Time to barbecue (it’s always time to barbecue)

A few weeks ago I led a barbecuing event for John Lewis.

Not a low and slow, twelve hour smoking session, as has become de rigour on the internet and in magazines and papers; much as I love the result, I just don’t think those are realistic for most people (and they’re pretty antisocial unless you’re in a field in the middle of nowhere). Instead, an evening of achievable but hopefully interesting outdoor cooking, using a collection of John Lewis’ gas and charcoal barbecues.

My message then and now, was and is twofold.

The first that it’s totally possible to move from the default setting of burgers, snags and salad; instead, let’s use barbecues to their potential — i.e. as outdoor ovens — and cook proper dishes and meals on them.

And the second being: don’t be afraid to burn things. For sure, avoid blackened yet raw chicken. But do feel confident enough to burn hardy vegetables like onions, leeks, fennel, beetroot, butternut squash, peppers and corn — they can all handle it. And do harness smoky flavours to tweak otherwise ‘normal’ fodder, such as sharing platters involving charred root vegetables, and dishes you might not normally consider cooking outside, like frittatas and tarte tatins.

On the night I cooked a burnt onion, beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, a cheat’s (sensible person’s) whole pork belly, charred leeks and spring onions with BBQ romesco sauce, and cinnamon and pecan baked apples.

And in advance I sent John Lewis a few recipes for their website: a smoky red pepper, chorizo and blue cheese fritatta; za’atar chicken served with burnt fennel and orange salad; and a BBQ pineapple and rum tarte Tatin, which enjoys a splash of rum and a grating of lime zest and is generally pretty awesome.

The tatin recipe sits below these pictures. The rest can be found over on John Lewis’ website. Take a look.

The event and associated recipes were commissioned by John Lewis, so it follows that this is a sponsored post. Still, I reckon their set of outdoor grills with the usual two year warranty is worth a push.

Also, thanks to my ‘On the Side’ partner Joe Woodhouse for once again making my food look good.  

BBQ frittata

BBQ fritatta plated

BBQ vibes

za'atar chicken

pineapple tatin

Pineapple and rum tarte Tatin

Whatever you can do in an oven, you can do in a barbecue with a lid. It’s just that when cooked in a barbecue, an extra layer of flavour is added. So this pineapple tarte Tatin is smoky as well as sweet, sharp, zesty, a little bit adult thanks to the rum. It’s a real treat, and both fun and easy to cook.

Because it’s so sturdy and won’t break down, pineapple is a particularly good fruit both for a Tatin and an outdoor grill. The fruit and caramel base (ultimately the top) will be dark and shiny, but not burnt, even after 30 minutes or so of contact with a hot barbecue.

Assuming you are using the barbecue for other parts of your meal, you can (and should) do the first part of this in advance. i.e. char the pineapple, make a caramel and tuck the pastry over the top of the fruit. Leave somewhere cool until required, then eventually cook whilst you’re eating your savoury courses.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 medium pineapple
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 40ml dark rum
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 300g all butter puff pastry
  • Vanilla ice cream to serve
  • 20cm oven proof high sided frying pan, skillet or tatin dish

Trim the skin from the pineapple, then turn the pineapple on its side and cut into 2 cm thick slices. Halve the slices (so that the wedges are now semi circular), and remove the hard core by cutting a little triangle into the middle. Lay these on a hot barbecue for 4-5 minutes until you’ve nicely blackened bar marks. Set aside.

Dust a clean surface with flour and roll the puff pastry out to around 24cm diameter, and 2-3mm thick. Leave in the fridge on a large plate until needed.

Scatter the sugar into a 20cm oven proof frying pan. Shake to level the sugar out and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of cold water. Place on a hot part of the barbecue and cook, without disturbing, for 4-5 minutes until the sugar caramelises. At the point you think some of the sugar is beginning to burn, wait for 1 minute more … then add the butter and stir with a metal spoon. Move to a lower part of the grill and pour in the rum. Let this bubble off for 10 seconds, then place the pan on a heatproof side. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before arranging the pineapple pieces on the molten caramel. Grate the lime zest over the pineapple slices.

Lay the puff pastry over the pineapple, tucking it in at the edges like a blanket.

When ready to cook the tatin, ensure the barbecue is medium-hot, place the pan (and its oven proof handle) on the grill, and close your hood. Cook for 25 minutes. If you have a way of measuring, the ideal temperature of the barbecue will be 180-200 degrees. A little hotter is fine, lower and you may have to finish the tarte with a 5-10 minute blast in the oven to ensure the pastry is cooked through and flaky.

After 25 minutes, the tarte should be golden brown and puffy on top, with caramel seeping round the edges. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 3-5 minutes. Then remove from the pan by holding a serving plate on top of the pan (2-3cm larger in diameter than the tarte, and with edges or indent to catch any juices), and carefully but confidently and quickly inverting it. The tarte should drop out.

Rearrange any pieces of pineapple that have moved whilst decanting the tarte. Serve with vanilla ice cream.