Monday, 25 July 2011

Spit Roasted Lamb Chops with Garlic & Rosemary

It was a much needed day of glorious Oxfordshire sunshine, I had two bags of lamb chops in the freezer and some good quality charcoal sitting waiting. Lamb chops are traditionally grilled, but the large amounts of fat released can create unmanageable flames that leave sooty marks on the food plus the unnecessary stress of trying to prevent them from burning.

Being a Sunday, I had plenty of time to think of something a bit different and more relaxing. Spit roasting is slower, and without coals directly below the meat so fat fires are much less likely. The idea reminded me a bit of some kebab shops, where lamb is layered in slices on a vertical spit in front of a gas grill, and the cooked meat sliced directly off the spit. I thought that if I layered the lamb chops on my spit, with some garlic and rosemary between each chop, the slower cooking would allow the flavours to better infuse, and the self basting would create delicious sweet crunchy bits around the outside. And besides, I'd get to sit in the garden with a cold drink listening to the sizzle and taking in the smells.

As it happened, it worked. Once the spit was removed, there was no carving needed, and my 1.2 kg of prime lamb chump chops made five decent servings. The flavours were intense and the sweet crispy bits on the outside a real delight. I served ours with mixed roasted vegetables and cous cous.


- Lamb chump chops (allow about 3 per person)
- Garlic cut into thin slices
- Fresh rosemary stalks
- Salt


Layer the chops on the spit with a few pieces of garlic and a sprig of rosemary between each one. Pack them together tightly and then sprinkle the outside with salt. Prepare the charcoal fire so that there are no coals below the spit. Lumpwood charcoal starts off really hot and then reduces in temperature gradually, which is ideal for this type of cooking. I used about 2.5 kg of charcoal, and the chops were on the spit for just over an hour.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

45 Indian Chillies in a Jar

This is a big Fire Food moment. I've been desperate to create another batch of preserved chillies, and finally managed to squeeze the time out of my manic life to do it. I love it, it is so rewarding. It's therapeutic in a robotic kind of a way. I see that massive pile of chillies and think that there is no end to the snipping off the tails of each individual one with scissors, but somehow, it happens, and they are all gone.

This lot, 4kg (or just over 2,000 chillies) took around two hours to get into the pot and created a good opportunity to practice my mental arithmetic. The robotic rhythm is trance-like and made it fairly easy to work out that I was doing 3.6 seconds per chilli, inspecting and tailing each one. It was motivating in a surreal kind of way.

I ordered some little jars last year and when I checked the delivery note, it was a year ago to the day that they arrived. But then this past year has been far from normal. So here are a few photos to enjoy, and it's not for sale so if you want some you have to ask really nicely.

The recipe has evolved over more than 20 years, since I was making this with my Dad when I was still a student in Australia. In those days, we would lace the chopped chillies with as many Indian spices we could lay our hands on. It made an amazingly pungent and colourful mix, but over the years I have moved towards trying to extract just the smells and flavour of the chilli itself. The end result has proved to be much more versatile. 

I love it on bread or cracker biscuits with a not too strong cheddar and a cold beer. Chilli, chese and beer; the holy trinity of food in my opinion. It's superb as condiment to bangers and mash, to spice up a pizza or to add a kick to a toasted sandwich. A quarter of a teaspoon is a good start. You can also add it to tomato ketchup to make a brilliant chilli sauce for barbeques. Once you get used to it try upping it a bit. To get the benefit of the unique chilli taste it is best added to food after cooking rather than during cooking.

This batch required four kilograms of chillies, next time I'm going for eight and will rope in some family to share the enjoyment.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Whole Salmon Baked in the Weber


This was served as a main course after the moreish grilled mussels appetiser posted earlier this week. It was part of the (pesco-)vegetarian menu for our dear daughter and our friends visiting from Australia, Jean and her lovely girls. This dish is dead easy and a real indulgence.

As usual the pre-amble was as much fun as the cooking itself. It involved an intoxicating trip to the fish market and a visit to my friend Ben's place to pillage his garden of fresh herbs. This 2kg (cleaned weight) fish fed seven of us with very generous portions. It was simple to cook and rewarding to eat.

The fire was prepared for the first course of grilled mussels. There was plenty of oomph left in it for the salmon which only took about 30 minutes.


- 1 whole fresh salmon, gutted
- 1 bunch of fresh dill
- 1 bunch of fresh tarragon
- 2-3 lemons, quartered
- Sea salt


A hot fire is essential if you want a nice bit of crispy skin on top. My fire was a bit weak as it had suffered from a slow rainy start, but was still plenty good enough to bake the salmon.

Make a double (or triple) thickness foil tray in the middle of the Weber (two fires, one each side). This will need to be strong enough to lift out with the salmon when cooked.

Lay the fish on a bed of the fresh herbs, squeeze the lemon inside the cavity and put the lemon skins in the foil tray. Season the skin with freshly ground  sea salt. This little baby was so big it had it's tail sticking out of the lid of the Weber.

Bake the salmon with the lid on (all vents open) and check it after 30 minutes by breaking open the flesh with a fork. It may need a bit longer depending on your fire. 

We served ours with grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and baked cherry tomatoes with anchovies and green beans, all of which went down a treat.

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