I wonder whether you are like us, and have a new-fangled gas barbecue with lava rock instead of charcoal? Well, we stopped using ours and now it gathers dust in one of the barns. We use a very simple and old-fashioned charcoal barbecue now instead, and love the taste of the food much better. There is also the performance of getting the charcoal to light, by various careful or dangerous means, and the resulting differences of opinion Dan and I have over some of these. Then, of course, the smoke always has a tendency to blow in the wrong direction, and invariably our opinions then differ as to the location of the barbecue! All fun stuff!
The most important factor is that there is sufficient "throat lubrication" on hand. If there are lots of people, we will fill an old wheelbarrow with buckets of ice, and immerse copious quantities of beer/lager (either the tinned or bottled variety - it matters not) to keep cool. We have been known to lower a crate of wine into the edge of the horse pond on a particularly hot occasion! If there is only us, we fill a galvanised bucket with ice instead! Simples!
You probably all know by now that my favourite summer drinks is a Pimms. So here is the traditional recipe in case any of you want to try it. Beware, it is stronger than the taste would imply!
Mix one part Pimms No 1 with two parts lemonade. (Use the fizzy lemonade that comes in a bottle or a tin, not the flat stuff!) Add strawberries, cucumber, mint and orange slices, and you've just made the perfect drink for any occasion!
And yes, that's the horse pond in the background!
Roasted Tomato Salad
(Serves 4-6 as a starter)
If you are a tomato addict, and you think that good bread dipped into fruity olive oil and tomato juices is the food of the gods, then roast the tomatoes first, and you'll agree that the gods have excelled themselves.
12 large tomatoes (I use 'beef' tomatoes)
12 large basil leaves
2 large or 4 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
12 large fresh basil leaves
24 black olives
You will also need a shallow roasting tin approx 16x12inches, oiled.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 400 degrees F, 200 degrees C. (For fan ovens, lower the temperature a little.)
1 Skin the tomatoes first of all by pouring boiling water over them and leaving for 1 minute, then drain and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Now cut each tomato in half and season with salt and freshly milled black pepper. After that, sprinkle on the chopped garlic, distributing it evenly between the tomatoes. Follow this with a few droplets of olive oil on each one, then top each one with half a basil leaf, turning each piece of leaf over to get a coating of oil.
2 Now place the roasting tin in the top half of the oven and roast the tomatoes for 50 minutes - 1 hour or until the edges are slightly blackened. Then remove the tin from the oven and allow the tomatoes to cool. All this can be done several hours ahead of when you plan to eat.
3 To serve the tomatoes, transfer them to individual plates, place half a basil leaf on top of each tomato half, then whisk the oil and balsamic vinegar together and drizzle this over the tomatoes. Finally, top each one with an olive. Lots of crusty bread is an essential accompaniment to this. I always warm up some ciabatta bread and we rip pieces off and just dip them in!
A Mixed Grill with Apricot Barbecue Glaze
This is a sauce that is suitable for all meats - lamb, pork ribs or chicken drumsticks. The quantity is enough to glaze 6 of each, which makes a nice mixture of meats to serve to 6 people. One important point is that drumsticks need pre-baking in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 4, 350 degrees F, 180 degrees C, for 15 minutes just before glazing and barbecuing.
6 small to medium chicken drumsticks
6 lamb chops (or steaks will do and don't have the bone)
6 good-sized pork ribs
For the apricot barbecue glaze:
2 large apricots
2 rounded tablespoons soft dark brown sugar
2 fluid ounces Worcestershire sauce
2 fl ozs light soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated (or finely chopped) fresh ginger
1 rounded teaspoon ginger powder
A few drops of tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 clove garlic
Freshly milled black pepper
1 Begin by placing the apricots in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them, then bring them up to simmering point and simmer for 2 minutes. Now drain off the water and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Then halve and stone them and place the flesh in a blender or food processor together with all the other glaze ingredients. Whizz everything to a puree and the sauce is ready!
2 All you need to do now is arrange the lamb and pork in a shallow dish, pour the glaze over them - turning the pieces of meat so that each one gets a good coating - then cover and leave in a cool place until you're ready to cook.
3 When you light the charcoal pre-cook the chicken drumsticks as above then, when your charcoal is at the right heat, brush the drumsticks with the glaze and cook for about 5 minutes on each side about 3 inches from the coals. The ribs and cutlets will need about 6 minutes on each side, but take the lamb off before 12 minutes if you like it very rare.
4 If you like, you can scrape any sauce that's left in the dish into a small saucepan, add a glass of white wine to it, and bring it all up to simmering point to give some extra sauce. Serve the barbecued glazed meats with small new potatoes, pasta or long grain rice (whichever you prefer), a crisp salad and some very robust red wine!
(I don't have a picture of these, but it is a very good recipe.)
Because it's a Saturday I have included some light-hearted humour for you, which I hope you will enjoy.
Phone answering machine message: "If you want to buy marijuana, press the hash key!"
A guy walks into the psychiatrist wearing only Clingfilm for shorts. The shrink says, "Well, I can clearly see you're nuts."
I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day - but I couldn't find any.
My friend drowned in a bowl of muesli - a strong currant pulled him in.
A man recovered in hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!" The doctor replied, "I know, I've cut off your hands."
A man takes his Rottweiler to the vet. "My dog is cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?"
"Well," says the vet, "let's have a look at him." And he picks up the dog and examines his eyes, then he checks his teeth. Finally, he says "I'm going to have to put him down."
"What? - because he's cross-eyed?"
"No, because he's really bloody heavy!"
What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.
Guy does into the doctor's.
"Doc, I've got a cricket ball stuck up my arse."
"Oh, don't you bloody start."
So I was getting into my car, and this bloke says to me "Can you give me a lift?" I said "Sure, you look great, the world's your oyster, go for it."
I went to a Seafood Disco last week, and pulled a muscle.
Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly so they lit a fire in the craft. It sank, proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
Our ice-cream man was found lying on the floor of his van covered with hundreds and thousands. Police say that he topped himself.
Man goes to the doctor with a strawberry growing out of his head. Doc says "I'll give you some cream to put on that."
"Doctor, I can't stop singing The Green, Green Grass of Home."
Doc says, "That sounds like the Tom Jones Syndrome."
"Is it common, Doc?"
"It's not unusual."
Apparently, one in five people in the world is Chinese.There are five people in my family, so one of them must be Chinese. It's either my mum or my dad - or my older brother Colin - or my younger brother Ho-Cha-Chu - but I think it's Colin.
I hope you are all enjoying your summer if you are in the Northern hemisphere. I've noticed that the nights are beginning to draw in already. After having an eight-month winter over here, I am definitely not looking forward to cold weather any time soon, but yesterday was so blisteringly hot that it was hard to cope with, minus all the luxuries such as air con and swimming pools! I nearly went for a paddle in the horse pond at one point!
What I love most about August - an excuse to decorate the garden for summer parties with friends and family, picking fresh courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and radishes straight from the garden and eating new potatoes cooked with mint. Picnics with friends in beautiful gardens. Long, lazy afternoons spent relaxing in the garden. Lots of homemade icecream. Enjoying barbecues, going to the beach, taking a dip in the sea (although the water is always cold!)
Dan is happily playing around the horsepond yet again. This time he is pressure-washing our little rowing boat to get rid of all the moss and algae accumulated over last winter. I daren't go out as he has a wicked sense of humour, and it's a warm day!
What 'silly' activities do the men around here get up to, I wonder. If you haven't been chased by a man with a pressure washer, you haven't lived, is all I can say!
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, wherever you live!