French barbecue culture returns now the heat is on

21-05-2018
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The French love barbecues and every year with the first rays of sun, barbecues are dusted off from the deepest, darkest crevices of garages and garden sheds, with summer firmly in sight.

 

Barbecues: when French butchers let their imaginations run wild

barbecue

There was once a time when barbecue was limited to sausages, merguez* and steak. But setting aside these grilled stalwarts, today there are literally dozens of different flavoured meats, and fish too. A vast array of sausages sport flavours such as olives, tomato, peppers, camembert, spinach, sweet onion and even seaweed.  And the same can be said for skewers or brochettes, with a huge smorgasbord of meat, chorizo, bite-size black pudding, salmon or cod chunks gracing the coals. Marinades too feature highly among french barbecue 2018 trends.

 

It’s marinade all the way

Marinade french barbecue

Whether you opt for pork, beef or chicken, a marinade opens up a whole new world of flavours and will tenderise the meat before cooking.

For pork, ideally allow the meat to marinate in a cool place for 12 hours before grilling. Remember to set aside a small amount of marinade to drizzle over the meat while cooking.

Sweet and sour is the classic go-to marinade and heavenly match to pork. Just mix two tablespoons each of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and runny honey, together with a chopped clove of garlic and a dash of mustard.

For chicken, honey and mustard works a treat, marinated in the same way as the pork. To make the marinade, mix 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard with two tablespoons of mustard à l’ancienne. Add 45ml olive oil and the juice of one lemon. Mix well and add 3 tablespoons of runny honey, and salt and pepper to season.

Finally, for beef, for best results allow the meat to marinate for an additional two hours in the fridge. For the easiest marinade, crush three cloves of peeled garlic, add a tablespoon of olive oil and a vegetable stock cube. Mix well, season with salt and pepper and add a tablespoon of mustard. Fish does not need marinating; freshly squeezed lemon on fresh fish is all it takes to tenderise before grilling.

 

Vegetable-tastic

When it comes to accompaniments, the world is your oyster: either cook vegetables directly on the barbecue once the skewers are irresistibly ready, or whip up a side dish such as a mixed salad, stuffed vegetables or even chips. Chips will always be a popular choice in France with the younger generation. And if homemade, a firm favourite across the board, young and old. For salads, a simple lettuce salad dressed with vinaigrette just before serving will suffice, or a mixed salad, tabbouleh or pasta or rice-based salad. Ideas of salads recipes.

And if you prefer warm sides, why not stay French, and serve a typical favourite such as ratatouille or tian. Ratatouille is a speciality of the town of Nice, made with Mediterranean vegetables such as aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes, and the all-important olive oil. Tian originates from Vaucluse in south-east France, and consists of delicious layers of oven-baked vegetables.

 

Regional wines…

Vin et grillades barbecue français

Beef cries out for easy-drinking, relatively robust wines. Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superieur or Cotes du Rhone wine all go particularly well with beef.

Pork is more delicate, and prefers lighter, fruity wines. Opt for youthful wines, without too much body to overpower the grilled meat flavours. A Beaujolais or Gaillac would do the job, a Gamay-based red with its trademark cherry notes, or even a red Sancerre.

For spicy merguez sausages, a robust rosé would work well from Bordeaux or Pays d’Oc.

Finally, to serve with fish, a fresh, dry, white wine would be your best bet, such as a Cotes de Gascogne or a fresh, zesty Muscadet.

If seafood skewers are on the menu, such as prawns, which are plumper in consistency than fish, try a richer, rounder Chardonnay from Burgundy or Chablis. Riesling would work well too. And with a wealth of wines available on the high street from across all of France’s wine regions, you will definitely be spoilt for choice.

*North African spicy sausages popular in France