Sunday, 31 May 2009

Garden Spit Roast - Chapter 2

What happened next was so unexpected. I had spent the morning in the sun digging up turf preparing for a new patio and spent most of the time mentally planning the next phase of the DIY garden rotisserie for the same evening. A 2 kilo piece of topside beef had been defrosting since the morning and I went on a hunt in town for some 60cm heavy duty skewers (3 to be exact) so I could try out my next DIY rotisserie experiment to follow Chapter 1 posted last month.

A recent and much awaited addition to the high street in our town, the Steamer Trading Cookshop, was my first port of call. No long skewers sadly, but my conversation with the delightfully helpful and subtly inquisitive person serving me led to a most unexpected result. I explained that I needed the skewers for my DIY garden rotisserie experiment, and was almost sent to the local Countrywide outlet for a steel fence post before I was informed that they had rotisseries in stock.

Over the last couple of years my Fire Food research folder has accumulated dozens of links to websites selling various rotisserie accessories, all very pricey and mostly from America. But here it was, the ultimate garden spit roast companion. Affordable, versatile, battery powered and there for the taking. I did a double take on the price (£18.47) as it just seemed too good to be true. It was as much a novelty to the person serving me when we opened the box to check the contents. Everything, heavy duty 60 cm steel spit, motor, holding forks, all the things I had been drooling over on various US websites for ages. It was an intoxicating experience and I thank Rose at the Steamer Trading Cookshop in Witney for subtly cajoling me into divulging my intentions.

My long suffering family smiled wryly when I returned home beaming, with my new acquisition, my intoxication even further heightened by then as more time had passed to reflect on my result.

Without delay, the charcoal fires were prepared in the brazier. The topside was then butterflied, stuffed with garlic, green olives and oregano from the garden, rolled up and tied with string for the spit. So as not to waste the opportunity I had also bought a free range chicken to share the spit for a meal the following day when there wouldn't be the time for such indulgences.

Around 2 hours later, we devoured the beef and the chicken was wrapped in foil for re-heating later. Everything worked perfectly and the meat looked and tasted fabulous.

I managed to get the rotisserie brackets to connect to my brazier without too much hassle. The kit is sold as an accessory to the "Hotspot" branded charcoal grill, but will work with any Weber or other kettle barbecue or brazier without too much difficulty. I'm now thinking of a design for a portable steel bar frame so it can be used in the wild over an open fire. Watch this space. Spit roasted goat is next.


PS (March 2010): For some extreme DIY spit roasting, I found this recently. I was well impressed...:

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Grilled Mussels with Garlic Butter and Parmesan

This delight was prepared in honour of a visit from our beloved (pesco-)vegetarian daughter on a glorious summery spring evening. It was served as a very moreish appetizer and was followed by mackerel tempura and salmon and swordfish yakitori.

I had something similar to this for the first time when visiting friends in Cape Town. They were made using pre-cooked frozen mussels in the half shell, which cuts down on the preparation a little. This version is made with fresh live mussels.

I hand selected two dozen large mussels from my favourite fish monger at the covered market in Oxford (Haymans Fisheries) during my lunch break. As an appetizer, allow about 6 large mussels per person.

Simply put the mussels in a pot with a lid with about 50ml of boiling water for 5 mins or so, or until all the mussels have opened. Allow them to cool enough to be able to be handled.

To prepare the garlic butter, put 2 or 3 large cloves of crushed garlic in a small bowl with about 50g of butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until the butter has just melted. Grate about 50g of fresh parmesan cheese.

Pre-heat the grill, then remove half of the shell from each mussel and using a small knife, detach the cooked mussel from the remaining half of the shell. Lay 
the mussels in their half shells on the grill tray, and using a teaspoon, dress each one first with a bit of the melted garlic butter and then with a sprinkling of grated parmesan.

Place them under the hot grill for no more than 3 or 4 minutes before transferring them to a serving dish and passing them around to your guests. Guaranteed to make you hungrier.

(Click here to see the newer article - Better photos and cooked using charcoal in a Weber - July 2011)
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