Man in the kitchen: No more burnt offerings
This first column is really not about the kitchen at all. Because at this time of the year - weather permitting - a man's thoughts turn to the great outdoors... and creating a fire to cook on.
It is perplexing that the barbecue is seen as the domain of the male. Because if you are unused to cooking on a stove, the barbecue is much more exacting. Accident and emergency consultants can relate tales of burns and food poisoning caused by enthusiastic males blackening their chicken beautifully on the outside while leaving the centre dangerously pink - and often char-grilling their fingers in so-doing.
So here are a few tips, firstly on buying a barbecue. Avoid the disposable ones - although they are cheap and convenient, they also have a habit of giving up the ghost when your burgers are only half-cooked. Gas barbecues provide steady and reliable heat but if you want that distinctive smoky flavour, you will need to add some wood chips. Traditional charcoal still provides the best results. But your first priority is providing food that is safe to eat and this is surprisingly easy to achieve. If cooking chicken, ensure that it is filleted - thighs work better than breasts because of their higher fat content. Before serving, make a small cut in the thickest part of the meat to ensure the juices are running clear.
When I barbecue sausages, I poach them first - for about eight minutes in boiling water. They can then be finished off for a couple of minutes on the barbecue. Any meat cooked over an open fire is going to taste good with the addition of a little salt. However, take some advice from the Greeks, who know far more about barbecuing than they do about debt management. A simple marinade of lemon juice and dried oregano will add an extra dimension.
If you want to go the extra mile, spend five minutes making a chimichurri sauce - a classic South American accompaniment to meat. Just finely chop some red chilli peppers, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, and mix with a teaspoon or two of dried oregano, a few teaspoons of red wine vinegar and a good few glugs of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Proportions vary from recipe to recipe and depends on how spicy/garlicky you like your sauce. Then pour over your perfectly cooked meat and bathe in the glow of admiration from the guests.