Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cookbook Review ~ Fired Up by Ross Dobson

Who doesn't love a barbecue in the Summer? In fact to me, Summer is all about barbecues and nothing beats the smell of barbecued food rising up and enticing us by wafting gently from garden to garden and grill to grill. At the same time though a lot of us need a bit of help when it comes to the gold old barbecue and this primitive form of cooking. Let's be honest I'm sure at one point or other we have all been to a BBQ where the burgers are a little too charred (ok black!) and the chicken a little too pink! Thankfully for me my husband is what I can only call “King of the Grill” (and he has the apron to prove it!). He has been barbecuing since he was 16 so has gotten pretty darn good at it over the years. Needless to say whenever anything needs barbecued he is the one who jumps to it. I do the 'inside cooking', he does anything involving 'outside cooking'. Now that being said I have cooked a few things on the BBQ over the years, especially when he is working away from home so he has taught me pretty well but admittedly I could do with a little more confidence, especially when it comes to cooking poultry so I was really excited to put Fired Up: No Nonsense Barbecuing to the test and see how my skills would match hubby's! But in order to really put the book through the ringers I wanted hubby to try out some of the recipes as well and see what his opinion was.

Over 20 recipes were bookmarked, taken from every chapter the book had to offer which includes 'Bird'; 'Beast'; 'Fish' and 'Sides' (unfortunately no desserts chapter). In the end we tried 6 recipes.

Tested Recipes:

Chilli Chicken BLT
Beer-Can Roasted Chicken
Sweet Chilli Sauce
Herb-Marinated Potato Salad
Chinatown Pork
Chilli Bacon Fried Rice

The first recipe to be put to the test was the Chilli Chicken BLT. Being such huge lovers of chilli and BLT's it seemed like a match made in heaven. The chicken was really easy to prepare and as long as you have a mini processor (or something similar) the marinade took no time. The recipe said to remove the seeds from the chillies but since they were quite large ones I left them in, however despite that there was unfortunately still no chilli kick but the finished BLT was really delicious and we would definitely make it again.

Next up and for a perfect Saturday night meal on a hot sunny day, we made the Beer-Can Roasted Chicken. I've seen a lot of recipes for this but have never had it so it was time to put it to the test. Scott found the instructions a little vague in that it just says to preheat the BBQ to hot but doesn't give any specific temperatures so we decided in the end to keep it in the 350-400F area which worked perfectly. It took exactly 1 hour to cook, was ridiculously easy to prepare and required just a couple of quick checks during the cooking time. What resulted was by far the most amazing, moist roast chicken I have EVER had! It was honestly unbelievable. The recipe did suggest 2 chickens (1.5kg each) for 4 people which in my opinion is far too much so we did 1 and it was perfect, although so good there were no left-overs which is a good sign to me!!

The recipe for the Beer-Can Roasted Chicken suggests serving it with the Sweet Chilli Sauce so I took the suggestion and made the Sweet Chilli Sauce for recipe number 3. I have to admit at one point I was quite hesitant as all I could smell was vinegar cooking however it was worth it! I did have to deviate from the recipe a little as it suggests using a mortar and pestle to pound the chillies and other ingredients, however I just wasn't getting it smashed enough so did resort to my mini food processor to finish it off. Secondly the recipe says to simmer for 10-15 minutes until syrupy but I did it for close to 1 hour. Quite a difference in time but again it was worth it because it was so good and was perfect with the chicken. My only advice (other than the vinegar stinging your nose!) is that it does make a lot and the recipe says it will only keep for a few days in the fridge so I might be tempted to half the recipe next time. That being said we liked it so much the next day we just quickly barbecued some pork chops and had those with the sauce for a really good and simple meal.

Next up and to serve with the Chicken I made the Herb-Marinated Potato Salad. I love potato salads and I do enjoy the mayo based ones however my waistline not so much so I liked the idea of this one which is dressed using a vinaigrette instead. Again the recipe was really easy and straightforward and the end result was delicious. Yet another success!

