& COOKING ARTICLE
the weather is fine, there is nothing quite like having
a barbecue and eating al fresco, everything seems to
taste better and cooking outdoors is a real pleasure.
the UK however, Andalucia basks in over three thousand
hours of sunshine a year which means that cooking on
the barbecue, whether just for yourself or for family
and friends, is almost an everyday occurrence.
fact during the summer months, many people rarely cook
indoors and extensive outdoor summer kitchens are a
feature of many gardens and patios.
in December, we regularly eat outdoors at lunchtime,
you need a jumper or two but the warm winter sun and
clear bright blue skies are just so inviting.
cooking in Andalucia is very different to the typical
Bank Holiday affair in the UK with Dads serving up burnt
black sausages, which are a little too pink in the middle.
There are no gas barbecues and we never, ever put things
in the oven to keep warm!
design of barbecues you can see varies hugely, a few
people buy theirs but most people prefer to have them
built or they build their own and these are the most
interesting. They range from simple functional ones
built out of brick, rustic style ones like ours made
out of stone, which we just made up as we went along.
There are lovely smooth sculpted ones with high chimneys
that seem to blend in to the surrounding area. Of course
there are the more professional ones with different
levelled grills and two compartments either back to
back so wind direction doesn't matter, or side by side.
Both of these 'double' style barbecues allow you to
cook different things at once such as meat on one side
and vegetables on the other, or you can transfer the
hot coals from one side to the other as they become
ready so that you always have a constant supply of the
perfect 'brasa.' Whichever style you see they are always
big enough to take a large paella pan which is very
key to a perfect barbecue is of course, the brasa or
hot coals. To get it just right the fuel of choice is
wood, a mixture of pine and olive or almond. Charcoal
is almost never used. The use of natural wood means
you get lovely chunks of hot glowing red coals that
give off just the right amount of heat. The added advantage
to using olive or almond wood is that the food produced
is slightly smoky in flavour with earthy hints and if
you add some rosemary or thyme to the wood the smell
and taste is naturally herby and delicate.
can sometimes take up to two hours to get the brasa
just right but that gives you enough time to have an
aperitif or a few tapas with friends while you wait.
barbecue cooking conjures up images of burgers and sausages
which are black on the outside and raw in the middle
but that needn't be the case at all. Here in Andalucia,
the people have a passion for outdoor life, healthy
eating and social occasions so the typical food of Andalucian
barbecues is always fresh, exciting and varied. Almost
anything can be cooked outdoors and in true Andalucian
style family and friends get together to prepare a variety
of dishes rich in colour and flavour to create a perfect
atmosphere every time.
doesn't mean however, that you need to splash out on
expensive ingredients, quite the contrary in fact. People
here are experts at creating delicious dishes using
fresh local produce at very little cost.
chicken is a favourite and it is much more economical
to buy a whole chicken and get your butcher to joint
it for you which is what the locals here usually do.
A typical way to barbecue chicken here is once you have
all the separate cuts, marinade the pieces in lemon
juice, olive oil, garlic and thyme for a couple of hours.
The marinade, as well as producing a lovely flavour,
helps keep the meat moist during cooking and if you
keep the cuts small it takes hardly any time which avoids
burnt outsides and raw centres.
popular marinades for meat are honey and lemon or mustard
and orange. However, nothing beats a pork or lamb chop
or sausages and burgers simply cooked on the barbecue.
Chops are generally cut really thin in Andalucia that
means quick cooking and things don't get burnt. A favourite
way to barbecue sausages is to roll them up and then
skewer straight through with a sprig of rosemary or
thyme for natural sausage skewers.
close to the coast, fish is obviously a favourite barbecue
dish and everything from quick seared sardines or prawns
to fresh tuna steaks are cooked on the barbecue. Tuna
stuffed with mint, wrapped in foil is a lovely treat
but my favourites by far have to be gambas al pil-pil
and the Spanish paella, either the seafood or rabbit
and chicken varieties, which can all be cooked on the
the barbecue doesn't have to mean meat or fish with
a side salad, many vegetable dishes can be prepared
the same way as meat dishes. Baked potatoes are lovely
cooked in the hot embers of your barbecue and if you
put some olive oil, thyme and garlic in before cooking
they are simply delicious. Vegetable kebabs are an obvious
favourite too and if you have some good cazuelas you
can do garlic mushrooms in olive oil, which are prepared
in a similar way to gambas al pil-pil.
typical vegetable dish eaten especially in the summer
is 'escalibada' which is tomatoes, red peppers and onions
that are cooked on the barbecue grill until soft in
the middle. It doesn't matter if the skins are a bit
black as it all adds to the flavour and the skin is
discarded anyway. Once cooked and peeled, chop them
up, mix them together, add some salt and a drizzle of
olive oil and that's it. The beauty of this dish is
that it can be eaten hot or cold so you can prepare
it in advance if you wish.
the summer, the best time to have your barbecue is in
the evening - often it is just too hot at lunchtime
anyway. The best thing about evening barbecues is the
atmosphere. Garden lights or outdoor candles create
a really warm, friendly feeling and after the meal what
better way to relax than to put some more wood on the
fire, sit back in the warm glow and watch the stars
. . .
Copyright 2008 Orce Serrano Hams - www.orceserranohams.com
17 April 2008
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