Back to Basics
A few weeks ago I got the dreaded call that my 77 year old dad had been taken into hospital. He lives up in Hull, and on my journey my brother was giving me updates, but the prognosis did not look promising. Fortunately, he made a recovery and was released from hospital a couple of days later. As he lives on his own I decided to stay with him until he was feeling better.
Growing up my parents loved to BBQ. Nothing fancy, but after living in Cyprus for a few years, they developed their own style of BBQ. Halloumi, Sausage in a Pitta with Pickled Cabbage and Houmous, Pork and Chicken Souvlaki together with Kebabs all made a regular appearance. I think that’s where I got my love of cooking outdoors.
My dad has rarely BBQ’ed in recent years. When he comes down to visit, we are outside most of the weekend, eating BBQ and have a beer or two, which he loves.
I decided when I was up in Hull I would get cooking outside, nothing fancy but getting back to the basics I grew up on.
The Kit Matters or Does It?
I borrowed a small portable BBQ from my brother. He thinks he got it from Asda as an own-brand BBQ and it cost about £15. It was a reasonable size but had no vents in the bottom so controlling the airflow was going to be a challenge. The lid had vents that could be closed/opened which was something.
The body of the BBQ was quite thin and it wasn’t particularly deep either, with not adjustable grill height.
The only charcoal I could get hold of was some instant lighting bags, which I generally never buy. This was from Aldi and I have to say I was pretty impressed with it, once I got cooking with it.
For the first cook, we started with some Halloumi and Baby Tomatoes followed by one of my dad’s favourites of Sausage in a Pitta with Houmous. Amazingly simple, but the combination of the Pitta, Houmous, and Sausage really does give a different take on the humble BBQ’ed sausage.
On night 2 I went for some Padron peppers. I have not been able to find these where I live but managed to get these ones in Morrison’s. I then cooked some steak which was 32 day-aged Sirloin from Aldi – again very impressed.
The steak seemed to go down really well with my dad. For lunch the next day we went for a steak sandwich, cooked on the trusty portable and served in a panini with some salad. Again a big hit!
I really enjoyed cooking on the small portable. It was not as straight-forward as cooking on either my Weber GBS or Go-Anywhere. I didn’t have any of my normal tools and especially missed the Thermapen, but I managed to get by and most importantly it was fun. Scrub that, the most important thing was that my dad loved it!
What my recent experience tells me is that whilst paying more for BBQ kit gets a host of features to help make cooking a little easier, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get cooking and start on your BBQ journey. If anything it was the accessories I missed the most.
Ady (8t8 on Twitter) did a challenge for UK BBQ Week a couple of years ago where he managed to buy a BBQ together with the key accessories for under £50, and did some brilliant cooks using the gear he bought. You can read all about it here.
The key message here is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to produce great cooks. There are some essentials in my view to help make cooking easier and again these do not need to costs a fortune.
More Good News!
My dad is recovering really well, but there is more good news. Him watching me using the portable gave him back the confidence that he could get cooking outside again – something he used to love doing.
He is now cooking reasonably regularly, enjoying a pint of lager as he cooks, sat outside tending to his food. He’s doing his favourite cook fairly often (sausage, pitta, houmous) but this week he made some lamb kebabs, where he marinated the meat for a few hours before enjoying his cook. It is something that he seems to be getting a tonne load of pleasure from again.
What started out to be a situation where I feared the worse has seen my dad re-discover the delights of cooking outside over charcoal.