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Flaming delicious: barbecuing the right way

PUBLISHED: 16:44 28 July 2017

Barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Please credit Nick Hook

Barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Please credit Nick Hook

MrNickHook-Photography

There’s a lot more to barbecuing than a few burnt sausages and some undercooked chicken thighs. Chrissy Harris meets a man on a mission to help change the way we do fire and food...

Marcus Bawdon is showing me around his barbecue collection. There’s your bog standard kettle, your ceramic unit that can do 18 to 24 hours on one load, a Japanese grill for smaller items, woodsmoker, drum, wi-fi controlled, gas, plus a range of meat thermometers, a chimney starter and a cold smoke generator.

This is some serious kit guaranteed to get the meat juices going.

It makes you want to slay the nearest animal and slap it on. No wonder the ducks in a nearby pen look worried.

“I love my gadgets and toys and the hi-tech stuff but I love the simple things as well,” say Marcus, as we sit in his specially made undercover outdoor kitchen at his home in Dulford, near Cullompton.

“For me, it’s like driving. You could be in a little old banger or a super sleek sports car but you’re still going to get to your destination in the end.”

By destination, of course, he means a delicious meal cooked outside and enjoyed with family and friends.

Whether it’s BBQ venison with blackberry moonshine glaze, mocha steak tacos, Korean beef ribs or just a few chicken drummers and burgers, Marcus - a former vegetarian - wants more people to embrace outdoor cooking, whatever the weather.

“Some of the best meals we’ve had have been sat out here when it’s been hammering it down,” says Marcus, who divides his time between working on oil rigs and building up his successful barbecue business.

“We’ve had Christmas dinner outside before. Barbecuing is something that is really growing quickly. People are cooking all year round and these are the people I want to reach out to.”

The dirty steak on the charcoal
Pics by Nick Hook: Barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Please credit Nick HookThe dirty steak on the charcoal Pics by Nick Hook: Barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Please credit Nick Hook

Marcus has been blogging about barbecuing for years but decided to take things further when a crash in oil prices meant his career on the rigs was uncertain.

He tried breaking out into catering, doing food at festivals and shows but found the pressure to produce was killing his passion for cooking.

“I found that what I loved was the creative side,” says Marcus. “I like coming up with recipes and food photography, that kind of thing.”

The 43-year-old father-of-three now edits a well-read quarterly barbecue magazine, blogs and runs courses in his self-built outdoor kitchen.

Local chefs now come to him for advice and he has a loyal following of some 7,000 members in a Facebook community devoted to the joys of alfresco cooking.

“I think people are tired of seeing those indoor cookery shows,” says Marcus, who posts regular videos of himself with flames and plenty of mouth-wateringly marinated meat.

“Things are slowly changing and I want to be a part of that.”

Marcus says he wants to get away from the idea that barbecues are all about blokes, beers and a few frazzled sausages, five times a summer.

Yep, even us girls should give it a try instead of opting to head up the salad prep while the other half basks in the flame-filled glory outside.

“The usual scenario is the man who never really cooks much goes outside, takes care of the barbecue and gets all the credit,” says Marcus. “I mean, I know I’m a big, burly bloke and there’s this real man thing about it all but barbecuing is not just for the boys. More women should give it a go.”

With influences from the States, Korea, the Mediterranean and South America, the barbecue landscape is rapidly changing in this country.

There are more recipes around and here in Devon, we’ve got plenty of awesome food producers who supply the best meat and veg in the business.

There’s no excuse – fire it up and get going.

“It’s just cooking,” says Marcus. “There is magic to be had with real wood, charcoal and smoking but anyone can have a go. Just give it a try.”

See ukbbqschool.com; countrywoodsmoke.com

The finished dirty steakThe finished dirty steak

A dirty steak:

Marcus is becoming well-known for the unusual way he cooks his steaks – straight onto the charcoals.

“When you have an air gap when you cook on a grill grate and the fat from the steak drips onto the coals you get flare ups,” says Marcus. “This burns the steaks and makes for a bitter acrid flavour. If you remove the air gap by putting the steak straight on some red hot embers, then you get a wonderful smoky sear like nothing else.

“It might sound crazy but try it and find out:

“You’ll need to pick up a good dry-aged inch thick Ribeye, hanger or sirloin from your butcher.

“Use a red-hot firepit or barbecue grill loaded with quality lumpwood charcoal, or the embers of a hardwood log fire (silver birch is my favourite). Please don’t use instant light, briquettes or lava rocks.”

Make a batch of Dirty Baste for your steak.

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves

3 sprigs each of rosemary, thyme and a handful of flat leaf parsley

3 tbsp coarse sea salt

5/6 tbsp olive oil

1 anchovy and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Method

1. Blitz all the ingredients in a blender to a bright green paste. Brush liberally onto the steaks as they cook.

2. Sear for three minutes and then flip. Baste the seared side generously with dirty baste and cook for another three minutes. This will give you a rare dirty steak. To ensure the steak is cooked how you like, use a digital probe thermometer (55°c for medium-rare).

Allow to rest for a few minutes before getting stuck in. Serve with some flame-charred red peppers and a green rocket salad.

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