Barbie dazzlers: Helen Graves’s barbecue recipes

Bring your A-game to the barbecue this year with award-winning food writer Helen Graves’s sizzling hot recipes.

There are two main barbecue cooking techniques you need to know about: direct and indirect cooking. When preparing the barbecue, I nearly always set it up for what’s known as ‘two-zone cooking’. This means there is the direct area with lit coals in it, and the indirect area without. There are various ways to arrange the coals to achieve this, but I often do mine in the simplest way possible, which is to place the hot coals on one side, leaving the other empty.

The reasons behind this are that two-zone cooking enables you to: sear food for colour and flavour before moving it to the cooler side to finish cooking more slowly; move food to the cooler area if the fire flares up; keep food warm on the cooler side while you finish cooking something else; or slow cook something on the cooler side with the lid on. Just think of your barbecue as having a range of temperature zones that work horizontally: the closer to the coals, the hotter it’s going to be. Simple.

Charred tomatoes with cool yogurt, pomegranate molasses and herbs

Hot, charred tomatoes in a pomegranate molasses dressing are tumbled on top of cool yogurt, straight from the fridge. A plate of glorious contrasts. You may not want to use all the dressing, but personally I love the way it pools into the yogurt. Obviously, you will want fresh flatbreads or toasted sourdough to really make the most of this.

charred tomatoes with yogurt
Rob Billington

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Chicken wings with tahini and za’atar

Could you use shop-bought za’atar for this? Absolutely, but it won’t be the same dish, so please bear that in mind. This recipe makes a large batch of za’atar, tastes a thousand times nicer and is good for throwing on anything from eggs in the morning to flatbreads, salads and grilled fish. Both the tahini sauce and za’atar can be made the day before.

chicken wings
Rob Billington

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Jersey Royals with rosemary

This is my all-time favourite potato recipe. Grilling means they turn crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and once their nutty skins are coated in flaky salt crystals, rosemary and oil… it’s an incredible experience.

jersey royals
Rob Billington

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Prawns with fennel-seed butter

Sometimes simple is best. Make sure to melt the butter at the last minute so it sizzles when it’s poured over the prawns, and follow it with a squeeze of lemon. I serve this with a glass of cold white wine.

prawns with fennel-seed butter
Rob Billington

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Blackened courgette panzanella

This is a fun and fiery spin on the classic Tuscan bread salad. Courgettes are completely charred on the outside then lopped into large chunks; once combined with the other ingredients they leak their juice into the bowl and on to the bread. At first it seems a bit odd to add all that blackened skin into the salad but it mingles and adds flavour. You could happily bung a torn buffalo mozzarella into this, too.

courgette panzanella
Rob Billington

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Backyard-style apricot-glazed pork ribs with crushed spices

These are ‘backyard style’ in the sense that they’re simmered first, then finished on the grill. Yes, fully smoked ribs are wonderful, but this is such an easy method that I turn to it often. The ribs are sticky sweet from the apricot jam and the crushed spices add bold flavour right at the end of cooking. Finishing with toasted, crushed spices like this is one of my favourite tricks for outdoor cooking. Grilled food can take it.

apricot glazed pork ribs
Rob Billington

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Onglet with scotch bonnet and grapefruit

Onglet is so different to other steaks in both flavour and texture. Cut from the lower belly, it has an offaly character that stands up incredibly well to char and smoke. You must cook this cut rare and rest it very well, otherwise it will be too tough to eat. Do it right however (it’s actually very easy to get right) and you will be richly rewarded.

outlet with scotch bonnet and grapefruit
Rob Billington

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Halloumi with nectaries, tarragon and basil

Barbecued halloumi has fallen out of fashion, which is just a horrible mistake. I love to serve it with perfumed summer fruits like nectarines, and lots of soft herbs. Brushing the halloumi with oil before grilling it stops it sticking to the barbecue, which I think (I hope) is what puts a lot of people off cooking it. It’s an intense, salty cheese, which in my opinion is a selling point.

halloumi with nectarines
Rob Billington

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Buy the book

live fireOur recipes are taken from Live Fire: Seasonal Barbecue Recipes and Stories of Live Fire Traditions Old and New by Helen Graves (Hardie Grant, £26). To order a copy for £22.10 with free p&p until 19 May, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.