Alfresco – Its getting Hot in here!

A recipe loaded scribe and some #Top Tips for cooking outdoors

So here in old Blighty we’ve been informed it’s going to be heat wave this weekend ; July 18th-20th, >25 degrees over 3 days)

For any of our non UK readers this is special time for us – we truly celebrate the glory of the sun , due to the lack of it , and with some rather obscure traits that seem to come out when the sun does, the pimped up cars blaring out bad music driving erratically to get noticed and badly dressed individuals who should know better

BUT fortunately it’s also a great food time , a social time, an alfresco eating time.


Now with great cooking we need to prepare a little and cooking and eating outdoors is no difference. After having the joy of cooking and demo’ing BBQs for Napolean Grills I feel confident that I can offer some advice although DEFINITELY not advocating myself as an expert



Going to cover a few topics : Marinades, Rubs, Smoking, Infusions ,Desserts,

BBQ top tips

CHARCOAL or GAS that is the Question!

Now Im not a purist when it comes to BBQ or outdoor cooking both have their pros and cons  the  thing they have in common is to cook as though you are cooking in your domestic oven.

Charcoal Naturally gives a great flavour and can be heat can be managed by using a couple of methods (there will be hundreds of different pieces of kit, techniques etc but these 2 really simple and work)

Donut style  or 1/2 “n” 1/2

Donut : Place the coals around the edge and building up making sure that you have a central area with no coals


1/2″n”1/2 : Place the coals on one side allowing a side with no direct heat below it ( see my very rustic drawing !

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The  indirect heat areas is where you can cook from desserts, long time cooking using the residual heat from the hot coals.

Gas BBQ cooking is EXACTLY the same as hob and oven just placed outside, its controllable heat, nowadays you can also add the smoky flavours with wood chips, smokers and many other gadgets.

Its personal choice and I’m not adverse to either


As I repeatedly say on all my recipe blogs prep all your stuff first, easy to cook, everything gets used properly, you create the stuff that you would normally bin to make amazing infusions, oils, sugars, butters and it REALLY does save time.

#TOP TIP get your meat to room temperature before cooking it cooks more evenly (remember to cover it whilst its coming up to room temperature)

#TOP TIP  fish can break down quickly when cooking , brine it in advance this allows the firmness of the flesh to stay together and cooks really well , do this before you add marinades, rubs etc . QUICK BRINE is for every 100ml of water add 3 tsps of salt, brine for a minimum of 20 minutes 

#TOP TIP use vegetables as you would meats, use them abundantly people do steer away from them and focus on the meat and fish but al your marinades, rubs, flavourings work on all vegetables and they really transform the offerings

#Top Tip Use disposable plates, foils, greaseproof, etc for prep and storage so its easy to carry to your outdoor cooking area and keep your ingredients separate and make the experience easier.

 Marinade or Rub?

Okay again Im sure that there is huge discussion and debate that could be created on wet and dry rubs, marinades etc and as an obsessive student of food Im willing to take them all on and learn.

For now however we will look at what I know and works and there is so much resource for BBQ , outdoor cooking that you can review through trial and error and lots of food reading

So with my innocence declared and Im just showing you my take on

Marinades  (check out the recipes next..)

Distinctly 2 types for me  with or without oil!There that was easy

For super quick marinades that will not only start to cook your food prior to it hitting any heat and start breaking down the protein fibres is an acidic marinade using lemons, lime, vinegars anything with an overt acidic balance , these are great if you haven’t done as much prep as you wanted , or just like a quick and easy

The Oil based marinades need that extra time to create a depth of flavour in your food and as they state they are oil in the majority, remembering


My favourite Oil marinade is super simple and quick and works on Meat, fish and vegetables

#Recipe Debbie Marinade

Ingredients are : finely chopped shallot, grated lemon rind, grated lime rind ( reserve the juice for using after its cooked) , lemon verbena when in season otherwise chopped lemon grass or dried lemon myrtle, 3 x crushed garlic cloves I love rose garlic and to really make this special use Black Garlic UK, salt and white pepper – you can add 1/2 tsp of dried chilli or 1 chopped fresh chilli if you wanted too mix altogether into 250ml of Grapeseed or Peanut oil and marinate overnight in the fridge.

Before cooking remove any excess marinade so you don’t create large flame as this will burn the food and not cook it thoroughly-

#Top Tip also if you used raw chicken the marinade MUST be cooked if using as a dressing – easily done pop the left over marinade in a pan put on the BBQ and allow to simmer and cook out removing any potential harm. (see advice Marinades and Raw Chicken)

#TOP TIP a high burn oil will also aid in better cooking- think grapeseed and nut oils peanut these are also great tasting oils 

info from
info from

 Fancy a Rub!?

So again 2 types ( in my world), a dry rub and a wet rub. Pretty much say what they mean a wet rub is using a dry rub with added oil.

Some incredible rub recipes that I declare are not mine are on one of my favourite foodie websites Food 52 BBQ Wet Rub Goody Swamp Mustard Sauce

Again its truly a trial and error go with sauces for me , adapt one fo your favourites and make it your own. Thats what cooking is all about, PERSONALISE it and have FUN.

