How Not To Take a Grilling At Barbecue SchoolBarbecues: If your outdoor cooking means burnt sausages and tough burgers, help is athand says BBQBarbecuesThe last meal I cooked on a barbecue was a huge success. For a start, I managed to light thecoals before 10 oclock at night. Furthermore, without wishing to brag, when I removed thesausages from the grill, they were cooked not just on the outside but on the inside as well.That, to my mind, and the minds of millions of other men in Britain, is a triumph. After all,what do we know about cooking? For the majority of the year we never go near a stove,except perhaps to fry up some bacon. Then as soon as the sun comes out we find ourselvesimpelled, like primeval man, to make fire with which to incinerate chunks of meat.Its a strange phenomenon, and a growing one. The manufacturer Landmann now sells 50times more BBQs in Britain than it did a decade ago and is launching a barbecue cookeryschool later this summer. This is why it’s time men learnt to use the damn things properly.Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of a talented and energetic chef called Steve Bulmer.The former director of the Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir aux QuatSaisons,Bulmer runs his own school with his wife Jo in Winslow, Buckinghamshire. And as well asclasses in Italian and Oriental cuisine and butchery, the couple offer a Barbecue Cookerycourse during the summer, for men (and women, of course) who want to extend theirrepertoire past chicken drumsticks, burgers and bangers.In one day, Bulmer teaches participants to cook an array of dishes – from spatchcockedquail to slow-cooked spare ribs – that not only taste amazing but are surprisingly easy to do.The first dish we tackle is grilled pork with basil and parsley stuffing."Have you ever used crepinette before?" Bulmer asks. He moves a bowl of white stringystuff towards me."Er, no," I say. "What is it?""The lining of a pigs stomach," he says brightly."Thats nice," I say. It is moist and odourless and, when I lift it out of the bowl, looks like ashawl my grandmother used to wear. After flattening out medallions of pork, we smearthem with stuffing and cover them in pieces of crepinette to make spring rolls.Outside its typical British barbecue weather (cold with the threat of rain). The chef leads meto a huge cooker at the back of his garden that he calls "the beast" – a smoker that slow-roasts meat and fish, infusing them with a smoky flavour over three hours.
Bulmer places four racks of spare ribs inside and rushes back to the kitchen. "OK, spatchcockquail," he says. "Right, cut its head off, then were going to gut it, and butterfly it." Its grimwork but, if you can get past the blood, not particularly difficult. We pierce the quails withskewers, and then add the marinade.He then fetches two large chicken breasts, which we flatten out between two clear plasticsheets using a heavy metal basher. When chicken is flat like this, Bulmer explains, you haveto worry far less whether its cooked all the way through. He grills it on a BBQ for 10minutes, bending the meat as it cooks, cutting it into strips and placing it on a green salad.Delicious.He also shows me how to chargrill a duck breast (take off some of the fat so the barbecuedoesnt flame too much); gut and prepare calamari (make sure you cut out the beak, whichis too chewy); and make Merguez sausages, which he serves with spiced couscous, myfavourite. There is also grilled mackerel, steak, home-made naan bread, grilled vegetablesand a vast selection of salads.Finally Bulmer stops jumping around and sits down with Jo at the dining room table.While he eats, she talks. "If you just want to know how to grill a steak you can go onto awebsite and it will tell you what to do," she says. "What you benefit from here is the skill ofa chef taking you that step further." Bulmer nods in agreement and slurps some wine. Idont think he could have put it any better himself.A CHEFS TIPS FOR THE PERFECT BARBECUECooking technique: Create your “hot spots”: high, medium and low, to brown meat, cookevenly and keep warm. For charcoal barbecues, the more coals the hotter the part of thegrill. For large joints, use the “indirect cooking” approach: when food is cooked next to thefire, not directly over it. Have charcoal on the left and right on a rectangular grill, with a gapin the middle so you cook the meat thoroughly without burning. For thinner cuts, cookdirectly over the heat. With gas, create hot and cold areas by turning the burners to hot,medium or low.The classic mistake is allowing food to stick to the barbecue. To avoid this, use a wire brush(above) to clean the grill after you have removed a piece of food and an oily rag to rub therack each time you put on food.Keep it moist Spray meat with apple juice or keep a metal container half-full of water nextto the coals to give off steam.Ask your butcher to prepare specific cuts of meat such as butterflied lamb leg.
Indispensable tools: long-handled utensils; a carving knife; a “chimney starter” (picturedabove), which holds the right amount of charcoal briquettes to cook food evenly and lightsin 20 minutes; charcoal separators/baskets to create the three cooking hot spots (availablefrom garden/DIY stores).Gas v charcoal? Purists prefer charcoal for smell and flavour, although gas barbecue fansargue that flavour bars in some models do just the trick.For extra flavour throw on fresh herbs (to a charcoal barbecue). Rosemary, thyme, evengreen tea works well with fish. Best woods for smoking: apple, hickory or whisky-soakedchippings from whisky barrels. Marinade for 12-24 hours: try puréed garlic, chilli, thyme andfennel.