Friday, 2 August 2013

The British Barbecue Balls-up (unedited) - Published in the South Shropshire Journal 2/8/13

I write this sitting in the paddling pool. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on my parched lawn of brown burnt thistle, dandelions and dog-dung. The grass went long ago.

I’m slightly miffed this week, because what I really wanted to write about was how rubbish the British picnic actually is – to expose it, in a tabloid naming and shaming fashion - and I’d been working on it for a bit. But, unfortunately someone else got in there first. Jay Rayner in the Guardian brilliantly gave the great British Picnic the hiding it deserves last week and because the Guardian remains stoically socialist and refuses to impose a firewall, you can go and read about how awful picnics are online, for free.

So, I won’t do picnics but I will however lay into the barbecue, because if anything’s worse than a bad picnic, it’s a bad barbecue and with the weather we’ve had, I bet you’ve had a few. Bad ones that is.

Lazy Man does barbecue badly and he only cooks when the sun comes out and then thinks he’s done something wonderful. He hasn’t. Popping some burgers and sausages over a pile of chemical briquettes and calling it cooking isn’t cooking.

That monstrosity that you have on your patio with a gas canister attached and a rain cover? Sorry, that’s not a barbecue, it’s an indoor cooker outside. No-one BBQs worse than us Brits, not even those gastronomically vapid Americans – in fact, they do it jolly well. Donning a comedy apron does not turn you into a cook. It makes you look like a wally.

Barbecue with good British charcoal which (unless you want to put a finger up to the rain forests) will – and should - cost you some cash. Get a decent bit of meat. A barbecue involves patience, and it’s the most wonderful way to do Sunday lunch. Get your butcher to bone-out and butterfly a leg of lamb, a shoulder of pork, something like that. Marinate it a day before, and light the barbie a couple of hours before you want to cook.

I spent a few days in London and, as I do when I’m in Town I stuffed my face with the sort of tucker that you can’t get ‘round here. In Shepherds Bush the Syrians barbecue so well. In Dalston, the Turks do it perhaps a shade better. They grill over hot coals or smoking wood, bits of animal that we may chuck in the bin. Balls and all. Dusted with spooky stuff like ras-el-hanout and za-atar, these boys really know how to do it properly.

So next time the sun comes out and you fancy playing with fire, do it some justice why don’t you. There’s a good chap. 


  1. Your butterfly leg of lamb was a moment of epiphany for us H.