Japanese coleslaw

This coleslaw is very quick and easy to throw together, and it’s a great alternative accompaniment for your barbecues. Wasabi and ginger give this coleslaw a great SE Asian kick, and the sweet white cabbage and carrot shreds really respond well to the savoury dressing.

I’ve used powdered wasabi here, which you can usually find at Asian grocers. It’s sweeter and has more zip to it than the pre-prepared version. Check your wasabi packaging to make sure that wasabi (horseradish on some packs) is the only ingredient.

To serve about four people, you’ll need:

1 white cabbage
2 large carrots
½ inch piece of ginger
3 tablespoons seasoned Japanese rice vinegar (I like Mitsukan, which you should be able to find at a good supermarket)
1 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 heaped teaspoon wasabi powder
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar

Shred the cabbage finely with a knife, and grate the carrots. Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl.

Add the vinegar to the wasabi in a small bowl, and leave aside for five minutes. Grate the ginger and stir it into the vinegar and wasabi mixture with the soy sauce and sugar, and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the sesame oil, whisk briskly to emulsify all the ingredients, and pour the finished dressing over the cabbage and carrots. Toss everything together and serve immediately. This coleslaw does not keep well (the salad will wilt in the dressing), so you have a great excuse to eat it all in one go.

RUB BBQ, Chelsea, New York City

So in the end, I didn’t update at all during my visit to New York – apologies if you were checking, but I hope you’ll understand. This was my first trip to the city, and I found myself doing things a long way from my hotel room from the moment I closed the door every morning until I collapsed, exhausted, into the Kitano hotel’s cloudlike embrace every night. Simply put, there is an awful lot of very entertaining stuff to do in New York, from the museums, the architecture, the shopping, the jazz – and the very, very good food – and I found myself much too busy enjoying myself to blog.

RUB BBQ (an acronym, this; spelled out, RUB means Righteous Urban Barbecue) is…well, righteous, and urban, and a barbecue joint. (208 W. 23rd St., New York, NY 10011, nr. Seventh Ave.) I do like restaurants which tell you what they do on the tin. This place is about Kansas City-style barbecue: fat, woodsmoke and the charred crispy bits best eaten when you are young and not prone to heart attacks. It’s no-nonsense food, served up in no-nonsense style on waxed paper dishes with pickle chips and hunks of sweetly pappy Wonder Bread – a strangely good accompaniment for smoky, salty, spicy barbecue. Leave any dietary concerns at the door, because the best stuff on offer here is unshamedly fatsome and entirely lacking in vegetably vitamins.

The meat is freshly smoked daily in set quantities, and this sometimes leads to certain items running out surprisingly early in the day (on our first visit they’d already run out of burnt ends by 6pm). I’m not sure whether this is a dastardly ploy to get you back in the door in the hope of finding what you were after – if it is, it certainly worked on me.

There is an appetiser on the menu called BBQ Bacon Chunks. I like bacon, I like barbecue, and I am partial to the sort of food that comes in chunks, so this was a no-brainer. A waxed paper dish of triple-smoked, thumb-sized rectangles of obscenely fat belly pork turned up, cooked to a melting crisp. “Good God, these things must be bad for you,” said Dr W, popping them in his mouth one by one in a sort of porky trance. “Mmmurgle,” I agreed.

Burnt ends are the blackened, fatty end of a beef brisket, cooked until the fat metamorphoses into a charred and friable, tender magic. Portions here are large, and I am still not quite sure how I managed to absorb a whole plate of the things into my person, but the burnt ends were one of those things it’s simply impossible to stop eating. Szechuan smoked duck was good, but not as good as the pork and beef on offer. Its mahogany, lacquered skin was simply gorgeous, all the fat underneath rendered out, but the meat was uninteresting, and not as moist as it could have been.

Table sauces include two barbecue sauces, one mild and one spicy, ketchup and vinegar. The pulled pork (see my recipe for pulled pork here) needed a good dollop of barbecue sauce to liven it up, but once it had been anointed was tender and tasty, with some lovely BCBs (Burnt Crispy Bits). Brisket from further up the joint than the burnt ends was leaner, and Dr W’s favourite cut on offer. He tiled the tender slices on a piece of Wonder Bread, added some of that spicy barbecue sauce and ate the whole thing as a sort of heart-attack sandwich. What’s going on here? Wonder Bread in its natural state is a soft, sugary abomination, but is weirdly delicious presented like this. Perhaps there is something in the rub.

