Carrots are one of those vegetables I’ve never felt particularly excited about. They’re essential as a sweet foundation in mirepoix, in stock and in one of my favourite cakes but I just feel generally quite bored by them. I do not often think of a carrot as a starting point to a dish and get excited.

And yet. There are ways of cooking carrots that make them more interesting and it will come as no surprise that I think they are best cooked over live fire. The real trick here though is marinating them. I let these sit overnight in a bath of olive oil, spices and garlic, although a few hours would be fine. They’re then grilled until tender and charred in places before meeting a plate of cold (so crucially cold!) strained yoghurt and some mustard seeds and curry leaves, made shiny and aromatic with hot butter.

We ate this with some grilled garlic and coriander naan – a recipe I’ve been working on. That was a complete meal really – no meat or fish necessary – and I never thought I’d be saying that about a plate of boring old carrots.

Grilled Marinated Carrots, Strained Yoghurt and Curry Leaves Recipe

500g carrots, peeled and cut into quarters lengthways
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed or grated
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 cardamon pods, crushed and seeds removed
4 tablespoons neutral oil e.g. groundnut

For serving

Strained yoghurt or other thick, cold yoghurt for serving (around 250g should do it)
A good knob of butter (about 25g), or ghee
Good handful fresh curry leaves
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant, then grind or crush to a powder with the cardamom seeds. Mix the spices with all the other ingredients for the carrot marinade in a dish large enough to hold the veg in a shallow layer.

Cook the carrots in boiling water for a few minutes, then drain. Add them to the marinade with some salt and mix well. Leave overnight or for a few hours.

Prepare the barbecue for direct cooking. Cook the carrots on it, until cooked through and lightly charred – around 15-20 minutes depending on size.

Spread the yoghurt onto a serving plate and top with the carrots. Melt the butter or ghee and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves – when the mustard seeds start to pop, pour the mixture over the carrots, sprinkle with some more salt, and serve.

Hello! Yes, I know, it’s been ages. I’ve had a change of job and I’m back in the kitchen developing recipes full-time, doing the odd bit of food writing on the side and of course, working on Pit. I couldn’t be happier because it just feels so right, plus I’ll have much more time to share recipes here.

Here’s something I made off the cuff last night which turned out really well, particularly considering it began with a lonely (albeit sunshine-yellow) courgette. With a potentially watery, flavourless vegetables like this the success of a recipe depends pretty much entirely on the cooking technique; treat it poorly and you will be punished. We’ve all had pallid courgette in an insipid ratatouille or squeaky aubergine in a hastily layered Melanzane Alla Parmigiana. One of my favourite ways to cook courgettes in the summer is to sling them right into the coals, or as we call it in the BBQ game: cooking ‘dirty’. This technique can be applied to lots of different vegetables (as with these tacos) or to steaks (where the direct heat and charcoal help to form a mega-crust).

You just lob the courgette in there whole once the coals are at regular cooking temperature (i.e. not flaming still) and in 10 minutes you have a vegetable that is cooked to varying degrees; charred in places on the outside, starting to collapse near the skin and just cooked through at the centre. Once chopped it’s useful as an ingredient in salsas, or just as a side dish on its own but I recommend you try it this way with yoghurt and pomegranate molasses.

This is best consumed when the courgette is still warm as it’s a pleasant contrast to the cold garlic-yoghurt. The juices also begin to seep out and mingle with the other flavours and if you don’t enjoy this scooped up with toasted bread then frankly we cannot be friends.

BBQ Courgette Meze with Yoghurt and Pomegranate Molasses Recipe

1 large courgette (no need to use a fancy yellow one)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
170g Greek yoghurt (I used one of those small Total brand tubs)
Olive oil
Pomegranate molasses
Turkish chilli flakes (pul biber)
Good flaky salt

This is very easy. When your coals are ready for cooking, put the courgette directly on them. Turn it every so often until blackened patches appear all over and it feels soft (but not falling apart) – around 10 minutes.

Mix the garlic with the yoghurt and spread onto a plate. Chop the courgette and place on top of the yoghurt. Drizzle with olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Sprinkle with good sea salt and the Turkish chilli flakes. Eat with fluffy Turkish bread (or pita, or charred sourdough at a push).

Coffee and Chipotle Short Ribs

This is the second of four recipes I created in partnership with Vitamix and Great British Chefs (that means they paid me to write ’em). 

