallows. However, I am not a fan of charcoaled meat… it’s the sides that get my mouth watering! I’ll take one piece of meat, as a token, but pile my plate with a variety of sides and salads – and I’m not talking about a few lettuce leaves, but proper hearty and interesting dishes.
I love concocting different types of salads and experimenting with ingredients. My current, go-to BBQ accompaniments are a homemade coleslaw, a sweet potato bake, a pesto pasta (see my pesto recipe here) and a bulgur wheat salad. Here’s a couple of recipes you might like to try this weekend:
Sweet potato bake
For this, I adapted a recipe from Tomasina Myers’ Mexican Food At Home cook book, because I basically didn’t have all the ingredients in my cupboard. Layering slices of sweet potato and red onion and baking with a feta cheese and chilli stock results in a creamy, sweet but spicy take on the traditional dauphinoise potatoes dish. Everyone I’ve served it to has loved it – except my kids who surprisingly don’t like sweet potatoes.
Method: slice the potatoes thinly and layer in a baking dish with thin slices of red pepper. Make about 750ml of chicken stock and use half the fluid to blend with a pack of feta cheese, some mixed herbs and a couple of teaspoons of lazy chills (I blend in the NutriBullet). Combine the blended cheese mixture with the remaining stock and pour over the potato layers. Bake, covered with foil, until soft for around 45mins, remove the foil to bake for a final 10-15 mins.
Bulgur wheat salad
I prefer bulgur wheat to cous cous as the grains are bigger and more nuttier, but this salad works just as well with cous cous. I created this dish in an attempt to replicate the pots of Moroccan cous cous you find in supermarkets, which are tasty but too sweet. I use dried dates and cumin seeds to create a Moroccan-ish flavour.
Method: I have tried several ways to cook bulgur wheat and more than once I have ended up with a bowl of mush… simply pouring over hot chicken stock (2 parts water to 1 part uncooked grains) and covering with cling film for a least 15mins, produces the best results. Whilst the bulgur wheat is cooking, cover the dried dates in water and microwave for 2mins to soften, then blend in a NutriBullet or other food processor. To assemble the dish, first fork the cooked bulgur wheat to separate the grains then add the blended date mixture, crushed cumin seeds, some roasted peppers, chopped olives, lemon juice, flat-leaf parsley, crumbled feta, a good dash of olive oil and salt & pepper to taste.