Tag Archives: BBQ

Pita Pockets – A Healthy Choice for the BBQ

Pita Pockets or Kebabs are a great fast food alternative.  They’re fresh, healthy, and packed with great flavour.  Making them at home is not only easy, it’s delicious, and very easy on the budget.  These are ideal for hot day, or for when friends drop around.  There’s nothing more social than people constructing their own dinner using the ingredients you have laid out.

Traditionally these would be made with lamb, but here is a recipe for a chicken version which is lighter, but still very more-ish.

Fresh, healthy, and delicious.  Chicken Kofta Pita with Couscous

Fresh, healthy, and delicious. Chicken Kofta Pita with Couscous

Chicken Kofta

  • 1kg Chicken Mince (I would use breasts or thighs chopped up in a food processor)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced or grated
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 20g Salt (or a seasoning like Vegeta)
  • 1 tbsp, or about 3 cloves, grated or crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flake

Mix all of the above ingredients and form into large thumb shaped (and sized) pieces, or wrap them around a kebab stick.  Chill in a fridge for about an hour.  Fry or BBQ until done.

Tzatziki

Controlling the amount of moisture in a tzatziki is critical.  Suspending the natural yoghurt bundled in muslin (or a clean chux cloth) over a container to catch the excess water makes a “labneh” which is a bit like a zesty and creamy feta.  Alternately, you can blend a 50/50 mix of Danish style feta with Greek style natural yoghurt or sour cream.

Blend the following:

  • 1 cup of the labneh, mentioned above
  • Squeeze ½ cup grated cucumber wrapped inside a cloth or paper towel to remove moisture
  • 1 clove crushed or grated garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Harissa

I love Harissa, but my family are not a huge fan of capsicum flavours.  It’s a great size dish to flavour boost anything, like a sambal might, or a punchy Mexican salsa.  Tonight it’s served on top af a couscous.  Here is an adaptation that I think is packed with flavour.

  • 2 long mild chilli’s or a roasted capsicum (can buy them preserved in jars or cans), finely diced
  • ½ finely diced or grated onion
  • 3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire
  • Salt to taste
  • Dried chilli flakes to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Chopped fresh basil or mint

Fry the onion, anchovy, garlic, and diced chilli with the cumin and coriander over a medium heat until the onions are soft.  Add the red wine and cook until almost all the wine has evaporated.  Stir in the tomato paste and worcestershire sauce and continue cooking for about 5 minutes to cook out the paste and develop the flavours.  Taste and season.  Add basil or mint and drizzle in the olive oil while stirring to incorporate.

Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup boiling water (or stock, you can use a cube or seasoning powder)
  • ¼ cup almond slivers
  • oil or butter
  • Toast the almond slivers in a pan until lightly golden

Add the couscous and almonds to the boiling water/stock (season with salt if using water).  Stir quickly and cover with a lid, removing from the heat immediately.  After 2 minutes, add the oil/butter and stir with a fork to fluff it up.

Putting it all together

Slice up some cucumber, tomato, and onion. Chop up a fresh lettuce, and mix with chopped parsley and coriander.  I also like to add some sliced avocado, but that’s me.

Slice open some pita bread, and stuff it with the lettuce mix and cucumber/tomato/onion (as you like).  Add the chicken kofta (you could use falafel for a vegetarian version).  Sauce it with the tzatziki.  To take it from a fast food snack to a meal, serve it with a side of couscous topped with a flourish of harissa.

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Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf – Version 1

As a kid my favourite meal was Meatloaf and BBQ sauce.  The thick sweet glaze surrounding a rough log of savory beef, and served with a steaming pile of mashed potatoes…It was what MY birthday meal was, year in, year out.

Behold the lovely Loaf

As I’ve grown, my sweet tooth has somewhat disappeared, but my love for the loaf remains unabated.  Over the years I’ve also learned that a great meatloaf comes in many guises. The meatloaf of my childhood was a beef meatloaf, as is the recipe on this post, but I’ve learned that the humble loaf is more versatile than just a log of ground steak baked in the oven.

I’ve developed recipes for beef versions , chicken meatloaf, pork,  game, exotic meats (kangaroo, as an example), and sometimes combinations of these beasts (often you HAVE to combine them, to get a great result).  In fact, the only thing I’ve not made is a vegetarian or seafood meatloaf, and mostly because I’ve never thought of it…until now!

So, this may be my first recipe and post for meatloaf, but it almost certainly won’t be my last.  Please feel free to change the ingredient list as you way see fit, you may have a great recipe for your meatloaf already at hand.  But take note of a few tricks and techniques that I use, and think about adapting them to your own recipe.

Ingredients:

The Meat

  • 500g Chuck Steak
  • 500g lean Minced Beef
  • 14 Strips Bacon (Streaky)

A carnivores dream

The Mix

  • 1 egg
  • 3 Carrots
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 2 Sliced Bread (any)
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine
  • 1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic

Most of the mix...minus onions, carrots, and an egg

The Herbs & Spices

  • 2 Tbsp Dried Sage
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • Red Pepper Flakes to Taste

Spices for the Meatloaf

I make no apologies for the 18 ingredient list, for what is a simple comfort meal.  Nothing is complicated here, but every flavour is a note to this symphony.

Step 1, the meat.

Like my burgers, previous post here, I like my meatloaf to carry some texture.  I am not after a consistent grind in the beef, because I like the additional interest that a surprise chunk of beef makes in the meatloaf as a meal, but I also want to reduce the fat in the end product and this still needs to be a loaf…so I blend my self chopped chuck steak with some low fat mince.