Because if there is something in the rub, the rub itself is in everything. On every meat, and it also found its way into all the accompaniments we tried – onion strings were battered and fried, then sprinkled with the sweetly spicy rub. It flavoured the coleslaw (making it too sweet for my tastes – but you may wish to ignore what I have to say here, given that pieces of bacon fat the size of my thumb are to my tastes), was scattered all over the fries, and spiked the beans. Those beans beat me – they just tasted too much to enable us to eat more than about a spoonful each, and that rub really made them sweeter than I could manage.

Staggering out of RUB after our second visit, five times fatter than I was when I went in the first time, I found I had a greed-induced stitch in my side, and so stopped in a café to recover. Gazing out of the window, I locked eyes with Rupert Everett, craggily walking a dog. Glorious barbecue and surprise movie stars. I really like this city.

Spicy barbecue chicken wings

I’ve been barbecuing a lot in the last couple of weeks, as the UK has sunburned its way through a heat wave. Recently I’ve been experimenting with old-fashioned barbecue sauce, and I think I’ve finally come up with a pretty much world-beating home-made version. (Of course, any recipe which starts with eight tablespoons of ketchup can barely be called a recipe – but I hope you’ll let me off this time.) This is a great marinade and baste, and is thick enough to stay on the wings as they cook. If you baste well during cooking, it will caramelise into a dense, sticky-crispy layer on the skin, making wings just aching to be torn apart with fingers and popped into your mouth.

Chicken wings are one of the best things in the world on the barbecue. The flesh is succulent and sweet because of the proximity to the bone, they cook (and marinade) faster than a larger joint would, and all that lovely skin crisps up to a mahogany deliciousness. To marinade ten chicken wings, tips removed, you’ll need:

8 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce (use your favourite – I like Kampong Koh or Sriracha)
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tablespoons muscavado sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Tabasco chipotle sauce
2 teaspoons ground chipotle peppers (use ground cayenne if you can’t find chipotle)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and marinade the chicken wings for about eight hours. (You can cut down on this with a vacuum container like a SealSaver, which is what I did.) Cook on the barbecue (or under the grill indoors if the weather is bad), which should not be blistering hot, for 15 minutes, turning regularly and basting each time you turn with the remaining marinade.

A note on the balsamic vinegar: don’t use the best stuff that you keep for salads. A cheaper version will do here. I like Aspall’s balsamic for cooking. Maille also do a very good balsamic vinegar, but I’ve not seen it outside France – if anyone knows of any stockists here, please leave a note in the comments!

Honey and sesame glazed chicken wings

Glazed chicken wingsContinuing this week’s things which taste as if they ought to cost a lot more than they did theme, here’s a recipe for chicken wings. They’re a much-overlooked bit of the bird, and this is a shame (or would be if it didn’t mean that they’re amazingly cheap), because they’re wonderfully tasty. Meat from near the bone of a chicken always tastes richer and sweeter. Grilled in a sweet sauce, the skin on the wings becomes crisp and delicious. And somehow, sticky things which demand to be eaten with the fingers are about three times tastier than the ones you can just manage with a knife and fork.

To serve four as a starter or two as a main course with rice, you’ll need:

16 chicken wings
2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
2 tablespoons runny honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 tablespoon chilli sauce (choose something sweet here – I used Kampong Koh chilli and garlic sauce, which is made in my grandparents’ town in Malaysia)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or grated with a Microplane grater
Juice of half a lemon

Remove the pointy end-joint from each wing with a sharp knife. Mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl and marinade the chicken pieces for a few hours or (preferably) overnight.

Place the chicken wings on a rack over some tin foil in a grill pan and grill close to the heat source under a medium flame for about six minutes on each side (or use a barbecue). Baste the chicken with the marinade from the bowl regularly as it cooks. The sauce will caramelise and the skin will bubble. If you want a sauce, put any extra marinade in a small pan and boil vigorously for a couple of minutes, then pour over the wings. Serve with a bowl on the table for the bones and plenty of paper napkins – you’re going to get very sticky fingers!

