Barbecues aren’t just for summer: Luke French’s winter barbie recipes

First, a couple of general notes/tips on barbecuing:

1 Make sure your barbecue is hot Get the charcoal white hot before you start cooking, so whatever you’re barbecuing cooks and, most importantly, tastes the best it can. Charcoal that isn’t hot enough will taint your food with a black hue of “dirty” smoke, which doesn’t taste nice. (Incidentally, I buy my charcoal from Whittle & Flame, who make by far the best I’ve ever used – it’s made from sustainable wood that delivers the unique flavour of British woodlands to your food; it’s also incredibly easy to light, which is a right pain with most other charcoal.)

2 Have the right tools – long tweezers/tongs, a digital temperature probe, a basting brush or two, some long skewers, a wire resting rack (a bread cooling rack will do), a lighter and some odourless natural firelighters (the ones I use are made from untreated wood wool).

Barbecued broccoli with black garlic, yuzu and parmesan
This is a perfect side dish for fish or meat – it’s incredible with a barbecued steak – or to enjoy on its own.

Prep 5 min
Cook 15 min
Serves 4

400g long-stem broccoli (ie, Tenderstem or purple sprouting)
Extra-virgin olive oil – a Greek one, for preference
1 big pinch sea salt flakes
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Parmesan shavings, to finish

For the black garlic and yuzu dressing
185g Kewpie mayonnaise (this Japanese mayonnaise is now widely available in large supermarkets and online; alternatively, try Yo! Creamy Japanese Mayonnaise or even Hellmann’s)
150g black garlic cloves, skinless
20ml light soy sauce
75ml mirin
40ml yuzu juice (from the world food aisle at large supermarket, specialist Asian food stores and online)
20g hot English mustard – I use Tracklements’ Tewkesbury
10ml apple cider vinegar – I use Willy’s
¼ garlic clove, crushed
10g tomato umami paste – I use Taste No. 5, but Clearspring and Bart’s have similar

Wash the broccoli and cut off and discard any woody ends.

Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender, blitz to a smooth paste, then put in a clean jar or container and refrigerate until needed. You’ll have more dressing than you need for this dish, but it keeps in the fridge for up to a month and is incredible on grilled meat, fish and vegetables; I love it on fish and chips.

Lay the broccoli spears on a grill set directly over the hot coals, cook for two or three minutes, until they start to blister and blacken a little on one side, then turn and repeat on the other side. Transfer the charred broccoli to a dish or container, drizzle over a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil, a big pinch of flaked sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice and a little zest, then toss, cover and leave to steam in the residual heat for two minutes.

Transfer the broccoli and all the juices to a serving dish and drizzle generously with the black garlic and yuzu dressing – like, all over it. Sprinkle with parmesan shavings and serve at once.

Shawarma-spiced chicken thighs
This is an epic Levantine chicken kebab. I first made it in lockdown, after seeing a friend cook it on Instagram. He gave me the recipe, which I developed for Jöro’s “at-home” meal kits.

Prep 15 min
Chill 2 hr
Marinate 4 hr+
Cook 30 min
Serves 4

8 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, corn-fed and free-range, for preference

For the brine
75g soft light brown sugar
75g table salt
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
2 garlic bulbs, cloves separated, peeled and crushed
5 bay leaves
20g fresh thyme
1 tbsp black peppercorns

For the marinade
175g tomato puree
50g tomato umami paste (see note on previous recipe)
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
50g nocellara olives, pitted
100ml heather honey
125ml water
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
10 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
5 tsp ground coriander
5 tsp ground cumin
5 tsp onion powder
4 tsp dried oregano
4 tsp ground allspice
5 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp hot chilli oil
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
5 tsp ground black pepper
3 tsp table salt

Put all the brine ingredients in a large pot with a litre and a half of cold water, bring up to a boil, then turn off and leave to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate to chill completely.

Put the chicken thighs one at a time between two sheets of greaseproof paper (or two pieces of clingfilm, or in a zip-lock or freezer bag) and carefully bash them with a rolling pin or a meat tenderiser until they’re about 1cm thick all over. Cut across the thigh into 4cm-wide strips.

Put the tenderised chicken in a deep dish, cover completely with the cold brine (still with all the bits in) and chill for two hours.

While the chicken is brining, put all the marinade ingredients in a blender and blitz to a smooth paste. Lift the chicken from the brine and pat dry with kitchen paper. Pour the marinade over the chicken, toss to coat, then chill again for four to six hours, and ideally overnight.

Thread the marinated chicken strips on to large metal skewers, leaving as much marinade on them as possible, then reinforce with one or two more skewers, so each shawarma has two or three skewers through it – this will help the chicken stay together when cooking, and make your life far simpler.

Cook the shawarmas over a hot barbecue (I like to remove the grill mesh and rest the skewers on the sides of the barbecue, so the meat is suspended directly over the hot coals) until the outside is charred and caramelised and the chicken is cooked through (ie, when the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, or when it reaches 70C when probed). Leave to rest for five minutes before serving with flatbreads, pickles (I like pickled red onions and pickled red cabbage), roast aubergine or imam bayaldi, hummus and a crunchy green salad. And make sure you serve all the resting juices – they’re incredible.

Barbecued pineapple with sweet Thai syrup
An absolutely delicious little weapon of a pudding: the natural sugars in the pineapple caramelise, and are mega with the coconut sugar and aromatics. This is a great dish to bang out over the fire in winter.

Prep 10 min
Infuse 2 hr+
Cook 30 min
Serves 4

1 large ripe pineapple
Coconut ice-cream or yoghurt, to serve

For the syrup
125g soft light brown sugar
125g coconut sugar, organic for preference
200ml coconut water
3 sticks fresh lemongrass, roots only, bashed
4 fresh makrut lime leaves
50g piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lime, plus a little extra zest to finish
1 pinch sea salt

Put all the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring slowly up to a boil, stirring often. Cook until the mixture reduces by half, then take off the heat, leave to cool and refrigerate for a few hours (and ideally overnight) to infuse.

Cut the rind off the pineapple, then cut the fruit into quarters and cut out the core from each piece.

Coat the pineapple quarters in syrup, then push a skewer through both ends of each piece – this makes them more stable and easier to manoeuvre. Grill for 10-15 minutes, brushing them all over with a little of the remaining syrup every few minutes, until charred, golden and caramelised.

Rest the cooked pineapple in the remaining syrup to cool and absorb the juices, then carve like a piece of meat and serve warm with the resting juices, grated lime zest and coconut ice-cream or yoghurt.