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Tom Parker Bowles

PUBLISHED: 11:49 13 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:46 22 August 2013




Tom Parker Bowles offers a few basic tips for barbecuing, as well as a Marinated Leg of Lamb Recipe...

Charcoal versus gas. Ah, the age old debate, the battle of the fossil fuels, grapple of the grills. Anyone of sound mind would, of course, go with charcoal. Sure, it might take a little longer to get going, but that’s all part of the fun, half an hour well spent in the company of a cold beer. And once those coals are glowing (and that’s glowing, mind you, not blazing. Flame is the enemy of properly barbecued food), that smoke kissed flavour is all but unbeatable.

Ah, I hear you gas heads cry, but ours is about convenience. We flop through the door after a dreary day at work, twist the knobs, and we’re cooking on, ahem, gas, within minutes. Such control, you sigh, such precision. Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. Even if it is wrong. Still, what really matters, whatever method you prefer, is simply doing it right.

Because barbecuing is a culinary art, just like roasting, or poaching or frying. The fact that it’s sunny, and that you are a man (ladies, as ever, are rather more pragmatic), does not mean that you’ll suddenly transformed into Raymond Blanc. Lord only knows how many innocent sausages and blameless chicken breasts have been abused by Neanderthals who still believe that a full roaring blaze, fuelled by mountains of firelighters and lashings of lighter fuel, is the only way to tackle an al fresco feast.

A few basic tips. When using charcoal, wait until there’s a thin layer of white ash above the coals. And only start to cook then. Seems obvious, but you’d be amazed at the impatience at people desperate to feast on carbonised bangers. And whether you’re gas or charcoal, use the lid when cooking. This controls the heat and, with the charcoal, imbues it all with smoky allure. I’ve used a Weber Kettle for years, and part of its brilliance lies in that domed roof. A friend used to think it was there merely for decoration. And battling off wasps. But once you get the knack, you’ll wonder how you ever cooked without it.

And don’t just go for the usual boring, shop made burgers. Steak is glorious when cooked on the grill, along with a butterflied leg of lamb. Marinated for a few hours, then slapped down and cooked until just pink. Buy whole sweetcorn, still in the husk, and plunge them in water for half an hour before. Then slowly grill, unwrap and slather with butter. Prawns are great, cooked on the edge, where the heat is less intense, and whole fish, stuffed with herbs and wrapped in foil. In fact, there’s very little you can’t cook – lamb cutlets, pork chops, aubergines, asparagus and onions. Don’t forget great bowls of salad, too, crisp, cool and pert, the perfect foil to all that charred delight. So find a good shady spot, crank up that grill and get fired up. Barbeque bliss awaits.


Serves 6


1.5kg butterflied leg of lamb

Sea salt

For the marinade

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp hot Spanish paprika

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Fresh thyme leaves,

finely chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

Black pepper


Mix all the marinade ingredients, save for the olive oil, and rub over the lamb on both sides. Then pour on the olive oil and leave in the fridge overnight (or at least 3 hours)

Remove and bring the lamb to room temperature, season with sea salt, then barbecue (baste occasionally with any remaining marinade) for about 15 minutes each side, until pink. Rest for 15 minutes, then serve.

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