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A summer ritual

Summer just wouldn’t be summer if you didn’t get invited to at least one barbecue. David Pike has got in early, on both the season and the guest list.

I CAN’T think of a better way to follow on from last week’s sausage sizzle than to have a look at the art of the barbecue.

We have a prefect climate for outdoor cooking, even the winter months aren’t too harsh to stop me roasting a chicken or leg of lamb on the Weber.

The barbecue has a strong attraction, particularly for Australian males, who gather around like moths to a flame. Men seem to take on a whole new identity when they ignite their barbecue. With a set of tongs in hand, many blokes become, in their own minds’ at least, as good as the ‘naked chef’. In reality many are chefs with a natural ability to burn nearly everything placed on the scorching flames leaping up at them through the mass of dripping fat, oil and beer that accumulates on their precious outdoor tool.

The barbecues of today have come along way since the popular 44-gallon drum cut in half with home-made grill, or the brick barbie with its solid steel cooking plate.

Barbecues have undergone a rapid evolution. Modern-day units have attached woks, rotisserie arms, variable heat control (this is still a novel invention for many) and, nearly as unheard of, vegetable racks. So professional are these units that it is becoming much harder to find anything resembling a burnt snagger or dried up porterhouse cut any more.

The folks at Howard Park in Denmark invited me to my first barbecue of the summer season to celebrate the Great Southern Wine festival.

Howard Park had managed to tempt Fraser’s chef Brad Ford down to the winery to create a delightful feast of freshly prepared seafood and meats. The moonlight barbie showcased just what you are able to create using the humble Aussie icon.

Brad’s feast included calamari with chilli and pancetta that was very flavoursome. Some local marron with carrot mescut was cooked briefly on the barbecue and came up a treat with the simple addition of just a little good olive oil and seasoned with a little salt and pepper. The result was a succulent and tender mouthful.

The tender spring lamb chops accompanied with a tomato saffron relish dissolved in my mouth. No barbecue would be complete with out a snagger and the chicken and Italian sausage was like the lamb, succulent and perfectly prepared. Salads are no longer a matter of iceberg lettuce and chunks of cheese, with the tomato, bocconcini with basil and a red wine vinegar salad prepared by chef Ford showing how exciting and interesting salads can be.

But what about the meat? Well, everyone knows how to cook the prefect steak, don’t they? As it is the beginning of summer, I thought a quick refresher wouldn’t go astray.

Best results are achieved by cooking on the open grill section of your barbecue. Make sure your beer is full as you will find that your prime cuts won’t take very long to cook. Brush, don’t swamp, your steak with oil on both sides, bang the burners on high, place the steak on your grill and let it sizzle away. The steak will be ready for turning when it starts to change colour and, as everyone knows, you only turn steak once.

To serve rare, remove when the first drops of liquid (often blood) begin to appear. For medium rare the steak should be well covered with liquid, while those who belong to the well-done clan should wait until the liquid juices have disappeared.

Believe it or not your steak will continue to cook away slowly even when you have removed it from the heat. So, as I always say, less is best.

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