Chicken satay

Chicken satayWhen we visit family in Malaysia, we usually make a beeline to the nearest hawker stall and gorge ourselves on satay – sticks of marinated meat, grilled over charcoal and served with a peanut sauce. The very best I’ve ever had was in Ipoh, an old tin-mining town, where an old satay man (so old he was already working there on my Dad’s arrival in Malaysia aged seven – on seeing Dad, now bald and surrounded by his grown-up children, he still calls him China Boy) still makes satay on Jalan Bandar Timeh.

This is one of a few recipes which I love so much that I can be found back home, umbrella in one hand, hunched over a flickering barbecue in the very worst of weather. Sometimes an urge for satay will hit and there’s really not much I can do about it; it’s drive the hundred miles to Oriental City or make some at home.

For just this eventuality, there was a pot of palm sugar, fresh turmeric roots and lots of fresh lemongrass in the fridge. You really do need the fresh lemongrass (which you should be able to find at the supermarket), but if you’re stuck miles from an Oriental grocer, you can substitute a mixture of molasses and soft brown sugar for the palm sugar, and use ground, dried turmeric instead of the roots.

Some Chinese Malaysian satay vendors will put a small piece of fat pork in-between each piece of lean meat to add flavour and moisture. This is quite incredibly delicious. If you can find a strip of pork fat (I wish I could), just snip it into small pieces and marinade it with the meat, then construct the sticks with alternate bits of fat and lean meat.

To make about a kilo of satay you’ll need:

Marinade
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon chilli powder
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 turmeric roots (about the size of the top two joints of a woman’s little finger), grated
2 inches from the fat end of a lemongrass stalk, grated
1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 tablespoons palm sugar
8 tablespoons light soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Meat
1kg chicken, lamb or pork (I used chicken)

Satay sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 shallots, chopped very finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 turmeric roots, grated
½ teaspoon ground chilli
2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander seeds
2 inches grated lemongrass
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 can coconut milk (preferably without emulsifiers)
1 teaspoon salt

Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces and leave in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients for two hours. (This is a very penetrating marinade and you may find the flavour too strong if you leave it for longer.) Reserve the marinade and thread the meat on bamboo skewers.

Make the sauce by frying the shallots, garlic, chilli, turmeric and coriander in oil until the shallots are soft and translucent. Add the peanut butter, salt and coconut milk along with six tablespoons of the reserved marinade and simmer hard for five minutes. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for another fifteen minutes (get someone else to watch it and stir every few minutes to stop the sauce catching) while you go outside and grill the meat.

SatayTake another lemongrass stick, cut off the bottom half centimetre and then bang the end of the stick hard with something heavy. The end of the stick will resemble a brush. You can use this to baste the chicken on the barbecue with some of the remaining marinade. Keep cooking until the chicken is shiny and starting to caramelise at the edges. (In Malaysia you are likely to see satay makers fanning the charcoal on their little grill to make it hotter. I find a large, well-ventilated barbecue with plenty of charcoal is usually hot enough.)

When the chicken is done, serve it immediately with the hot satay sauce. In Malaysia you’d eat this with ketupat (compressed squares of rice), chunks of raw shallot and of cucumber, all of which are dipped in the sauce. We ate it with grilled sweetcorn, smacked cucumber which I made with more palm sugar, and a bowl of white rice with some of the sauce thrown over it – delicious.

Sticky Thai garlic-chilli prawns

Sticky Thai garlic-chilli prawnsOne of the things the area I live in really lacks is a good fishmonger. As a result, raw prawns with the shells still on are very hard to find, so whenever I spot them in the supermarket I grab about six bags and freeze them.

Why do I want to keep the shells on, you ask? It’s perfectly simple; cooked like this, the shells not only add rich flavour to the flesh of the prawns, but become delicious in their own right. They’re a little crunchy, a little chewy, and extremely tasty, so don’t bother peeling your prawn – eat it shell and all. I wish my prawns has also had heads (ask any Chinese person; the head is the best bit), but head-on raw prawns are increasingly hard to find these days.