I’ve been trying to think of something to say about these beef ribs other than that they taste really good and I can’t, really, because it’s Friday and my brain is frazzled. What do British people do when they don’t know what to say? They talk about the weather. So I’m going to say that these are perfect for the barbecue now it’s cooled down a bit, and we can all contemplate actually standing in front of a metal bucket full of hot coals. I’m very glad to see the back of that heat, quite frankly, and until we get air con you can keep your 30 degrees + thanks very much. There, that’ll do, won’t it?

Oh yes, I should say that this is a fantastic rub made by whizzing coffee beans and chipotle chillies together in the Vitamix. The idea here, apart from the fact that it tastes brilliant, is to show you that the Vitamix will blend up pretty much anything, including those notoriously hard to grind beanz.

This results in a smoky, sweet and spicy bark that’s different enough to make people ask you for the recipe. You could easily serve these as tacos with sour cream, some pink pickled onions, hot sauce, black beans and so on. Think something hot, something creamy, something spicy, something crunchy and fragrant, then yer meat = TOP TACO.

Coffee and Chipotle Rubbed Barbecue Short Ribs Recipe

1 rack of beef short ribs
2 tablespoons coffee beans
1 handful of dried chipotle chillies
1 tbsp of dark brown sugar
1 tbsp of salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Add the coffee beans, chillies and cumin seeds to the Vitamix and pulse on Variable 5 until you have a medium to coarse spice rub consistency

Rub the paste all over the ribs and leave to marinate 24 hours (this is an important length of time, do not reduce it because it will affect the final texture and moisture of meat)

When ready to cook, remove the tough membrane from the ribs (the meat-side, not the bone-side), and cook at around 105°C on offset heat in a barbecue or smoker. The length of time will depend on the thickness of the ribs and could take 5–8 hours.

BBQ Steak and Pineapple Tacos

I rarely get around to sharing the off-the-cuff recipes I cook day to day. Look, writing a blog is a lot of hard work; I know it might seem like I just sit down and bash out a few hundred words and take a quick snap and, yeah, ok, that’s sort of what happens but let me tell you that doing it for a solid ten years takes a fair bit of organisation.

Making things look appetising is a concern, of course, because no-one wants to see a photo of brown stew taken with flash at 9 pm on a Formica countertop, so that means pictures are off limits once natural daylight has waned. If you want to share a recipe, then you need to write down exactly what you used and what you did, either at the time or very shortly afterwards because trust me, you definitely won’t remember. All this before you’ve even considered whether or not the end result is worth sharing.

Grilled Pineapple

Nowadays, most recipes I cook work the first time around (that’s a benefit of years of messing stuff up, so I’ve earned my stripes) but for all the necessary elements to come together without any planning, well, it just doesn’t happen too often. Sometimes my camera is out of battery, or I have people round and don’t want to be in food blogger mode. Perhaps I just can’t be bothered (I KNOW).

Anyway, the point is I’m going to try and share more of these ‘everyday’ recipes and before you say, ‘OMG no-one eats like this every day’ let me say that, yeah, sometimes I just make a sandwich or a boiled egg but actually, quite often we do bash out a batch of tacos of a lunchtime and what of it? I’m not trying to show off here – I eat for a living. This is just what I do.

So. This lunch was completely unexpected – I was on my way home when I got a call from the BBQ Hotline which went something along the lines of, ‘I have a few hours I didn’t expect to have – let’s grill’ to which I replied, ‘pass dem tongs’ and the result was these tacos.

BBQ Rump Steak

We rushed up to Flock and Herd butchers in Peckham, bought a fine hunk o’ rump and rubbed it down with ground Pasilla and chilli de Arbol, blitzed cumin and coriander seeds. We grilled fat wedges of pineapple until blackened, chopped them up to reveal their juiciness and dusted them with Tajin – an excellent dried lime and chilli dust that is everywhere on tables in California and Mexico (do not fret – you can buy it online). We oiled and blistered spring onions, purchased scary-red Mexican Habanero hot sauce (mucho authentico), then stamped out some corn tacos, cooking them on a hot plate on the grill.

BBQ Steak and Pineapple Taco

It’s the grilled pineapple that makes these so good – the sweet fruit alongside the lime, grilled steak and searing bite of the Habanero is a killer combination (see also: grapefruit and mango). We ate the lot between us, alongside several cold beers and afterwards, snoozed on the sofa. The perfect, impromptu Saturday lunch.