#Top Tip add the heat ingredients in small amount and taste as you go, even if a recipe says 4 chillies add one at a time and taste , personalise it or you could ruin a great dish with too much or too little flavour heat 


Now this topic I could write a full post about, but for now I will simplify, I infuse oils, butters, creams, sugars any ingredient that will take added flavour and be the carrier of deliciousness and the best bit you can use the bit you were going to throw away a lot of the time

Think about coriander (cilantro) a key ingredient in todays world across all cooking genres, love it or hate it, most people use the leaves and throw out the stems/stalks – NO. Keep them if your not doing straight away freeze them in a bag.

#Top Tip any unused herbs that may go to waste put in ice cube tray with oil and freeze instant dressing when required – waste not want not. 


To make an infused oil great for salads, marinades, rubs everyday cooking, sautéing, grilling its really simple

1. place your cooking oil of choice in a pan

2. bring up to a simmer with your added flavour ( be it herbs, fruit, lemons, limes, garlic, vegetables skins etc will definitely write a full post about this and the vast options)

3. make an ice bath whilst the oil it simmering and infusing the flavours  ( do not let it boil as this will taint the flavour )

4. keep on a low simmer for 15 mins at least

5. take off the heat and but the pan into the ice bath to cool instantly this allows the infusion to take and also not burn or sour the flavours

6. once cooled filter through muslim, a micro sieve into nice sterilised bottles/containers and you have your infused oil


SMOKING…must be said in the style of Jim Carey The MASK!

Im going to cheat here and refer you back to my recipe for Lapsong Souchong Chicken my adaptation from the incredible and talented Dianne Henry,  as its so delicious, can be cooked on your BBQ and can be tweaked with different woods, teas or flavours so a universal recipe and guide how to make smoking hot food!

Lapsong Souchang Smoked Chicken


So this is the one were everyone says on a BBQ , nah maybe a roasted banana but full on dessert ( you can also do flatbreads, breads, buns etc anything an oven can do you can do on a BBQ)

#Top Tip use your BBQ with pans, frying pans as you would a hob, by making it a normal cooking style you will feel more confident than using all new equipment, use what you have and you will be cooking alfresco even when its raining!

My favourite dessert is my  Chilli Chocolate Cake but I ve also made many different ones and ANY pretty much works , Tarte Tan recipes are great on a BBQ too I made a delicious Apple, Fig and Lavender Recipe on The Taste UK as a crumble and converted the recipe into a Tarte Tan which is delicious too.

Chilli Chocolate Cake BBQ stylie 


For the chocolate sponge

      • 250g self raising flour
      • 200g unsalted butter
      • 50g dark brown sugar
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 200g golden caster sugar
      • 2 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp chilli powder
      • 3 eggs
      • 50ml milk
      • 50g cocoa powder
      • 3 tbsp cacao, grated
      • 100g coco nibs or dark chocolate drops

For the salted caramel

  • 125g salted butter
  • 125ml double cream
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 banana ( this isn’t critical but does add a nice flavour , needs to be a small banana or can be overbearing, even add a splash of booze only for over 18s !)
  • 100g caster sugar

For the pistachio crumb

  • 150g pistachios, shelled
  • 30g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt

How to..

  1. First make the chocolate sponge. Line a 20 x 20cm cake tin with baking/greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together at high speed with an electric whisk, then add the eggs one at a time,( crack your eggs into a separate bowl cup/glass)
  3. Next add the sieved flour, baking powder and cocoa powder, (then loosen the mixture with the milk so you have a batter like texture not too sloppy).
  4. Stir in the chocolate drops or coco nibs, grated cacao and chilli powder. Add a large pinch of salt and mix well. Pour everything into the prepared tray and bake for 20-25 minutes. (BBQ COOKING METHOD – create a ban marie with larger pan than cake tin fill with water upto half way of cake tin and then place on BBQ- heat on medium heat  with lid down throughout 20-25 mins) 
  5. You can test its cooked pop a cocktail stick, skewer, fork, knife in and pull out should come out clean
  6. BBQ METHOD- once cake is cooked and cooling To make the salted caramel sauce, put the sugar in a pan and heat gently over a medium heat until caramelised DO NOT STIR- shake and wiggle the pan, stirring will impact the caramel. . Once golden brown, add the banana, cream and vanilla seeds.
  7. Cook for 2 minutes until the banana is soft, then add a good pinch of salt and stir until smooth. If you get any lumpy bits of caramel pop on a low heat and it will melt again
  8. Use a grinder to grind the shelled pistachios, then add the sugar and grind once more. (If no grinder place between a clean tea towel and bash the heck out of it until crumbs, or put into your blender and whizz until crumbs)
  9. Tip everything into a frying pan and lightly toast for 2 minutes then set aside.
  10. To serve, cut the sponge cake into portions, then pour over the caramel sauce and sprinkle over the pistachio crumb. I like to put the crumb on top of each square it looks very pretty

So in reality we have only just covered a smidgen, teeny weeney part on outdoor cooking but this is a good start, not even touched on cheeses ( think Halloumi or Poached , Roasted and Smoked fruits ) oh I think we will be doing a lot more about outdoor cooking.

And just one final

#Top Tip to cover any GF or Coelics instead of bread, buns etc use the vegetables as the bun – portebello mushrooms make a great burger bun, gem lettuce leaves or spinach leaves, crudités  use as bread substitute to dip into sauces, oils, vinegars – create the option its a delicious option for any type of diet too. 

Enjoy and let me know what you make





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