I was planning on barbecuing these little guys, but the summer of torrential rain shows no signs of abating, and I’ve barely been able to use the barbecue at all this year. If the weather’s this bad where you are, put the prawns under the conventional grill. Lucky readers living where there’s sunshine and enough warmth to eat outdoors should drag out the barbecue for this one.

To cook enough prawns for a very substantial meal for two (or a sensibly sized meal for three) you’ll need:

500g raw, defrosted prawns with the shells on (raw frozen prawns will be blue-grey, not pink)
4 tablespoons light soya sauce
2 tablespoons sweet dark soya sauce (kejap manis)
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 bird’s eye chilli
1 head garlic
1 large handful coriander, chopped

Use a sharp knife to butterfly the prawns – make a slit between the prawn’s legs from the base of the tail to the place where the head was, slicing through the flesh, but not through the shell on the prawn’s back. Flatten the prawns out with your hand. Cutting the prawns like this will maximise the surface area, helping them to take up the flavour of the marinade.

Mince all the cloves from the head of garlic with a large, sharp knife. (This is very easy – just lay the cloves on a chopping board and, holding the knife at the tip and the hilt and using a rocking motion, ‘walk’ the blade up and down the board for about five minutes. You’ll find the garlic is chopped finely and evenly. It’s probably not best to eat this immediately before going on a date.) Chop the chilli finely and mix it and the garlic with all the liquid ingredients. Stir the marinade mixture well to blend everything, then tip the prawns in, stirring to make sure they’re well covered. Refrigerate for 40 minutes. This is quite a penetrating marinade, so don’t leave the prawns for more than an hour or they will taste too strong.

When you are ready to cook the prawns, reserve the marinade and place them on a barbecue or under a very hot grill for three or four minutes per side, until they turn pink and the skins start to caramelise a little. Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a strong boil for about thirty seconds. Drizzle a little of the wonderfully garlicky cooked marinade over the prawns to serve, and dress with plenty of fresh coriander…and remember to eat those delicious shells!

Chicken pieces roasted in homemade barbecue sauce

This is a one-dish recipe requiring very little attention once it’s in the oven – a good option when you have guests for dinner and you want to talk to them before eating rather than skip in and out of the room in an apron with a spoon all evening.

If you’re not comfortable cutting a chicken into joints at home, you can ask your butcher to joint it for you. If you don’t have easy access to a friendly butcher, you can make this dish with a mixture of chicken thigh and leg joints from the supermarket instead – it’s important, though, to use chicken pieces with the bone in and the skin on for ultimate tenderness and flavour. This barbecue sauce is made from dried spices, soya sauce and white wine. It’s strong and delicious, so serve with plenty of rice (I cooked mine with a little saffron) or another plain starch to soak up all the flavour.

To serve four, you’ll need:

1 large chicken, jointed
4 shallots, cut into large dice
150ml white wine
150ml soya sauce
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon sundried tomato puree
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder (chipotle powder is nice here for the smoky flavour)
1 tablespoon liquid smoke (leave this out if it’s unavailable where you live)
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).

Space the chicken pieces evenly in a large metal baking dish, and sprinkle the shallot pieces around them. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, until the chicken is browning and the pieces of shallot are starting to take on colour at the edges. A lot of fat will have rendered out from the chicken skin, so use a tablespoon to remove as much of it as you can.

Mix all the other ingredients in a measuring jug and whisk with a fork to make sure everything is well blended, then pour evenly over the chicken pieces and shallots, trying to make sure all the chicken is nicely coated. Put back in the oven for another 30 minutes, basting twice, and serve immediately.

If, by some amazing freak of appetite, you don’t eat this all in one go, the chicken is great the next day taken off the bone in sandwiches.

Tuna and borlotti bean salad

This salad is brilliant at barbecues, where it’s a great light, sunshine-filled alternative to any giant hunks of charred meat you might be serving. It’s full of assertive flavours – the lemon, deliciously sweet peppers and raw onion, the celery and, of course, the tuna. It’s also very simple, and only takes a few minutes to throw together.