BBQ Steak and Pineapple Tacos

1 x 600g rump steak
1 Pasilla chilli
2 Chilli de Arbol
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon sea salt

6 spring onions
1 pineapple
Tajin seasoning
Coriander, to serve
Habanero hot sauce, to serve
Shredded white cabbage dressed with a splash of good white wine vinegar and salt and scrunched with your hands, to serve (totally optional and just for a bit of crunch)

10 tacos – you can either buy these – corn tacos are available now online and in shops, or you can make them. We made them but we didn’t write down quantities and it’s not helpful to say ‘add water until the mixture feels right’. Recipes are abundant online – here is one on Kitchn and another on BBC Food.

Light your BBQ.

Grind the chillies and spices and mix with the salt. Rub all over the steak.

Peel the pineapple and cut into quarters lengthways. Remove the core then cut each quarter into long wedges. Grill this on the BBQ (as it is), then chop.

Trim the spring onions then rub them with a little oil. Season with salt and grill whole until charred. Chop.

Dust any excess rub off the steak then grill it to your liking on the BBQ. We like it medium rare as you can see. This is going to take around 8 minutes on the BBQ, flipping every minute or so.

Pile it all into tacos. This isn’t rocket science. Ice cold beers on the side work very nicely.

Jerk Octopus

It’s fair to say I’ve had a few disasters when it comes cooking octopus. People still say to me, in actual real life rather than just on the Internet, “OH MY GOD THE RED BAG THOUGH,” referring to the time I cooked one in a bag and it came out looking like someone’s blood donation. A friend said this less than a week ago, and the Octopus Red Bag Incident was in February 2013 – we are all still traumatised.

I was experimenting with sous vide at the time (yeah I know, but we all did it) and the octopus released its juices into the sous vide bag and I wasn’t aware that those juices are naturally quite red. Pulling that thing out was quite the shock and I was then too scared to eat it.

Suck up that flavour.

There have been other issues – mainly to do with getting the octopus tender, and you’ll come across various bits of advice. People will tell you to put a cork in the water when you’re cooking the octopus but don’t bother. I read somewhere that this myth probably comes from a time when they were cooked in huge tubs with corks and string tied to them – the cork would float and make the octopus easier to pull from the water.

Bay leaves and thyme soaking.

I buy a frozen octopus because it does seem to make a difference to the texture and they’re more readily available (though not cheap). I then cook it in a pan with a little water and its own juices – they release so much that it’s enough to simmer them without adding much else although of course, you can add red wine or whatever you like. Once its tender around the skirt (the bit where the tentacles join the head), you’re good to go.

Sizzlin'

So I wondered why no one ever seems to jerk octopus because – and I’m not even joking here – it tastes quite a lot like chicken. You can jerk seafood too of course and it just all made sense. Was there something I was missing? Well, no, is the answer. The only thing I was missing was jerk octopus in my life. Yeah, it’s a bit of effort but this magnificent creature is prime for a bit of jerkin’ – marinate as usual once it’s cooked, then crisp up those tentacles on the BBQ so they’re charred outside, tender on the inside… fabulous.

Jerk Octopus

We ate it with the most unashamedly 90’s rice salad and I’ve now decided I need to write about that separately. It has huge nostalgic significance for me. Here, then, is a recipe for jerked octopus. There are no sous vide bags, no corks, no shocks and hopefully no mental scarring.

Jerk Octopus Recipe

1.5kg octopus (doesn’t matter really though, the cooking method is so simple)
1.5 tablespoons allspice (freshly ground if you can – buy the berries and grind them)
50g dark packed brown sugar
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 bunch large spring onions (about 5)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 scotch bonnet chillies, deseeded
Juice of 2 large limes
1 teaspoon salt

Thaw the octopus and put it in a (lidded) saucepan large enough to fit it comfortably. Add some water until it comes halfway up the octopus. Bring it to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and cook very gently for 45 minutes to and hour, or until tender when you poke a knife in into the top of a tentacle (where they join the head).

Allow the octopus to cool, then remove the tentacles.

Blend all the marinade ingredients and combine with the octopus. Leave for a couple of hours in the fridge if you can.

Cook the octopus on a BBQ over direct heat – it won’t take long. With chicken I make a bed of bay leaves soaked in water to cook the chicken on but the octopus isn’t on there long so this time, I chucked them in the coals with some soaked thyme which makes lots of lovely, scented smoke. Cook the octopus, flipping frequently until a little charred, brushing every now and then with the marinade (remember: the octopus was cooked before it went in the marinade so there’s no need to worry about contamination).

