It's mid November (already!) and at this time of the year my thoughts turn to cleaning up the barbecue to get ready for cooking and entertaining outdoors. I'm also starting to think about menus for various al fresco events, as well as gifts for food-loving family and friends. Enter, Ross Dobson's King of the Grill.
Chef, restaurateur, food writer and best-selling cookbook author, Ross Dobson says: 'Having a barbecue is such a social event and there's something magical about the hiss of food on the grill and the irresistible aromas that accompany it. This is quick, simple cooking at its sizzling best'
Ross Dobson is well known as 'The Master of the Barbecue Tongs' for good reason. The chef/owner of two western Sydney restaurants, Café at Lewers at the Penrith regional art gallery, and The Union tapas bar, also has a dozen cookbooks under his belt; including Fired Up, More Fired Up, Fired Up Vegetarian and Grillhouse. His latest (massive 400 page) tome, King of the Grill - The Bumper Book of No Nonsense Barbecuing, presents traditional Australian BBQ classics, but also draws on his food travels and culinary influences from around the world: South East Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.
Standout recipes chosen by my taste-tester and sous chef, Peter, include lemongrass and lime leaf chicken; Penang beef satay; smoky pork kebabs; prawn and chorizo skewers; whole snapper with ginger and spring onions; kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass tofu; silverbeet and feta gozleme; chilli caramel chicken; potatoes in foil with herbed labneh; naked samosas; chilli yoghurt chicken; and rum and maple mashed sweet potato. Oh yeah!
In terms of 'rules', Ross says: 'Grilling allows us to be the master or mistress of flavour. It really is up to you how tender the meat is in terms of cooking time and utilising different cuts of meat. I think we've become slightly overly concerned with food hygiene these days. Having said that, I'm not saying it should not be a concern. So:
Hello Ross, thank you for taking the time for this 'conversation' with me. Congratulations on the release of King of the Grill. It's a truly magnificent collection of no-nonsense recipes for the barbecue and I know my readers are going to love it!
My pleasure, Lizzy.
Tell me please, what is your earliest food memory?
Eating bread dipped in vinegar and olive oil. I was about five or six, hanging out with my friend Lilianna La Rosa, a Sicilian family who somehow ended up living in the same far north coast NSW town as my family.
You've shared some wonderful stories about memorable barbecue events you have enjoyed (such as the London rooftop and the all-American BBQ in San Francisco). When did you first become 'fired up' about cooking on a barbecue?
I have often been the 'organiser' in my group of pals. There was a time there when I had this great old terrace in Sydney. It had a cement backyard, which was very low maintenance. There was the awesome jacaranda tree. So it seemed logical that I become the Saturday arvo cook. Barbecuing under the jacaranda is something I miss.
Who are your food heroes, or who inspires you the most when it comes to food and cooking?
I am in awe of those chefs/cooks with attention to detail. Barbara Tropp, an American cook and food writer, had a passionate obsession with Chinese cookery. Tetsuya and Neil Perry have also inspired me.
When it comes to the cookbooks you cook from, do you prefer to keep the pages pristine or do you like it when they’re well used and the pages are just a little splattered?
Without a doubt, I am the sort of person who uses books and gets them dirty. I write in books too; little notes to remind me to do something different next time to improve on a recipe or to add a seasonal ingredient or flavour.
[Excellent, so do i!!].
Do you have an all-time favourite recipe for a barbecued dish?
The recipe I get most comments on is baked salmon. Which is kind of odd because it is not meat, the ingredient we mostly associate with barbecuing. A side of salmon is topped with chopped herbs, lemon, butter, finely sliced red chilli and this is all wrapped up in baking paper. Cook the fish on a pre heated hotplate for about 15 minutes for a delicious and impressive feed. [Yum!].
Is there a recipe you'd like to share with Good Things readers?
Yes, how about my salad of Sugar Pumpkin with Lentils and a Tangy Dressing from page 296 in the book.
[Great choice! The recipe appears below with the photograph].
Thanks again, Ross, it's been a pleasure chatting with you.
SUGAR PUMPKIN WITH LENTILS AND TANGY DRESSING*
Ross says 'This will not be the first, or the last, time I have used the following technique to make a dressing or a sauce. Gently heating aromatics in some oil teases out the flavours and infuses these through the oil. And don't be afraid of lentils - they are tender, tasty and good for you.'
55g puy lentils or tiny blue green lentils
1 sugar or butternut pumpkin (squash) about 2kg
1 tablespoon rice bran oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 cup small mint leaves
1 cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
60ml light olive oil
1 large red chilli, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
60ml white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
To make the dressing, put the olive oil, chilli and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the chilli and garlic start to sizzle, cook for just 1-2 minutes longer, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vinegar, sugar and salt, and mix until dissolved. Pour into a jar or bowl and set aside to infuse.
Put the lentils in a small saucepan and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy. This may take as little as five minutes, or up to 20 minutes, depending on the age of your lentils, so check them regularly. Drain well and set aside.
Preheat the barbecue or grill to medium. Cut the pumpkin in half, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Leaving the skin on, cut the pumpkin into wedges no thicker than 2cm. Brush the flesh with the rice bran oil and cook on the grill for ten minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through, checking regularly to ensure it doesn't burn too much.
Put the hot pumpkin in a large bowl with the onion, herbs and lentils. Stir the dressing, then pour it over the pumpkin. Toss gently to combine. Serve warm. This quantity serves 4.
*Recipe and accompanying image appear with the kind courtesy of Murdoch Books and Ross Dobson.
King of the Grill by Ross Dobson, RRP $39.99, Murdoch Books. Thank you kindly to Ross Dobson and the team at the publicity department at Murdoch Books for giving me the opportunity to catch up with Ross and talk about this cracker of a BBQ book.
Tell me dear readers, have you any of Ross Dobson's cookbooks on your shelves? Do you enjoy barbecued food?
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.