I’m a lazy cook. I very, very seldom cook beans from scratch – they’re very cheap to buy in cans, and in a salad like this the borlotti beans don’t suffer at all from coming out of a tin. If you prefer to use dried beans, you’ll need to soak them overnight, then boil for ten minutes. Take the pan off the heat and leave the beans to soak in their cooking water for two hours. Borlotti beans are a lovely little legume. They’re related to the kidney bean, and they have a lovely creamy texture and a slightly sweet taste. If you can’t find any, try making this with cannellini beans, which make a good alternative. To make a large bowl, big enough for a large family barbecue, you’ll need:

2 cans tuna in spring water
1 large sweet onion (a Vidalia or other sweet salad onion is excellent in this dish)
1 handful fresh parsley
1 plump clove garlic
1 can borlotti beans
5 stalks from a celery heart
1 orange pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and pepper

Chop the onion into quarters and slice finely. Mince the parsley and cut the celery and pepper into small dice. Crush the garlic and flake the tuna. Put the beans in a sieve and rinse them under cold running water.

Toss all the prepared ingredients together in a large bowl with the olive oil, lemon and seasoning, and cover with cling film. Leave in the fridge for an hour before serving for the flavours to mingle.

Green chilli cornbread

You don’t see cornbread recipes often in the UK. This is a traditional American accompaniment, made from ground maize or cornmeal (if you are making this in England look for fine polenta in the supermarket), and uses baking powder rather than yeast for leavening. It has a fine scent and flavour, a deliciously crisp shell and a soft, fragrant crumb.

Cornbread is often made in a cast-iron skillet in America. I like to use muffin pans to make individual servings. It’s extremely good with barbecued food – try it with pulled pork or sticky chicken.

At a Gospel Sunday service and brunch at the House of Blues (churchgoing comes with fried chicken as standard in Las Vegas) earlier this year, I found some fantastic little cornbread muffins, far tastier than other cornbread I’d tried. I asked the staff how they were made, and was told that the secret to the texture was the addition of canned, creamed sweetcorn to the batter. The cornbread was also studded with fresh jalapeño peppers. I’ve recreated them here, and I’m proud to report that they’re pretty much exactly right.

To make twelve individual cornbread muffins, you’ll need:

3 tablespoons butter
2 cups white cornmeal (polenta)
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 cup milk
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 can creamed corn
4 green chillies (jalapeños if available), chopped finely

Turn the oven up to 220° C (425° F) and preheat the muffin pans with the butter dotted in the base of each. While the pans are heating, mix the cornmeal, sugar, milk, buttermilk, egg, baking powder and bicarb thoroughly in a large bowl.

Stir the creamed corn and chillis through the mixture. Pour an equal amount into each muffin tin, and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. A skewer inserted into the middle of one of the muffins should come out clean.

The muffins are delicious split and spread with some butter and a little honey (even better if you whisk the butter and honey together before spreading, for some reason). You can also use them to accompany savoury dishes. The muffins will keep well, maintaining their crisp surface, in an airtight box for a few days.

Kofta kebab

We fancied lamb for Easter, but didn’t feel like a roast. The answer came with the weather forecast; it was a gloriously sunny weekend, so I hauled the barbecue out for its first kebab recipe of the year.

This juicy, spicy kebab, also called a kofte kebab, is great served with a selection of mezze-type spreads, salad and pitta bread. I made hummus and tzatziki (just a tub of yoghurt with a generous handful of chopped mint and very finely chopped raw garlic), and a big bowl of aubergine caviar. Cooked over charcoal, the kebabs are deliciously smoky, but if the weather isn’t up to it you can cook them under the grill.

To make about eight kebabs you’ll need:

500g good-quality lamb mince
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large handful fresh parsley
1 small handful fresh mint
1 large egg
Salt and pepper

Grind the cumin and coriander roughly in a mortar and pestle with a teaspoon of salt. Put the spices, herbs, onions, garlic and the egg in a food processor and blitz until everything is chopped. Add the meat and blitz again until everything is well-mixed. (Don’t completely purée the meat – aim for a reasonably rough texture.)

Form handfuls of the meat mixture around bamboo skewers. (The skewers make the kebabs really easy to turn and move around on the grill, as well as holding things together.) Grill on a hot barbecue or under the kitchen grill for about ten minutes, turning regularly. Serve immediately.