Serve hot with your choice of sides.

Adana Kebabs

A few weeks back I was all geared up to tell you how I’ve been writing this blog for ten years. Ten years! I would tell the story of how it all started, reminiscing about the first post I wrote and what I’d cooked. There was even a special ‘anniversary’ recipe – further evidence that I’m a sentimental douche.

Then I realised that actually, I’ve only been going for nine years. Pathetic. I got it wrong and so you’ll have to wait to hear how I got into trouble with the council because I started a food blog. And no you can’t look up the post, clever clogs, because when I changed the design of this site the first time around, a load of stuff got lost, including that. I’m not even lying because I’m embarrassed and I don’t want you to read it, (if you want to find some terrible cringe-y old content on here then there’s plenty more to choose from).

You could make yours the same size.

So the new, celebratory recipe I’d been working on was a kebab, which possibly reveals that my first ever recipe on here was, too, of that nature. I feel like I started out strong and then maintained a stream of posts dominated by grilled meat, swearing, butter, hot sauce, BBQ and general mischief.

Brushing the Adana

Anyway, we’re not getting into all that until next year. What I’m doing now is giving you a bonus Adana kebab recipe because YOU’RE WORTH IT. This is Donald’s recipe for kebabs, which is annoying because it’s better than the one I made and then published in my book. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? The recipe in my book is still great, FYI, it’s just that you know, recipes evolve and all that. This Adana is so much more an Adana for ‘right now’. It understands me in a way that no other Adana does. It’s not the old Adana’s fault, it’s mine etc. etc.

You want all the kebab juices to soak into your bread.

The reason they’re so good is partly down to the spice mix, partly down to the cooking method. They’re not even really proper Adana, that’s just what we call them because they’re spicy and made with lamb.

The smacked cucumbers

The other great thing here is the side salad, which takes the method of Sichuan smacked cucumbers but uses flavours more appropriate for Turkish kebabs. So it’s got loads of garlic as usual but also sumac and Turkish chilli and it might even be my new favourite summer salad. So there.

I recommend grilling some onions and chilies to serve on the side.

You’ll cook these kebabs on the BBQ, obviously, and eat them with flatbreads and yoghurt while you practice counting to ten. It’s surprisingly easy to get rusty.

Donald’s Not-Adana Kebabs Recipe

*** THIS IS NOTHING LIKE A TRADITIONAL ADANA KEBAB, RECIPE IT WAS JUST INSPIRED BY ONE***

For the spice mix

2-inch cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
4 dried red chillies
6 cardamom pods
20 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sea salt

Bash the cinnamon stick a bit then grind the whole lot in a spice grinder.

For the basting sauce

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sumac
2 teaspoons Urfa (Turkish) chilli flakes
2 teaspoons sea salt
A grind of black pepper

Mix it all together.

For the kebabs

750g minced lamb
2 red chillies, de-seeded
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Generous handful parsley leaves, chopped
1.5 tablespoons spice mix (above)

Mix everything together and knead it really well with your hands – about 5 minutes. This is important for the texture of the kebabs so don’t skip it. Divide into six portions (or whatever your skewers will allow) and shape into logs. Thread skewers into the logs. It’s best to use flat, wide skewers here or you risk the kebabs falling off. If yours are quite round, use two per kebab.

Leave to rest in the fridge for an hour or so. Prepare a BBQ with the coals to one side – it’s best to cook them to one side because otherwise the fat will drip and make the BBQ flare up, burning your kebabs.

Cook the kebabs on the cooler side of the BBQ, basting frequently with the sauce and turning until cooked through – around 10-15 minutes. Towards the end of cooking time, lay the flatbreads on top of the kebabs to get some smoke flavour into them and heat them through. Serve the kebabs on top of the breads so the juices run into them.

To serve

Flatbreads
Yoghurt
Cucumber salad (below)
A skewer each of onion slices and chillies (brush with oil and grill on the BBQ while the kebabs are cooking)

Turkish Smacked Cucumbers

2 of those small cucumbers you get in Middle Eastern grocers or one large English cucumber
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Urfa chilli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar (we used ‘grape vinegar’ from the Turkish supermarket but use red wine vinegar (same thing?!), cider vinegar, whatever)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Halve the cucumbers then place them seed side down on a chopping board. Smack them with the side of a cleaver or something else until they’re smashed a bit. Chop into 2cm lengths and mix with all the other ingredients.

