BARBEQUES can be few and far between over summer here in Scotland. But when the sun does choose to make an appearance it’s the perfect time to make the most of eating outside. I always find everything seems to taste that little bit better when you enjoy it in the open air, among nature itself.
If you are going to make the most of the few precious barbecue-friendly days we get here, I suggest you make it all the better by ditching the supermarket sausages and burgers in favour of something a little different. A home-made barbecue doesn’t have to be difficult and it definitely doesn’t have to be boring either. Handmade burgers can be really simple and are so much tastier. I also love to enjoy fresh fish – the taste of whole fish grilled on the barbecue is unbeatable and you really don’t need to add much to it to make it stand out. Grilled vegetable kebabs and seasonal summer salads add the perfect complements and can be prepared ahead or made quickly and simply at the first sign of sun.
Another of my favourites is pork chops. A pork chop is cut perpendicularly to the spine of the pig and usually contains a rib. The difference between good quality pork and standard pork is as huge as the difference between free range and battery-farmed chickens, so I’d recommend shopping carefully, seeking out rare-breed or at least organic pork if possible. The beauty of this cut of meat for barbecues, is that it can be served as an individual portion and it’s easy enough to pick up and eat – one the best things about barbecues is everyone helping themselves, eating with their hands and just getting stuck in.
Pork chops are one of the easiest meats to grill but the secret is not to overcook the pork chop or it will become dry, chewy and tough. Chops cooked in the right way should be moist and tender. If you want a quick dish you can simply marinade the chops the night before and leave them in the fridge, and all you have to do is brush them with some fresh herbs and pop them on the barbecue the next day. Even though you’re cooking the meat on the barbecue, I still recommend you let it rest a few minutes before you serve it so that it retains all of its juiciness and flavour.
This pork chop recipe is one of my really simple home suppers, but it’s superb on the barbecue. The smoke itself is an ingredient in this lovely dish. The tomato compote can be made the night before and then smothered on the pork chop just before you’re about to eat. The meaty, smokiness of the pork works so well with the sweeter tomato and melting hot cheese – perfect.
BBQ pork chops with tomato compote & grilled cheddar
4 pork chops, about 180g each and 2.5-3cm thick
thyme and a bay leaf
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil for cooking
For the tomato compote
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
6 tomatoes, chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tsp chopped black olives
1 tsp chopped basil
180-200g cheddar, sliced
To prepare the pork chops
Heat your barbecue to medium-high. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and brush with thyme and a bay leaf. Add a drizzle of olive oil over the pork chops and place the chops on the barbecue. Colour for two to three minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and place in a large gratin dish.
To make the tomato compote
Heat a wide, heavy-based saucepan and add a little olive oil. Add the shallots with some salt and pepper and sweat gently for three to four minutes without colouring. Now add the garlic and tomatoes and sweat for two to three minutes.
Put a lid on the pan and cook for a further six to eight minutes (the tomatoes will release a lot of their liquid during this time). Remove the lid and let bubble for ten to 12 minutes to reduce the liquid until you have a compote consistency.
Stir the spring onions, olives and basil into the tomato compote.
Spread the tomato compote over the top of the chops. Lay the cheddar slices on top and place back on the barbecue for three to four minutes until melted and bubbling. Serve with summer coleslaw or fresh potato salad.
Super Simple Summer Coleslaw
half a white cabbage, chopped finely
julienne of three carrots, cut into strips
2 spring onions, sliced finely
1 chilli, chopped finely into rings
half a bunch coriander, chopped
juice of one lime
Mix together the chopped cabbage, carrots and spring onions. Then add the chopped chilli and chopped coriander and mix together. Add the lime juice just before you serve it so the dish stays crunchy.