Man and Fire by Katie Caldesi

Barbecued fish

Marinated pollack with fennel on the grill

There is no doubt barbecuing seems to bring out the rudimentary caveman in most men, my husband Giancarlo being no exception!  There is something wonderful and mesmerising about watching flames whether it is the light from a candle, dancing flames in a hearth or an autumn bonfire outdoors.  To control fire so that we can cook on it is taking it the fascination further.
We have a woodburning oven at Caldesi in Campagna, our restaurant in Bray and one at home, on the side of which is a barbecue that is designed so that you cook over the fallen embers from burning logs rather than briquettes.   This is the way Giancarlo learnt to cook from a child “alla brace”.  When we go back to Tuscany to see friends they frequently slap on huge Chianina steaks, local sausages and pork onto their outdoor grills.  Giancarlo has spent years perfecting the art of barbecuing and I thought you might be interested in some of his tips.
Man and Fire

Giancarlo at the Barbecue

Giancarlo’s tips

  • Marinating meat or fish gives a more succulent result and adds flavour to food.  Beer is great for this – try it over chicken or beef, it will prevent food drying out.  Try pineapple juice over pork to keep it moist and add a fruity flavour.  The enzymes in pineapple juice help break down the meat.
  • Soak wooden skewers first for half an hour in water to stop them catching alight.
  • Curl long lengths of sausages into spirals and secure across with two long wooden skewers – it makes them easier to turn.
  • Raise and lower the grill – terracotta bricks or upturned small flowerpots are good for this to move food nearer and away from the heat source.
  • When cooking fish, leave the skin on to protect the delicate flesh, put it skin side down onto a hot rack and leave to almost cook through on that side.  Only turn to cook the other side for one minute at the end.
  • Wrap birds such as quail in lardo, pancetta or streaky bacon to baste them in fat.

For further tips come and join us for our last barbecue evening of the year in Bray.
Cooking over Coals – Italian barbecue evenings
Celebrate summer at Caldesi in Campagna in Bray, Berkshire  when Giancarlo will cook outside (come rain or shine) on our woodburning oven and barbecue.  Choose from a selection of suckling pig, Giancarlo’s spare ribs, chicken and fish with salads and hot Focaccia.  Finish with Tiramisu and Bomboloni (our homemade dipping doughnuts).  Thursday 26th August 2010
£28 per person (£15 per child) including a welcome glass of Prosecco, Italian Beer or Mocktail, canapés on arrival, barbecued meat, fish and dessert plus optional 12.5% service.  Call 01628 788500 to book and see for further details.
Spiedini di carne e salsicce
Steak and sausage skewers
This recipe has become a family favourite: I can enlist the help of the children in making it and everyone loves eating it. It is based on an old Tuscan recipe for skewered sausages and pig’s liver wrapped in caul and sandwiched between crunchy bread and herbs. For non-Tuscans it is an acquired taste but this version hits the spot and still utilises the clever idea of having bread on the skewers to soak up the juices. As a child, one of my favourite dishes in an Italian restaurant was mixed grill so that I could have a bit of everything. This ‘recipe on a stick’ is like that and the herbs give it so much flavour. Italian sausages are best as they contain no bread. Toulouse sausages also work if you like garlic. If you cannot find either, look for lean or gluten-free sausages that will hold their shape well once cut in half. Chicken would also work here in place of one of the other meats.
Serves 6

  • 300g sirloin or fillet steaks
  • 250g pork loin or fillet
  • 500g Italian sausages
  • 100g pancetta or unsmoked streaky bacon
  • 150g country-style white bread
  • 18 sage leaves or bay leaves, or some of each
  • 6 sprigs of rosemary, cut into 12 pieces
  • 50ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 wooden or metal skewers

If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in a shallow dish for at least 20 minutes before use, to prevent them burning later. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 or heat up the barbecue.
Meanwhile, cut the steak and pork into 4cm squares, trimming off any gristle and excess fat. Cut each sausage in half, or into thirds if they are very big. Using a pair of scissors, cut the pancetta into 4cm squares or, if using bacon, cut each rasher into three pieces. Cut the bread into 3 cm cubes. Share out all the ingredients into six even piles.
Thread the prepared meats and sausages on the skewers, alternating the with bread and interleaving the bay or sage leaves and rosemary between the cubes. Season them on all sides and place in a roasting tin.  Drizzle the oil over the skewered ingredients, turning them as you do so that the bread is soaked in oil.  Now cook in the oven or on a pre-heated barbecue for 20-25 minutes, turning the skewers frequently until cooked through. Serve with salad, peperonata and crusty bread.

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