Grilled cauliflower with labneh, dukkah and eggs

Holy shit.

I’ve just come back from the hospital where I was referred for an examination of my ribs and chest because I stacked it in a pub over the weekend. Had I been drinking? Alright yes, but goddamn it if people shouldn’t just level out tricksy little steps in pubs, particularly if they’re potentially in front of someone carrying a pint of lager and a slice of coffee and walnut cake (not natural bedfellows, you say? Whatever). I fell onto my chest with a great thwack, the wind left me, the world spun and when I got up I realised I had cake in my hair.

Cue hanging over the sink in the ladies loo washing my barnet, which then had to be dried under the hand dryer until it was just the right level of post-electrocution frizz. I sheepishly returned to the garden to find a fresh slice of cake and a pint gifted by pub because I assume they could tell I was just unlucky and not a terrible drunken heathen.

Parsley salad with pomegranate molasses.

I am clumsy, though. No denying it. Two weeks earlier I went arse over tit when exiting the tube station at South Wimbledon, not even realising it was happening until I was on the floor watching my shoe spin through the air behind me. A stranger ran out into the road to retrieve it and I dusted myself off and then ten minutes later came over all shaky and had to be placated with at least three ice-cold beers in quick succession.

I was going to say it’s a wonder I don’t hurt myself in the kitchen more often (TOUCH WOOD), which would at least have provided some kind of link into this recipe but then I remembered The Great Sprout Water Burn of Christmas 2014 and that was the end of that.

Dukkah = squirrel crack.

So now this is an unrelated recipe for grilled cauliflower but whatever. It’s very good. Do you remember when cauli was in danger of not being eaten anymore? It was like, ten years ago or something and all the farmers said they weren’t going to grow it because no one was bothered. Along came people like Ottolenghi getting all spicy on its ass and hey presto, cauli problem solved. It does take strong flavours well, and also it likes a bit of grilling. Combine the two and what have you got? Well, just about every side dish in every vaguely Middle Eastern restaurant in London right now is what.

So here’s my two penneth. You can smother the cauli in any spices you want really, so long as they, you know, go with cauliflower. Cumin, paprika, coriander seed, that kind of thing. I kept it simple, then blobbed thick, cool labneh here and there, topping with dukkah – that’s just a mix of nuts, seeds, spices and salt but together = squirrel crack. Eggs give the dish richness and also make it more filling but if you don’t want them then – wait for it – leave them out.

Grilled Cauliflower

The salad is a herby arrangement with radishes, olive oil and pom molasses squizzled on top. Pitta on the side and plenty of extra dukkah cause you won’t be able to get enough of it. I’d like to take the credit for the dukkah as it’s the best ever but I can’t, Donald made it. I’m scared that if I don’t tell you karma will catch up with me and I’ll accidentally drop a brick on my toe at the next opportunity.

Grilled Cauliflower with Labneh, Dukkah and Eggs

For the dukkah (do not ask me why he did this in cups. It’s probably because we just bought some new ones)

1 cup mixed hazelnuts, pistachios and pine nuts
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup cumin
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup Maldon salt (or other good sea salt)
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon ras el hanout

Toast the nuts and sesame seeds in a dry pan or oven. Bash up the seeds and nuts a bit until they resemble the picture above. Mix everything together.

For the cauliflower

1 small cauliflower
1 tablespoon vegetable or groundnut oil
1 heaped teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon grape molasses (you could also use date molasses, which is sweeter, or pomegranate molasses, which is more sour)
Hard boiled eggs (however many you want, I did three). I cook mine from cold then when the water starts boiling time 6 minutes – this way you get a slightly squidgy centre.
Labneh (strained yoghurt, I tell you how to make it here or buy it in a shop like the Turkish Food Centre)

Salad and toasted pitta, to serve

Prepare your BBQ for direct grilling.

Trim the cauliflower and cut it into thick ‘steaks’. I had a small cauli which only yielded two steaks – you don’t really want it any thinner as the florets will break apart. Rub them with the oil, paprika and grape molasses and season with salt and pepper. When the BBQ is ready, cook them for around 5 minutes each side or until tender.

Serve the cauliflower steaks with dollops of labneh, dukkah, hard boiled eggs and salad.

