Ask Peter: Barbecue sweets
From now until February all our entertaining (and visiting) is based on cooking things on the barbecue. I am getting a bit sick of bringing meat and salads, so for a bit of a change I’d like to be able to bring some sweet desserts that can be cooked (or at least finished) on the barbie. Do you have some suggestions other than the Girl Guide camp bananas or s’mores? Thanks, Barbara.
Barbecuing fruit straight on the racks or flat-top can be delicious and works really well with sliced pineapple, halved stone fruit or thinly sliced apples and pears. Brush the fruit with a little melted butter or light olive oil and cook over a heat that isn’t as fierce as you’d use for meat, as the fructose sugars in the fruit easily burns and causes the fruit to stick to the barbecue. Very ripe soft fruit will also stick, but that’s all part of the process — just go gently. You can prevent this happening by using non-stick baking paper that you lay on the grill plate and then sit the fruit on it to cook: the paper works as a barrier between the metal and the fruit. It also stops all the juices oozing from the fruit on to the heat source, which can flare up and cause flames to blacken the fruit.
Thinking along this line, cooking fruit "en papillote" is also useful. This involves encasing the fruit in a loose envelope of paper (again, use non-stick baking paper) and placing it on the barbecue. As the fruit cooks the steam is trapped in the envelope and no juices, or aromas, are lost.
To make such an envelope, pull 40cm- 50cm of paper off the roll and fold in half crossways to give you almost a square (depending on the width of the paper. Lay your fruit on it and then go all creative with flavours such as freshly grated ginger, thinly sliced lemongrass, orange zest, half a vanilla bean with seeds scraped out, a star anise snapped in half, a few grinds of black pepper or chopped red chilli, or a sprinkling of cinnamon. You can add sugar if the fruit needs it and possibly butter to enrich it, all which might also caramelise and make the fruit turn really yummy (but somewhat less healthy). For this technique, use thinly sliced pineapple, rhubarb or pears on the bottom, topped with wedges of apricots, nectarines or bananas, and top with blueberries or strawberries for good measure. Fold the edges up tightly, twisting and rolling them from one side to the other, working clockwise in a semicircle, to give you a pasty-shaped parcel. You can also do this somewhat more easily with foil, making more of a teepee out of it, or you could simply sit a heat-proof dish on the barbecue and seal with foil or a lid. Depending on the heat in the barbecue, and the thickness of the fruit, cook for around 15 minutes. Simply serve on a plate and snip the parcel open. It's great served with icecream.
You can also use the barbecue to grill brioche or left-over Christmas cake, which I love to do as the currants and other dried fruits caramelise and make it taste so much better than a cold slice of cake. Using this fancy toast as the base for a dessert, you can then spoon on some barbecued fruit as described above and top with whipped cream. Or simply spoon over mixed berries that you’ve tossed with icing sugar, shredded mint and grated lime zest and juice.
Lastly, if you view the barbecue simply as a hob — then you can make great pancakes using a (preferably non-stick) 20cm frying pan. Place 3 eggs in a food processor with ½ cup self-raising flour and 2 Tbsp sugar. Blitz to a paste then add enough milk or coconut milk to give you a medium thickness batter, scraping down the sides as it comes together. Pour into a jug and leave to rest in a cool place for at least 30 minutes — which means you could pack it in the chilly bin to take camping. Just before cooking, give the batter a good stir. Heat butter in the frying pan until sizzling, pour in enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan by 3mm and lay some sliced bananas, blueberries or thin wedges of apricots on top. Cook over medium heat until it begins to set on the top then carefully flip over and cook on the other side until done. Serve straight from the pan drizzled with runny honey and a dollop of yoghurt.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.
More recipes to try
A selection of dessert recipes for the barbie