When it comes to BBQ you really have to strike when the proverbial iron is hot and the sun is shining. Forward planning never seems to work with the unpredictability of British weather. I slightly threw caution to the wind last Friday by planning a BBQ with friends for the Sunday. If al fresco eating wasn't going to be on the cards we could at least do the cooking outdoors and the eating indoors. Marks & Spencer provided me with a selection of goodies from their recently launched Tastes of The British Isles range (21st century twists on UK classics) so the main event was sorted but I needed a desert. I have long been coveting a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and finally bit the bullet, splashed the cash and got myself one. The colour is Ice Blue and most importantly it matches my kitchen perfectly. Time to put it to good use.
RHUBARB & GINGER PAVLOVA
4 Free Range Egg Whites
200g Caster Sugar
50g Soft brown Sugar
4 Tbsp Stem Ginger Syrup
2 Balls Stem Ginger
600ml Double Cream
Rhubarb Curd (optional)
Crystallised Ginger to decorate (optional)
Preheat your oven to 100c fan.
Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and use an electric whisk or stand mixer at the highest setting to beat them until stiff.
Then add the sugar a teaspoonful at a time until it is all incorporated.
Pipe or spoon your meringue onto a sheet of baking paper/silicone. Use a wee blob of mix to stick the sheet to the tray.
Bake for 2 hours then switch off the heat and leave the Pavlova to cool in the oven.
Cut the rhubarb into chunks and place in a saucepan with the sugar, 3 Tablespoons of the Stem Ginger Syrup and two finely chopped balls of Stem Ginger. Cook over a gentle heat for approx 15 minutes until soft but not too mushy. Set aside an leave too completely cool.
Whip the cream into soft peaks. At this point I stirred through a few tablespoons of my homemade Rhubarb Curd plus a further Tablespoon of ginger syrup. Alternatively you could strain some juice off the rhubarb mixture and incorporate it.
Pipe or spoon the cream into the Pavlova base then top with the Rhubarb & Ginger mixture and finally decorate with crystallised ginger.
With pudding sorted it was time to get the BBQ goodies ready. I removed the stalks and stuffed Chestnut Mushrooms with Welsh Cashel Blue Cheese and wrapped Wye Valley Asparagus in Air Dried Cumbrian Style Ham. Both of these are firm favourites when we are barbecuing. I cooked the mushrooms on a Sizzle & Serve platter from Judge Cookware. I can see this durable cast iron platter with its heat resistant maple wood serving stand having a multitude of uses. It worked really well on the BBQ preventing any mushrooms or melted cheese slipping through the grill bars and keeping the food hot when serving. The final side dish was Sweetcorn Wheels. These came with a smoked paprika, lime and sour cream dressing which I completely forgot to add before serving. It's still sat in the fridge!
Breads and condiments came next. We had Flatbreads, Ultimate BBQ Buns and PoshPuppies Rolls. The flatbreads were really good, particularly warmed on the BBQ before serving. Absolutely loved the brioche style PoshPuppies Rolls which were perfectly sized to match the PoshPuppies sausages. The Sweetcorn & Flameroasted Burger Relish was a big hit with both adults and kids. Being a Gin aficionado I couldn't resist the Cucumber, Gin and Mint Relish even although it is recommended for salmon & trout. I'll be giving it a more fuller fishy taste test in due course.
Pre BBQ nibbles consisted of multicoloured Best of British Potatoes Crisps which proved to be a really talking point. These were dipped in Cornish Cruncher & Apple Dip and Pea and Mint Dip. The pea and mint was vibrant and delicious and it's bowl was scraped clean. To wash everything down we quaffed on Sparkling British Apple & Cucumber Presse and British Elderflower & Cucumber Cordial. Both were fantastically refreshing and had a real taste of summer. I suspect a splash of the cordial would work really well in a glass of Prosecco. Our "desert wine" was a bottle of British Rhubarb & Ginger Presse. The perfect match for my Pavlova. The gorgeous green and cream tableware is the Eden range from Premier Housewares. Perfect for picnics and BBQ's as it's made of Bamboo so is light, durable and easy to clean. Much more stylish looking than plastic or paper plates and bamboo has inherent anti-bacterial qualities as well as being a renewable resource.
What is it with men when it comes to cooking on a BBQ? Don't lift a finger in the kitchen all year but become all cave man like and territorial when the sun comes out and they don an apron and brandish BBQ tools. With all the hard work done Foodie Loon was in charge of the cooking. The Cumberland Whorl with Apple, Cider and Mustard Glaze both looked and tasted impressive. The Chorizio Burgers had a real spicy kick about them which took you by surprise but made you want another bite. The PoshPuppies sausages were a great size and tasted really meaty. All the kids loved them too. I skewered Coconut Chicken Escalopes and Ginger Beer Chicken Escalopes along with slices of pepper and red onion. Always best to be extra careful with chicken to ensure its properly cooked through on the BBQ. I had a couple of Gefu Twinco BBQ Skewers from Haus which did the job really well. These have twin prongs so solve the perennial skewering problem of rotating food. They also have an integrated slider to easily remove the cooked food. No more battling with forks, fingers and red hot skewers.
On the day the weather really wasn't too bad. It could best be described as mixed with sunny spells. Too windy to sit outside but warm enough for all the kids to play out. The best part of the day typically came in the evening when all our guests had left. All the BBQ food went down really well with very little leftovers or cremated casualties and the Rhubarb and Ginger Pavlova rounded things off perfectly. Fingers crossed for further al fresco dining opportunities in the coming months. That's assuming we actually get a summer this year!
Disclosure - I was provided with BBQ food from Marks & Spencer, Eden Tableware from Premier Housewares, a Sizzle & Serve Platter from Judge Cookware and Gefu Twinco Skewers from Haus for the purposes of this post. All views expressed are my own. This is not a paid post.