BBQ Stuffed squid with prawns and herbs

This is the third in a series of recipes I wrote for the Wine Trust 100 website, which I’ve been posting here too because, why not? I’ve also made Roman style lamb with caponata and crab fried rice

The wonderful thing about the British weather is that we can definitely define the seasons, from April showers through to rusty autumn leaves and the bare-naked chill of winter. When summer comes around though, anything goes. One minute you’re sitting on a roof terrace hosing back Tinto de Verano like nobody’s business, the next a wave of thick blue-black cloud has moved over, and you’re setting up a brolly over the BBQ. Yes, I have actually done that (the brolly stank so much of smoke that it was unusable afterwards).

There’s a certain element of risk to the British BBQ then, but that doesn’t mean we have to be boring with our choice of what goes on it. I feel that the image of the sweaty red Brit serving up raw sausages is a little unfair nowadays, but I certainly do see the same dishes on rotation throughout the summer, notably cous cous salads and really bad pulled pork. There’s a dangerous pulled pork obsession gripping the nation, the problem being that no one knows how to cook it properly, and we end up gumming pappy buns of cotton wool textured meat doused in BBQ sauce. Stop.

As much as I adore (properly) slow-cooked meat, there’s a lot to be said for seafood on the grill. Squid is cheap and easy to cook yet, as far as I can tell, rarely used. I love to stuff them, and make many variations on the filling, including one with Thai flavours like lemongrass and lime leaves, and another with chorizo-led Spanish vibes. Here I’ve gone light and fresh with prawns and soft herbs, which matches the salty and crisp Assyrtiko beautifully. It’s the main grape variety from the island of Santorini and I’ve long thought it underrated. Lean and super mineral-y these wines cry out like gulls for grilled seafood.

The idea when cooking this dish is to channel a mahogany-skinned Greek, expertly tending the BBQ on the white-painted terrace of his island home, overlooking the glittering turquoise Aegean.

BBQ Stuffed Squid with Prawns and Herbs (matched with 2014 Assyrtiko, Wild Ferment, Gaia)

8 small squid, cleaned and prepared (if you have the tentacles too you can grill these separately, they will crisp up beautifully, or chop them up and add them to the filling mix)

150g cooked prawns, finely chopped
1 handful chives, finely chopped (save a little for garnish)
1 handful parsley leaves, finely chopped (save a little for garnish)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Zest 1 lemon
Oil, like vegetable or groundnut
Lemon, halved, to serve

You will also need cocktail sticks, for securing the squid.

Mix the prawns, herbs, garlic, lemon zest and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Stuff the mixture into the squid, taking care not to over-stuff (as they will shrink during cooking). Secure each with a cocktail stick.

Rub the squid with oil and season lightly, then grill until golden (this will take around 5 minutes or so on each side, but will depend on the size of the squid).
At the same time, cut the lemon in half and grill until caramelised.

Ensure the squid are piping hot throughout and serve with the caramelised lemons.

Spiced Lamb Chops

I wanted to call these ‘sexy chops’ but then realised that would make me sound like an idiot. They are, though, and they fall into the category of crusty, charred, heavily flavoured chops, which are clearly better than the soft, wobbly, rare kind, all trimmed up as a rack with silly hats on. Worse = ‘lollipops’ (urgh). Last time I ate a lollipop it was a gaudy pink marble that got stuck in my hair when the wind changed direction.

Anyway, it’s not cool to call foods ‘sexy’ just like it’s not cool anymore to bang on about how good the lamb chops are at London’s Pakistani restaurant Tayyabs, because it’s just something that everyone here knows. The reasons they’re so good are three: they’re bashed out very thin, they’re marinated in an intense paste, and they’re cooked hot and fast. So flame + heavy spicing = top chops. That was my model for this recipe.

Lamb Chops Raw

These are D’s speciality, really. He cooks them a lot and I mean like, once a week in the summer. The basic idea is that you get a load of spices, chuck them into a grinder then lube up the mixture with a sloosh of oil. It makes a sort of slurry which you can then slap about with the chops. The hot fat crisps up with the spices to make a coating that will have you sucking the bones clean, chucking them over your shoulder and reeling off lines from Game of Thrones.

Will the spices burn? No, they won’t because you’re going to bash the meat out nice and thin, then cook it offset on the BBQ. This means the chops cook but the spices don’t burn and the fat doesn’t drip onto the coals creating a massive fireball bucket in your garden.

