1.19.2011

Curtis Stone's barbie guide

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THE thing I love about a barbie," says celebrity chef Curtis Stone, "is there's no bloody mess. And if you do a bit of preparation and get ready all the stuff you need, including a cold beer, there's nothing simpler."

For Curtis, who has two barbecues including an Argentinean coal-fired barbie there are a few easy rules to stick to. And he reckons any food at all can be suitable for the barbie, even notoriously tricky items such as shellfish.

SEVEN EASY STEPS

1 Clean your barbie: "It needs a good scrub because there's nothing worse than a dirty barbie," Curtis says.

2 Don't grill cold meat: "I have seen people using very cold meat and using frozen meat on the barbie, which is even worse," he says.

"Really, you want to have your meat at room temperature when you cook it.

"Take it out of the fridge about half an hour before you are ready to use it. Then, when you cook it, it will stay nice and pink in the centre."

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3 Consider using a meat rub or marinade:

"I like to season the meat before I use it," Curtis says.

"I usually use just salt and pepper but you can also do a dry rub mix. If you like a bit of spice, you can make a mixture out of cayenne pepper, cumin, fennel and coriander seeds and add a bit of tumeric for a bit of extra Indian flavour."

4 Cook steak on a very hot plate: "You want that nice sear on it that beautiful caramelisation on the outside which subtly increases the sweetness of the meat," Curtis says.

"If you have a thin steak, cook it very quickly on that high heat. If you have a thicker piece, I'd sear it on both sides, then move it to a cooler part of the barbecue and leave it there for a few minutes."

5 Rest the meat: "Once you take the meat off the heat, then you have to let it rest," Curtis says. "The basic rule is that you need to rest your meat for half the time it took to cook it.

"So if you cooked it for 7 minutes, you'll need to rest it for 3 1/2 minutes. It will still carry on cooking during this time."

6 Don't be afraid to barbecue fish or shellfish: "How you cook fish depends on the thickness of the fillet, but I tend to wrap it up or put it into foil and close the hood of the barbie so it cooks in that ambient heat," Curtis says. "I also put in a bit of liquid into the parcel, like white wine or soy sauce, to help the cooking.

"Clams and mussels are great like this. I put them into foil and let them steam open.

"The great thing about them is they tell you when they're done: As soon as they're open, they're ready.

"You can even do a lobster. When I did one for Oprah (on Hamilton Island recently) I poached it in water for about 3 minutes at about 70C, just below boiling, then I cut them in half, took the meat out, put them back in and lay them flat on the barbie."

7 Have your sides ready: "Think about everything you're going to need, like your salads, your knives and forks, sauces and dressings before you go outside," Curtis says.

"I love how the men stand around cooking the barbie while the women have done all the work beforehand doing the marinade and making the salads and then everybody says, 'what a great barbie' to the guy cooking. A barbecue is just the ultimate blokes' pastime, isn't it?"

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Steak cuts such as beef fillet, rib eye, sirloin, T-bone and rump and lamb steaks, fillet, eye of loin, loin chops and lamb cutlets are perfect to barbecue, as they don't need much cooking to get the best results.

Cook sausages over a low, gentle heat this ensures the sausage is cooked through, with a nice browned skin. Or poach them first to cook through, then finish on the barbecue to caramelise.

Use scissors to remove the backbone of a chicken and flatten with your hands. Use metal skewers in a cross pattern, going through the drumstick to the wing on the opposite side. Brown chicken on both sides on the direct heat of the grill. Transfer to a foil tray and cook over indirect heat with the hood closed.

If you have a hooded barbie you can roast a whole chicken. Place the bird in a foil tray, put lemon slices and herbs in the cavity, place over indirect heat and shut hood.

Cook lamb or pork roasts slowly, over indirect, low heat with the hood closed.

Fish is great on the barbecue. Buy cleaned, scaled snapper and rinse under cold, running water to remove any blood which can make it bitter. Dry with paper towel. Cut 1cm-deep, long slashes in the thickest flesh. Drizzle with oil and lemon juice and place on foil. Cook over direct heat for 6-8 minutes each side or until the flesh looks opaque when tested with a fork.

BARBECUE ESSENTIALS

Apron

Tongs

Wire brush

Meat thermometer

Foil trays

with Sarah Hobbs

EASY MARINADES & RUBS
Full of flavour: There's a marinade to suit whatever protein you fancy.

ASIAN MARINADE COMBINE 1 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp lime juice, 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 cup peanut oil, 2 shredded kaffir lime leaves, 1 stem finely chopped lemongrass. Use

this marinade with beef, chicken or seafood.

SPICED YOGHURT HEAT a small frypan over low heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add 1 chopped brown onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tsp finely grated ginger and stir until onion is soft. Add 2 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and paprika. Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl and add

2 tsp garam masala, 1/2 cup natural yoghurt and 2 tbsp lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. This is an ideal marinade for lamb cutlets, chicken thighs or prawns.

CHERMOULA IN a food processor, combine 1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and paprika, 1 brown onion, chopped, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, 2 tbsp chopped parsley, 2 tbsp coriander and 2 tbsp olive oil. Process until fine. Rub on steaks, lamb cutlets, chicken or fish before barbecuing.

RED WINE MARINADE COMBINE 1/2 cup dry red wine, 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tbsp coarsely chopped thyme and 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard in a glass or ceramic bowl. Great for beef or lamb.

PORTUGUESE MARINADE COMBINE 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 tbsp smoked paprika, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 long fresh chilli, seeded and finely chopped, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 tsp sea salt. Perfect for chicken or prawns.

HONEY & SOY MARINADE COMBINE 1/2 cup light soy sauce, 1/2 cup honey, 1 tbsp finely grated ginger, 1/2 cup peanut oil, 2 finely chopped green onions, 1 tsp sesame oil. Goes well with chicken, lamb cutlets or salmon steaks. Before serving, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

NEED A DRINK WITH THAT

THE barbecue has evolved considerably from its days as a pile of charred, red meats and daggy snags.

It can travel across so many cultural variations of flavour and spice, via a full pantry of meat, seafood and many vegetables.

So the old idea of stocking just a simple, quaffing red to cover every taste around the table is now defunct.

Tuna, for instance, is a medium-weight fish that can handle heavier white wine varieties like viognier and good chardonnay, as well as lighter red styles from pinot noir, grenache/shiraz blends and a range of roses from, say, sangiovese, tempranillo and pinot.

And remember, if you're outside, there will be plenty of sensory distractions already around you, so go for a wine with plenty of flavour rather than a subtle beauty that requires too much thinking time.

For the burger, a wilful sangiovese with an aromatic lift of garden herbs think thyme and oregano and similarly a grenache, shiraz, mataro blend will suit a hands-on approach to eating. There's a chance a bit of black-tea-like tannin in the wine will soften, too, in concert with the red meat and savoury elements.

And check the spice/chilli/citrus wow in the pork (recipe on p4) a dash of equatorial flavour from right around the globe. Try a wine with its own zing to match a crisp and refreshing riesling is the go, and ask not just for a dry style. There are some very smart off-dry, just-sweet styles around now and they would really suit the spice and saltier elements of this final dish.

Knowing enough about to make solid, informed choices cuts down on the fear factor. If you apply what you've just learned about , you should have nothing to worry about.

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