Cube up the chuck steak into medium cubes, and chop them in a food processor in 2 equal batches.  Pulse for 10 x 1 second pulses (full second pulses…one thousand one, one thousand two…etc) and then for 1 x 4 second burst.

Dump the chopped chuck into a bowl, along with the mince.

Step 2, the mix.

Using the food processor (again), chop the bread slices until they become bread crumbs.  Tip the contents onto the meat.

Put the onion in the food processor and puree it.  Tip it onto the meat and breadcrumbs.

Everyone into the Pool!

Grate the carrots, and add to the meat mix, along with the rest of the mix ingredients.  Add all of the herbs and spices, and mix using your hands until well combined.

OK, so maybe I'm getting carried away with the photo's...
All mixed together...check out the texture...hmmmm

Step 3, Construction:

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)

Lay out a large square of plastic wrap or baking paper.  Construct your bacon weave on the plastic film, one strip high by one strip wide.

Here begins the weave...just like a reed basket, only porkier

Baby blankets should be this awesome

And the plastic magically appears. Don't forget it on the first loaf, like I did.

Shaping the mix into a log, place it on the bacon weave, ensuring that it comes to the end of the weave, but not beyond.  Then lift the plastic wrap and use it to roll the bacon up and over the log.  Keep rolling until the entire loaf is covered, then remove the wrap.

Dressed for the ball. Prom King, no doubt

Step 4, Cooking

Place the meatloaf on a wire rack that fits in a backing tray.  Slide it into the hot oven.  Place a loose piece of foil over the meat loaf, so as not to overcook the bacon.

After 40 minutes, remove the foil and drop the temperature to 160C (320F)

Continue to bake until the internal temperature hits 66C (150F).  Remove from the oven, and cover again with foil, letting it rest for 20 minutes.

If only you could smell this...OH MY GOD! Look at the pink ring just under the bacon.

Slice and serve with some of your favourite BBQ Sauce, and a couple of sides.  Mashed potatoes is a match made in heaven.  As for another side, well, I’ve gone for some fried cabbage this time, but a nice salad would work just as well.

The moment of truth...enjoyed with a lovely Cab Sav.

The magic of Meatloaf is the leftovers.  It’s almost as easy to make 2, as to make 1, so double the mix and make 2 loaves (as I have).  Think of all the meatloaf sandwiches…nom nom nom

Enjoy the meal!

It all boils down to this…

Throw some roasted bones in a large pot of water, and add some aromatic veggies; onion, celery, carrot, some garlic…maybe a bouquet garni, and let it boil for a while.  Skim off any foam that gathers on the surface, and when the time is right…strain, remove the fat, and voila.

It’s a process that stock makers all around the world are familiar with.  You really haven’t cooked, until you’ve made a stock from scratch, and it’s just one of those simple and economical things you can do that seems to set apart a meal from the ordinary.  It’s a magical thing.

Or is it.  Consider what is really happening here.  Water, one of the most corrosive compounds on Earth, is stripping away the flavour from ingredients in your stock pot, and you just happen to be harnessing that small piece of science.  All of that deliciousness is separating from the original structure…the bones, or the chunky vegetables, and being suspended in the liquid…to create a power packed and tasty fluid to use in a thousand different ways.

It’s really a great process to use to your advantage, and a process to totally avoid if you are not planning on making a flavourful stock.  If you want to take a lovely head of cauliflower, or a handful of Brussels sprouts, and turn them into flavourless piles of mushy awfulness, throw them into a pot of water and boil them.  Or do it, but then toss away the veggies, and drink the broth.  Boiling food is just bad food science, unless it’s the resultant liquid that you are looking to use.

Tonight, for dinner, I tossed a handful of Cauliflower florets with some cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil, salt, and garlic, and then roasted them in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.  I would have taken a picture of it for you, but they really didn’t last long enough.  Roasting Cauliflower just brings out a sweetness that you have no idea even exists in the vegetable, until you roast it.

Think of a horrible food memory as a child, something that you hated eating and would hide stuffed in your pants pocket, just so you could leave the table having emptied your plate.  9 times out of 10, it was a boiled item.  Half of those, probably Brussels sprouts.

Well, take that food item and try to cook it using a dry method.  I say dry method, because even steaming is corrosive to flavour, if less so than boiling.  Take those sprouts, and toss them in some oil, and maybe a little salt and pepper.  Maybe some other spice or herb that you like.  And them roast them.  Even stir-fry them.  Anything but boiling, steaming, or microwaving.  You’ll be amazed at the difference.

Peas…well, I only heat peas, so I toss them in a pan of butter over a medium heat.  Maybe a 1/4 cup of water in the pan to generate some steam, but as soon as they are hot, they are done.  Same method for Broccoli.

Frozen mixed vegetables…one of my favourites.  Don’t mock, even a good cook is entitled to a short cut, but for gods sake don’t boil them.  Same method as the peas (maybe add a tablespoon of honey too)…or…spread them out on a baking tray and drizzle some oil on top.  A sprinkling of salt, and 10 minutes in a hot oven should do it.  Sweet and juicy.

Zucchini sliced length ways and tossed in oil and salt, then on a hot BBQ until just cooked…corn, still in the husk, roasted in a max oven, or slowly turned on top of the BBQ as the outer husk leaves dry and blackens before falling off…these are regular items on our kitchen table, and veggies often become the star of the meal.

Boiled veggies are responsible for more food phobias than any other cooking method out there.  Don’t perpetuate the inhumanity, the food cruelty.

What different cooking methods do you use for your veggies?  Any good ideas out there I can try?