Lamb Chops and Salad

I also recommend making the garlic + pom molasses + yoghurt dressing with grilled lettuce as it’s killer with the chops. Sexy, even.

Seriously Good Spiced Lamb Chops

10 small lamb chops (we used middle neck)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 black cardamom pods, seeds removed and husks discarded
2 teaspoons Urfa chilli flakes
2 teaspoons regular chilli flakes
1 cinnamon stick
Salt
Olive oil

Grind the spices and mix in some salt. Slosh a bit of oil on the chops then rub the mixture all over them. Cook offset on the BBQ (e.g. the coals are on one side, the chops on the other). Done.

Grilled Lettuce Salad

2 baby gem lettuces
4 tablespoons yoghurt
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
Small handful mint leaves, chopped
Small handful parsley leaves, chopped
Salt
Olive oil

Mix all the ingredients apart from the lettuces. Season. Quarter the lettuces lengthways and rub with oil. Cook on the BBQ until lightly charred then dollop the dressing on top. Serve.

Lahmacun

For years I was obsessed with the idea of visiting Istanbul, poring over travel guides, eyeballing flight costs and dreaming of balmy evenings plinking ice into Raki while sucking up the scent of grilled meat. Then, suddenly, I realised everyone else had been doing the same thing. Istanbul was the hot new destination and I found myself flat broke and sad as I watched other people taking my trip of a lifetime.

Finally, I made it there but it was stressful because I’d over-planned and was constantly worried about missing out. It didn’t help that we’d booked a cheap hotel, which turned out to be a grotty room with child-sized beds in opposite corners and a wet room with a shower over the toilet. The loo roll dispensers had holes in so if you forgot to cover them the paper got soaked and the only in-hotel refreshment option was a fridge downstairs full of soft drinks. LOL.

Anyway, we relaxed into it (read: drank a shitload of Raki) and so it was a good holiday. Has Urfa Lahmacun was one of the places we stumbled across when I stopped being an unbearable bore who wanged on about a spreadsheet full of restaurants and decided to just explore and have fun. It was the best lahmacun we tried on the trip by a long stretch and we made pals with the chef who added us both on Facebook before we’d even got back to the ‘hotel’.

Lahmacun

So I decided to make lahmacun because I still think about the ones I ate on that trip, although they’re becoming much easier to find now in areas of London that are not Green Lanes. It’s pronounced lah-ma-jun and is basically a thin circle of dough spread with a spiced lamb topping, cooked very quickly in a wood-fired oven. The topping of meat should be quite sparse really, more of a seasoning than a crust and the dough should be crisp on the bottom. The way to eat them is to roll them up with a salad of fresh herbs, tomatoes, and pickles and scoff em quick, washing down with glugs of Efes.

I’ve cooked mine on the plate of my Big Green Egg, but this is by no means necessary. It gets a super crisp base due to the fact that it gets very hot but you can of course just cook them in the oven, on a baking tray or a pizza stone if you have such fanciful kitchen wizardry. Just make them, is my advice, and make a lot, because one is never enough.

Also, hotels are expensive in Istanbul so get an Air BnB or just suck it up, otherwise, you will suffer. Trust me.

BBQ Lahmacun Recipe

(makes 4 large)

For the dough:

1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
150ml warm water
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2.5 tablespoons olive oil

For the red pepper paste:

You can buy this stuff in Turkish grocers here but it always tastes very bitter and not much else – nothing like the stuff I tried in Turkey. 

3 red peppers
3 red finger chillies (the regular kind you find in supermarkets)
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

For the topping:

1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 onion
2 tomatoes
Handful coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons Urfa chilli (find it in Turkish grocers or online)
1.5 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon regular chilli flakes
200g minced lamb

Mix the yeast and sugar with the warm water. You want warm water, not hot. Leave it to one side to activate. When it’s ready (in about 5 minutes), it should be very frothy on top. If not, your water wasn’t warm enough or it was too hot – start again.

Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and oil. If using a mixer, set it on low speed for 10 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic dough. If mixing my hand, you’re going to have to knead it until you have the same result.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Let it rise for about half an hour, or until doubled in size.

Char the peppers and chillies over an open gas flame (e.g. on the hob or under a hot grill if you prefer), until blackened. Allow to cool a little and remove the skin and seeds. Chop very finely and mix with the salt and lemon juice. Set aside.