So with 4 recipes tried, tested and loved it was onto number 5 which was the Chinatown Pork – one of Scott's all time favourite things, but a recipe we haven't really made at home! The list of ingredients was short and all things I keep in my pantry so that was a bonus. I did find the instructions a little strange and would have preferred to just cook it directly on the BBQ (out of laziness!) but I followed as instructed and put the marinaded pork onto a cooking rack which in turn sat on a roasting tin half-filled with water. Again the temperature was vague as it just said to heat to medium but we worked it out. The final result was good – the taste was lovely, however it took longer than the suggested 20 minutes and didn't get the lovely char marks as it said it would (which we had guessed would happen due to the way it was cooked), so for the last minutes hubby just put it directly on the grill to try and get it a little more caramelised. The end result was very tasty though and I would make it again, perhaps just cooking it a little differently.

To accompany the Chinatown Pork (and because we had friends round) I made the Chilli Bacon Fried Rice although I deviated from this recipe as we don't have a hot plate (griddle) for the BBQ to cook directly on that so I had to opt for a large frying pan. The list of ingredients included 4 cups of cooked rice which I found to be a bit of a pain and wish that he had listed what the measurement was before cooking, but after a bit of research I worked it out. The rest of the dish was very easy to prepare and had a nice taste to it with a good kick. It definitely worked well with the Chinatown Pork and I'm pretty sure I would make it again.

Out of the 6 recipes tested my favourite was definitely the Beer-can Roasted Chicken which I've made a couple of times and we've also had the Herb-Marinated Potato Salad a few times so those are both winners for me. Especially when accompanied by the Sweet Chilli Sauce. I did however enjoy everything I tried and apart from some ambiguous temperature terms the recipes were easy enough to follow.

For future cooking I've also bookmarked the following recipes to try....

Honey Hoi Sin Chicken Wings
Chilli Caramel Chicken
Lemongrass And Lime Leaf Chicken
Chimichurri Chook
Sweet Chilli and Ginger Chicken
Penang Beef Satay
Berber Lamb
Fajita Rump Steak with Mashed Avocado
Tandoori Rack of Lamb
Merguez Sausages
Laksa Prawn Skewers
Piri Piri Prawns
Hotplate Fish Cakes
Tom Yum Lime Leaf and Coriander Prawns
Barbecued Snapper with a Rye Romesco Sauce
Newspaper-Wrapped Salmon with Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Chilli
Mediterranean Salad
Smoky Tomato Relish

Specialty Ingredients?
For the recipes I tried I would have to say no – everything was very straightforward and ingredients you could get from your local supermarket, butcher or fishmonger. If you want to follow all of the recipes strictly then you do need a hotplate/griddle pan for your BBQ but I did without for the time being, although am considering it as a potential present for hubby!!

Learn anything new?
The beer-can chicken was definitely a fantastic discovery which I have wanted to try for a while and am glad we finally did. I'm not sure any other chicken will match up but it's always good to have a challenge! Since the recipes are so straightforward I think a novice barbecuer would be comfortable with them, however there is definitely an issue with the vague cooking temperatures suggested and that was our biggest frustration with the book.

As previously mentioned my husband is the “King of the Grill” in our household and to be honest it's a title I'm more than happy for him to have. That being said I did enjoy cooking from a book aimed specifically for the BBQ and it definitely gave us lots of great new ideas and shows that you can cook anything and pretty much everything on a barbecue as long as you have the right equipment. The book has a very laid back Ozzie approach to food and cooking which I love as it makes the idea of barbecuing relaxed and not something to be scared of. One of my other favourite things about the book was the aesthetics of the book. The first page you open is made to look like a crumpled up piece of tin (aluminum) foil which I loved and that theme continued with the title pages and the font looking like foil. A small detail perhaps but one I just happened to really like as it definitely contributed to the fact it was a book on barbecuing! Another thing that I loved with this book (and have had issues with this with other books) is the fact that all of the side dishes list what they go well with, so for example the Sweet Chilli Sauce was recommended to go with the Chicken and the Chilli Bacon Fried Rice with the Pork (as well as lots of other dishes). I did cook all of the side dishes inside on the oven but if you have a hot plate you have unlimited options and could easily cook everything on the grill.

Although the temperature guides aren't very accurate or specific the actual recipes were all very straightforward and easy and really tasted great so for that reason you can't go wrong with this book.

Fired Up by Ross Dobson gets the Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops stamp of approval.

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