Yesterday I made my 7th notch on the 2009 BBQ bedpost. Not too shoddy considering it’s only spring. Every Brit knows you need to make the most of each glimpse of sunshine – case in point being this very next day as we are dealt a dose of predictable bank holiday gloom. Cloud and drizzle hangs over London, no doubt putting paid to plans of picnics, walks and BBQ’s everywhere. By the end of the summer though, I will have grilled, smoked and charred every ingredient I can think of over a hot kettle of coals. There will be memories of beers that flowed, fingers that got burned and I will probably have gained half a stone.
Our most major BBQ achievement this year has been actually bothering to find out how to use the thing properly. I always wondered why slow cooking joints just didn’t happen until I consulted google when making this lamb. Still, mustn’t get too cocky – there are always lessons to be learned. The moral of the story this week? Don’t forget your drip tray.
You see, this salad was actually just an afterthought addition to the BBQ, the leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, out of place with the rest of the menu but delicious nonetheless. The main event was supposed to be these jerk pork ribs, big meaty beasts that had been sucking up that spicy sweet seasoning all night long.
The butcher had sold out of regular ribs so I opted for strips of pork belly with the ribs still attached, figuring that more meat is clearly a good thing. Knowing they would need long cooking I started them in the oven with the intention of finishing them on the BBQ. In my excitement however, I forgot to position the drip tray to catch all the fat and just slapped them right on.
I wandered off for literally a minute before I heard screams from outside and turned to see 2 foot high flames leaping from the Weber. The ribs were sticks of charcoal within 30 seconds. Ruined. In true carnivore fashion though, we picked through the burnt remains for nuggets of meat in the kind of frenzied, primal display that can only take place among good friends. That is why I bring you pasta.
The Fregola Sarda is a toasted Sardinian pasta with an earthy, nutty flavour, made by rubbing with the hands to form crumbs (‘fregare’ apparently means ‘to rub’). It is immensely toothsome and satisfying – a pure carb hit to help me on my way to that extra half stone. I mixed it with some roasted aubergines, peppers and a few stray spears of aspargus.
For the wild garlic, a big thank you must go to The Food Urchin, who has been kindly supplying the food blogging community with a seemingly endless supply of plants from the bottom of his garden. A handful of leaves make fantastic pesto, with none of that raw garlic edge you get when using more than half a clove in the regular variety.
Determined not to let the rib fail get us down, we took inspiration from the flames for dessert – bananas flambéd in rum with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Classic hot and cold and sweet caramelised goodness. The remaining rum went into mojitos, which we enjoyed while sprawled on sofas, cradling our over-stuffed bellies and bickering over a board game. There may even have been dozing at some point. Someone bring me a pipe and slippers.
Fregola Sarda with Roasted Vegetables and Wild Garlic Pesto
1 packet fregola sarda
3 bell peppers (I used two red, 1 yellow)
1 large aubergine
4 spring onions, just the green parts really, sliced
Salt and pepper
Wild Garlic Pesto
1 handful wild garlic leaves, well washed
50g pine nuts
Olive oil (about 100ml)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
– Preheat the oven to Gas 6/200C
– Cut the peppers into wedges and the aubergine into inch cubes. Spread the peppers and aubergines out on different oven trays then drizzle each with olive oil and season. Roast them for about 30 minutes or until soft and slightly charred. Allow to cool then chop to desired size.
– Cook the fregola sarda according to packet instructions (about 15 minutes in boiling salted water)
– When the pasta is done, drain and mix with the vegetables then add the sliced spring onions.
– Make the pesto by either putting the wild garlic leaves in a blender with the pine nuts or crushing them together in a pestle and mortar (good for stress relief). Then stir through the grated parmesan, lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Taste and adjust as necessary (add more cheese, seasoning, whatever). Stir the pesto through the pasta and serve.