To make the topping, blend the peppers, onion, tomatoes and coriander then drain into a sieve on a bowl for at least half an hour. Mix with the rest of the topping ingredients, five tablespoons of the red pepper paste and a little salt.

Knock back the dough then cut into 4 pieces. Roll out as thin as you can manage, then top each with a portion of the lamb mix, spreading it right to the edges. You want to top each as they’re cooking, i.e. don’t leave them sitting around with the topping on the dough as they will go gross. They’ll cook on a BBQ in several minutes using a plate. If you want to cook them in the oven, do so at 220C for about 10 minutes (that’s a guess, keep an eye on them).

Serve with lemon wedges, a salad of herbs like parsley and mint, tomatoes and pickles. I made some quick pickled onions with one sliced onion, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and a pinch of salt.

Sticky Rum and Scotch Bonnet Chicken Wings

I’m always thinking about the next thing I can sling on the BBQ. This weekend I fancied flavours of the Caribbean and my thoughts, naturally, turned to RUM. I used that as a boozy base for a marinade, then added a mixture of marmalade and honey, which caramelised on the grill and gave the stickiness I was after. Lime juice provided astringency, garlic and thyme fragrance and a scotch bonnet chilli, proper heat. A hint of allspice muddled nicely with the rum.

After playing around with a few variations, I’ve arrived at this recipe which makes a rather sexy pile of wings. The depth of a pirate-sized slug of Captain Morgan, sweet fruit, lip-tingling heat. Mmmm. Wings are excellent on the BBQ as they’re cheap, have a lot of surface area to hold marinade and they cook quickly, so you can get them nice and charred outside and juicy within.

I served this with a bowl of pineapple salsa, which compliments the booze, and a large kitchen roll. Sticky…

Sticky Rum and Scotch Bonnet Chicken Wings

(makes enough marinade for 10 wings)

10 chicken wings

2 tablespoons runny honey
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
A thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
50ml dark rum (I used Captain Morgan)
Zest and juice of 1 large lime plus 1 more for serving
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 scotch bonnet, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, stirring until well mixed and the marmalade is no longer lumpy. Pour about 3/4 of the marinade over the wings, mix to make sure they are well coated then cover and refrigerate overnight. During the day time, try and move the wings around in the marinade a few times if you can, it helps to get them nicely coated.

Preheat your BBQ and cook the wings, turning them often and brushing regularly with the remaining 1/4 of the marinade. Do this until all the marinade is gone, the wings are sticky, charred and cooked through.

Grilled Aubergines with Tahini Sauce

Nearing the end of  The Big Lunch* cook-off, we found ourselves flagging; we’d been cooking for 10 hours straight, only pausing to open the odd beer. There were plans for an aubergine galette and I’d toyed with the idea of baba ganoush but when it came down to it, a super quick and simple recipe was needed. I’d made this a few weeks earlier; the cool, sesame-laced yoghurt lifts the meaty aubergine into salad territory – perfect for a hot summer’s day.

It disappeared quickly at the lunch, with one guest declaring it “one of the best pieces of aubergine” he’s ever eaten. It’s the kind of dish you bust out at a BBQ; minimal effort, looks pretty and much more interesting than your average salad. You could even grill the slices on the BBQ first for extra smoky flavour.

Grilled Aubergines with Yoghurt-tahini Sauce

Will serve four people as part of a BBQ or with other salads

2 very large aubergines, sliced into 2cm thick slices

500g full-fat Greek yoghurt
3-4 tablespoons tahini paste (or to taste)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
A handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
A handful of coriander or parsley leaves (or both) finely chopped
Olive oil, for grilling

Begin my brushing the aubergine slices with oil and seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Either grill them for 5-10 minutes each side under a hot grill or do the same on a BBQ – they should be golden brown and slightly shrivelled.

While this is happening, mix the yoghurt, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and herbs (reserving a few herbs for garnish) together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and adjust any of the ingredients as you see fit (you may like more tahini for example). If you feel the dressing is too sour, I find a pinch of sugar never hurts. Don’t feel guilty.

When the aubergines are ready, arrange them on a plate and drizzle over some of the yoghurt sauce. Scatter with more herbs and add an extra drizzle of olive oil if you fancy it.

* The donations have continued to trickle in and so in addition to the £200 odd raised on the day, there’s another £115 plus Gift Aid on the Just Giving Page. Thanks so much to everyone who donated.