Barbecued chicken with honey, mustard and miso

A couple of years ago we bought a fancy barbecue. We didn’t mean to, in fact we had said to each other that after spending money we didn’t really have on building a deck we weren’t going to be those people who then went and spent even more on things to put on it. Oops.

If you like chicken in a basket you’ll love chicken in a bikini!

As it turned out, the barbecue-buying experience was so hilarious that it felt like we got our money’s worth even before we left the shop. Second-hand car sales people could learn a thing or two from these barbecue merchants – they were all but doing cartwheels in order to show us everything this barbecue could do. It could cook steak! It could cook whole chickens! Buy these attachments and it could smoke fish, fry eggs and steam a hangi! After we’d succumbed to their wiles (fools and their money are soon parted), I joked to the Mr that we had better leave before they showed us that it could make cakes. Sure enough, as we waited to pay at the counter an attendant danced past with a tray of brownies – also made in the barbecue.

Anyway, to cut a long story short we have got loads of use out of the wonder barbecue all year ’round, even if I’ve never fried an egg or cooked brownies in it. Surprisingly, the thing we do the most is use it to cook a chicken (occasionally ‘chicken in a bikini’, as pictured above). Here’s another of our favourites as summer turns to autumn.


Serves 4-6

1 x large free-range chicken

2 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons white miso paste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Put the chicken in a large, shallow dish, breast side down. Using a sharp knife or poultry shears, cut down each side of the backbone and discard it. Stab the chicken all over with the shears or a sharp knife, making small incisions about 1cm deep.

Put all the other ingredients in a small bowl and mix well, then pour it all over the chicken, including under the skin (loosen it with your fingers). Cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours (and no longer than 12).

When you’re ready to cook, heat the barbecue to 200C. Put the chicken on the barbecue grill or hot plate, shut the lid and cook for 25 minutes. Turn it over and baste it, then cook for another 20-25 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden and the juices run clear when you pierce the flesh.

Remove from the barbecue and let it rest, under a tent of foil, for 10 minutes, then carve and serve.

Diet books and radish tzatziki

I’ve just been at my excellent public library, where I was thoroughly depressed by the vast numbers of diet books pushed into prominent positions on the shelves. I don’t want to make life hard for the lovely librarians, but I cheered myself up by swapping some of them for better, more interesting cookbooks by people who genuinely love food and eating. I can’t be the only one who wants to dive into a cronut at the sight of some of those preachy titles, all ‘written’ by strange robots with rictus grins and perfect hair. But I digress. I was in the cookbook section because I was wondering what to make when we have some friends over in the weekend. It’s a bit like going shopping for something to wear because you can’t stand your clothes – sometimes you just need a bit of perspective.

Anyway, I got so cross at all the diet/dreamy lifestyle bollocks books that I forgot about looking for dinner inspiration and so we’re going to have my never-fail feeding a crowd of people of various shapes and sizes option – this easy barbecued, butterflied lamb, with various accompaniments. One of those accompaniments is going to be this lovely radish tzatziki, which I invented a week or so ago. Oh, and we’re going to have lots of wine and a great big pudding!


Radish tzatziki

All the gardening books (and no doubt the lifestyle book writers) will tell you that radishes are easy and fast to grow. This is true, unless they are pecked out by birds or you have a drought. My first top tip, as a former lifestyle writer (albeit without perfect teeth and great hair), is to buy a packet from the shops. So quick! So easy! And there’s no sugar! My second top tip is to use the grating attachment on your food processor to shred the radishes. This will save time, energy and your expensive manicure.

1 clove garlic, smashed to a paste with 1/2 tsp salt

1 cup thick, full-fat Greek yoghurt

1 1/2 cups shredded radishes, plus a few more for garnishing purposes

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

Put everything in a bowl and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with barbecued lamb and pita breads, or pork chops, or anything you like really. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to two days.

Happy weekend!


Five easy spring meals

It’s spring! Proper spring – with balmy temperatures, early rising birds and new buds appearing in the garden. Well, it was like that a few days ago. Now we’re back to tempestuous winds, lashing rain and that horrible greyness, but I’ve got high hopes.

Spring Daffodil Photo: Lucy Corry

It’s too soon for asparagus and the little lambs arriving in paddocks near you are too small for the cooking pot, but there are lots of other spring-y things to eat. Here are five easy spring dinners to add to your repertoire…

1. Superfood Salad: It’s got quinoa, broccoli and other spring-y, crunchy things to make you feel like frolicking in the sun. What more do you need?

Leon-Style Superfood Salad

2. Tray-baked Lamb and Potatoes: This is really good for those ‘I can’t think what to have for dinner’ evenings, which occur in our house at least once a week. Everything goes in the oven in one dish and there’s minimal cleaning up (even the non-cooks can make this one).

