The May bank holiday usually signifies the official start of the barbecue season. It’s the time to rip off the cover, crank up the coals and get grilling. We’ve been cooking over fire as long as there has been human life on this planet and it’s never been as popular. It’s my preferred method of cooking. There’s something very satisfying about taking a piece of meat or fish and placing it over hot coals to gently sizzle and be kissed with the smoke.
Last year I installed a hut in my back garden in order to be able to barbecue all year round. It was duly christened “Club Tropicana” in a deferential nod to a lifetime devotion to George Michael and his music.
I delighted in creating a signature sauce to go along with the venue. Club Tropicana sauce is a concoction of spices, rum, pineapple juice and tamarind. When I was young I always wondered what tamarind was when i noticed it on the list of ingredients on the side of an HP sauce bottle. It’s a tropical fruit tree that produces bean-like pods filled with seeds and surrounded with a fibrous pulp. It has a sweet, sour taste and is perfect as a base for punchy sauces. You can source it in many supermarkets and Asian shops. The spices in the sauce are allspice, nutmeg and pepper, giving it a lovely warmth to compliment the zingy pineapple and tamarind. For the recipe here it’s brushed over chicken thighs on the grill but you could use it with pork chops, vegetables, sausages or anything you please.
Keeping with the tropical pineapple vibe, the dessert recipe here is for a Barbados cream with the fruit grilled. Barbados cream is one of the simplest but most effective and delicious puddings going. It was introduced to me by my friend Linda who picked up a lot of vanilla on a visit to Ascension Island. Whipped cream is mixed with yoghurt and vanilla and topped with dark brown sugar. Vanilla pods are very expensive but vanilla paste is a cheaper and equally good substitute. The pineapple is grilled to caramelize the sugar then brushed with a little maple syrup to glaze.
What you’ll need
For the Club Tropicana Chicken
8 chicken thighs, bone removed
75g tamarind pulp
1 tablespoon oil + extra for brushing
1 onion, finely chopped
25g chopped ginger root
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
50ml golden rum
500ml pineapple juice
75g dark brown sugar
Pour 225ml of boiling water over the tamarind and leave for 10 minutes. Mix it up and then pass through a sieve. Discard the seeds.
Cook the onion, ginger and garlic in the oil until soft and golden. Add the spices and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add the rum, pineapple juice and sugar. Bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half. Blend to a smooth puree and check seasoning. Brush the chicken with oil and season with salt. Cook on a grill skin side down until golden. Flip over and brush with some of the sauce. Grill and turn occasionally until cooked through. Brush with some more sauce and rest.
For the avocado and black bean salad
1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice 1 lime
1 teaspoon chopped red chilli
Handful chopped coriander
1 red onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
What you’ll need
200ml double cream
250ml Greek style yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or seeds from a vanilla pod
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Quarter of a pineapple
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Lightly whip the cream and fold in the yoghurt and vanilla. Spoon into 4 glasses or ramekins and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the surface of each cream. Leave in fridge for 4 hours before serving.
Remove core from pineapple and slice. Place on a hot grill pan or bbq until scorched on both sides. Brush with maple syrup and cook to glaze. Cut into sticks and cool. Place on top of the Barbados cream.