You don’t need me to tell you how to cope with Irish summers. I shouldn’t have to remind you that just because it says June on the calendar you still shouldn’t leave the house without being prepared for any and all weather eventualities – sun screen and bug spray will reside harmoniously with wet weather gear in the boot of any Irish car.
And so we are in another Irish Summer with a World Cup on the horizon. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since our summer was filled with the incessant background buzzing of the vuvuzela in South Africa. This year the World Cup is in Brazil and who knows what Latin American delights we’re in for. When it comes to food it is already seeping through in the trend for hot barbecue. Chilli prawns, spicy marinades, mango and summery cocktails are all on this sunny menu. It often causes a wrinkle in my brain that countries where the temperatures are naturally scorching also enjoy hot and spicy food. To the Irish palate it’s almost counter intuitive. However what these countries do so much better when it comes to heat, is getting the balance right. Along with the hot spices they will add mild flavours, honey and lime, a grilled cheese, a chilled cocktail.
I have no doubt that over the coming weeks we will become familiar with ‘churrasco’ – it’s the Brazillian term for barbecue. Originating in the south of the country, churrasco uses a variety of meats, pork, sausage and chicken often cooked on a native purpose built grill called a churrasqueira. It’s similar to a barbecue grill but it often has supports for spits or skewers. The main difference would be that many just have the supports for skewers and don’t bother with the grill at all, leaving the skewers to roast above the burning embers. Alternatively the meat might be cooked on huge metal or wooden skewers stuck into the ground and roasted over the embers of charcoal or wood. For anyone visiting Brazil they will become very familiar with the ‘churrascaria’ which is a restaurant that serves grilled meat.
So why not create your own churrascaria in the back garden. The trick is all in the sauces and marinades you use with the meat and don’t be afraid to mix it up. It is perfectly acceptable to have meat, poultry and fish all on the same menu. If your barbecue doesn’t support a rotisserie just improvise with skewers and keep turning them on the grill.
The great thing about skewers is that they can be prepared in advance and while this may seem fiddly it’s all over before the party starts. (Also you can probably buy pre prepared skewers in most good butchers these days.) Along with the skewers the sides can also be prepared in advance to so it means that you can just fire up the barbecue and cook at your leisure.
Just a quick note about chilli. In some hot barbecue recipes you will notice quite a few chillies. I found a recipe for roasted chilli prawns the other day that called for 4 red chillies! However reading through the recipe I noticed that you dry fried the chillies first, effectively roasting them and then they were mixed with vinegar. This takes some of the heat out and instead of reducing your ‘churrasco’ guests to eye watering wrecks you get a much more mellow and smoky flavour. However the amount of heat you want is really a personal thing and don’t forget you can get a mild piri piri (chilli) sauce these days too and don’t be afraid to use it. I would particularly say that if you are introducing hot food for the first time in a family setting, go easy and do it by degrees. Taste buds, and particularly the taste buds of the young, are a delicate thing. They should be teased and gently caressed at all times rather than assaulted.
Flavour matching is also something to be considered. Beef can take the stronger flavours such as cumin and onion while poultry often fairs better with the slightly milder citrusy flavours. Lemon and garlic (with a hint of chilli) work particularly well with chicken for example.
As a side I can’t recommend corn on the cob enough. Barbecued corn is a great treat. Corn on the cob can be messy when eaten inside, but for alfresco dining there is great abandon with it. Butter dripping onto the grass isn’t a problem. The main thing is to remember to cook the corn on the cob early and just leave them sit in the cooking water until you are ready to barbecue them. I like to brush them with a little garlicky mayonnaise before putting them on the grill and then when I feel they are suitably done on the barbecue, just scatter over some grated parmesan and coriander. This is great colourful addition to any barbecue plate but also works really well as summer evening snack.
For more ‘churrasco’ or even general barbecue ideas drop by our website at Jameswhelanbutchers.com or call into the store in Oakville for a complete barbecue range where you can take all the credit and we’ve done all the work. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers