Tired of cooking shows? Here is a similar cooking competition format focussed on BBQs, using clever ways to cook over wood, fire and charcoal, BBQ Champ sponsored by Irish Cider company Magners. They don’t use just any BBQ, no gas is allowed anywhere, just wood and charcoal.
BBQ has caught on in a massive way in London in the last couple of years. The UK is the fifth largest BBQ nation in the world. Who knew? The trend from America’s Deep South is not abating anytime soon. We have seen wood-fired, pulled pork, pulled lamb and even pulled chicken appear on menus all over town.
I caught them filming one of these episodes in the Broadgate Circle a few weeks ago. It was one of the hottest days of the year and it looked totally bonkers.
On the set were these Steampunk like machines which are supposedly “Oil Drum Barrel BBQs“. The contestants get to choose from lots of different flavours of wood in addition to the ingredients they were cooking.
Chef Mark Blatchford, owner of John Doe in Notting Hill, is the British judge. Together with Adam Richman of Man v Food, they have been whittling down the talent week by week.
BBQ Champ Series Launch at John Doe
The party at John Doe to launch the show was of course all about BBQ. John Doe’s ground floor is dominated by a long stainless steel bar and an open kitchen. In the middle sits Bertha, Mark’s bespoke Duck Egg blue wood-fired BBQ/ smoker oven. Sitting in the wafts of smoke, he demonstrated a few unusual ways to cook with the BBQ using Oak and Beech wood for flavouring. I learnt a few BBQ tricks doing a Weber masterclass last year but I am learning more here.
The first is a Texan BBQ favourite, Rare Breed Beef Brisket which has a thick layer fat. The fat in the cap renders down slowly and bastes the meat as it cooks. He has a secret BBQ rub recipe and marinades the meat hours in the new Magners Irish Whisky Cider for a smoky Bourbon like flavour. This is then slow roasted for 24 hours in the BBQ. For this to cook perfectly, the wood needs to be replenished at regular intervals throughout the 24 hours process. It seems the serious BBQ chefs in the US don’t sleep very much, tending to their fire hourly.
The spiced smoky brisket is served over a punchy Mac n Cheese, made with Parmesan, Cheddar and Stinking Bishop.
Cooking Dirty is when food is cooked right on the charcoal. Crab claws were cooked dirty for the next dish, a Keralan Crab Curry. The crab claws take about 20 minutes on a hot fire, the outside will be charred black but the meat will stay juicy inside the shell. This is added to the curry sauce and served with wild rice.
A classy alternative to cooking fish, a salt baked sea bass. A whole sea bass encased in an egg white and salt crust is baked in indirect heat for 20 minutes. The result is very impressive. The salt crust allows the steam to cook the fish. You can wow your dinner party guests by serving the fish at the table. At John Doe, they served this with fennel puree and roasted sweet potatoes.
All these recipes can be found on the Magners Cider website. They can all be recreated at home using any regular wood fired BBQ with a lid.
With regret, I didn’t get to sample any of John Doe’s regular menu. They serve a wild British produce, cooked over wood and charcoal. The concept is one that appeals, greatly and I hear they deliver big flavours.
The BBQ Champ series start this Friday on ITV1. There will be 5 episodes with the contestants cooking lots of unusual things using wood and charcoal. I’ll be watching to learn a few BBQ tricks. Will you?
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