Large plates

Large plates

By
Ben Tish
Contains
16 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 1 84949 715 2
Photographer
Kris Kirkham

For all my experience in, passion for, and knowledge of the world of tapas and small plates, my absolute favourite way to share food is family-style.

Everybody sits around the table with a hunk of meat or fish as the focal point. For me, there’s nothing quite like a beautifully cooked piece of meat, rested to perfection, then carried almost ceremonially to the table and finally carved… Even just writing this, I’m salivating at the thought and wishing it were Sunday. Now.

This love of the traditional family roast dinner stems from my particular food culture, which may be less exotic than the sprawling mezze spreads of the Middle East, and a far cry from the fancy restaurants that now dominate my working world, but is just as remarkable.

When I was growing up, meal times were usually rushed affairs, slotted in between other things and treated essentially as a means of sustenance, often eaten in front of the TV, perhaps on my own and sometimes with my very busy parents. But Sundays were an exception, when we’d all gather at the table. These are the times that have stayed with me, and which I now love to replicate at home with my wife and friends. There would always be a roast of some description: beef, lamb or pork (rarely chicken, come to think of it). And it would be served with a large selection of seasonal vegetables – we lived in Lincolnshire, where seasonal vegetables were the norm, even 25 years ago, and were dirt-cheap. Plus potatoes, of course: always roasted and then mashed and/or boiled, depending on who was in charge of the cooking; my dad was definitely more ambitious when it came to the spuds. Not forgetting thick gravy and all the condiments, which I still crave: mint sauce, apple sauce and peppery horseradish. Usually, my dad would carve the roast in front of us and hand out the accompaniments.

Happy memories. As a child, I loved the whole ritual, especially the sense of anticipation created by the lengthy cooking time. My slow-burning excitement was fuelled by the smells of caramelizing fat and meat that permeated every room in the house, which always had me checking on progress, getting more and more hungry as the hours slipped by. Back then, I honestly think the idealized image of sitting down as a family and breaking bread together played second fiddle to the thrill of devouring a hunk of roasted meat, but these days I’m a little more family orientated! Now, every Sunday (and occasionally on other days too), I like to labour and fuss over the roast beef, pork or lamb – or a casserole or pie, sometimes even a whole fish – before sitting down for a family-style feast with a nice bottle of wine and relishing the whole process.

So when we opened Ember Yard, how could we resist including such dishes on the menu, despite it putting a slight dent in our concept of ‘small plates and tapas for sharing’? The thinking behind it was that large cuts of meat, or indeed fish, cooked for a good long time in a barbecue, and cooked well, is the stuff of dreams. Of course – brining and cold-smoking aside – it makes sense that the longer something stays in the barbecue, and the slower it cooks, the more delicious smoky flavour it’s going to take on board. According to barbecue purists in the USA, cooking something for less than two hours isn’t even considered barbecuing, just plain old grilling, but I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of that here. For me, it all comes down to sharing – whether it’s small or large plates – and the excitement that encourages.

Imagine a glorious, Florentine-style bistecca, or aged T-bone steak, cooked medium-rare, then sliced and served simply with garlic, rosemary and lemon zest; with our added twist of a little brine and smoke, and the meat reassembled around its prehistoric-looking bone, it’s just such an impressive thing to bring to the table. Then there’s a rich, full-flavoured hogget shoulder with North-African spices, or a leg of salt-marsh lamb with wild garlic pesto – both cooked long and slow, with the addition of a little oak wood, to intensify and naturally sweeten the flavours. When it comes to barbecued chicken, spatchcocking the bird beforehand makes for more even cooking, and brining helps to keep the meat succulent. Whole fish and shellfish hold their own on the barbecue too: try a luxurious grilled lobster for a special occasion, or a whole brill with seaweed butter for an alternative Sunday lunch.

This is where you get to show off your barbecue technique, with lots of preparation, leisurely indirect cooking and temperature checking. But then we all know that the really good stuff comes to those who wait…

The dishes in this chapter are designed to be eaten family-style, with a choice of accompaniments from the ‘Sides’ chapter. Compared to grazing on small plates, this may be a different way of sharing, but it’s equally sociable, interactive and delicious.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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