Easy Greek Lamb And Potatoes

3. Spring Cauliflower Soup: Cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late, thanks to the craze for turning it into a pizza crust, but I think it’s unbeatable in this simple and healthy cauliflower soup.

Detox Cauliflower Soup

4. Simple Smoked Fish And Rice: This is another one-pot wonder, handy when you’ve been out in the garden tackling six months’ worth of weeding.

Easy Smoky Fish And Rice

5. Little lamb burgers: If you’re blessed with a beautiful spring day, cook these outside on your (long-neglected) barbecue. If it’s ‘sit inside by the heater weather’, they can be baked or pan-fried indoors.

Little Lamb Mince Burgers

What are your plans for this spring? 

Calamari panzanella

One of the Small Girl’s favourite things is the Colossal Squid at Te Papa. Have you seen it? It’s the only colossal squid specimen on display in the world and once you’ve gazed at all 495kg of it in the tank you can watch the strangely compelling video footage of it being caught, then transferred to the museum. There’s a 3D movie as well, but I’ve never managed to watch it because “no Mummy, it’s too scary”. One day, I’m going to go to Te Papa by myself and watch the whole thing.

Anyway, we talk about colossal squids a lot at our place. A couple of weeks ago I bought some baby octopus to sizzle on the barbecue and watching them wriggle around on the hotplate was so disturbing that it nearly put me off eating them. Thankfully, scored squid tubes don’t look nearly as lively during the cooking process and they taste just as good.

Calamari Panzanella
Apart from being so good to eat, squid is incredibly cheap. Make sure the ones you are buying have come from waters close by – the frozen Chinese stuff for sale in most New Zealand supermarkets isn’t fit for bait.
This started out as a classic squid and chorizo salad but soon morphed into something else. It’s not really panzanella, but it’s not far off.

400g squid tubes
200g chorizo sausage, sliced into coins
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 red peppers, sliced
a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
lots of fresh parsley, finely chopped
4-5 slices of good, rustic bread (slightly stale is ok), cut into 2cm cubes
olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Heat the oven to 200C. Toss the cubed bread with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and put in a roasting dish. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden. Set aside.
Rinse the squid tubes, then dry with kitchen paper and lie on a board. Cut each one open so it lies flat, then score carefully with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern. Cut into 2cm x 5cm strips, then put in a bowl with the soy sauce, garlic, 2 Tbsp of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Set aside.
Toss the toasted bread, tomatoes, peppers and parsley together in a serving dish.
Heat the barbecue or a large frying pan and fry the chorizo for a few minutes, until it is crisp. Scatter over the tomatoes and bread. Fry the squid for about 2 minutes, over very high heat, until it is opaque and curled up. Toss it through the tomato, chorizo and bread, then drizzle over the red wine vinegar and a little olive oil.
Serves four as a main course.

Barbecue flatbreads

This summer, more than any in recent memory, has been the summer of the barbecue. We’ve been firing it up at least two or three times a week since early December and it has to be our most-used cooking implement of 2013 so far. I’m sure there’s a moral in that somewhere, because it’s not in the least bit fancy. It was a wedding present, which makes it nine years old on Wednesday, and it’s about as basic as you can get. It’s also gas-fired, which lacks the romance of charcoal but has the advantage of being far easier to light.

Barbecue flatbreads
These involve a bit more effort than non-yeasted flatbreads, but not much. They’re also nicer to eat and somehow seem a bit more substantial (which is quite handy if all of a sudden you end up feeding more people than you anticipated). I sometimes substitute 100g of the white flour for wholemeal, and use chilli oil instead of ordinary EVOO. Garlic oil would be great too. Little helpers enjoy ‘having a turn’ at rolling them out.

500g strong white bread flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
330 ml tepid water
3 Tbsp (45ml) olive oil

Put the flour and yeast in a large bowl and stir well, then add the salt and stir again. Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil and water. Mix well to form a rough dough, then cover the bowl with a teatowel and leave for 10 minutes. 
Rub a little oil on the work surface, then tip the dough on top of it. Stretch and fold the dough in on itself about five times (as shown here), then leave for 10 minutes. Repeat this process three more times, then gather the dough into a ball and put into a large, well-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic and leave to rise until doubled – about an hour.
When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface. Press it out into a rough rectangle, then roll this into a sausage. Cut it into eight pieces.
Roll these out gently into rounds about 1cm thick (mine always end up a bit more free-form), then place on a floured tray. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 10 minutes, then take the tray out to the barbecue and cook the flatbreads on the hot plate for about two to three minutes each side. These are best eaten immediately, but you can reheat them reasonably successfully the next day (even in the toaster).

Have you been having a barbecue summer? What have you been cooking?