Renowned cookbook author Carol Selva Rajah talks about the virtues of grilling to Sushma Veera
TWO seconds. That is all it takes to have a successful or failed grill.
“Most people tend to think it would be better to leave the meat for “just another two seconds” though it is already cooked. They go about other things, like talking on the telephone. Before they know it, their meat is burnt,” says cookbook author Carol Selva Rajah.
Grilling, she says, is not an uphill task and is all about knowing the right way to do it. Carol, author of Hot Off The Grill: Barbecue Recipes with an Asian Touch, says grilling allows one to bring out the best flavours and, is also a healthier option for those who don’t like excess fat content in meals.
Sharing her vast knowledge and experience, Carol says that besides meat, vegetables can also be easily prepared by grilling. However, to grill well, having the right tools is important.
“Besides the grill, you’d need a good pair of tongs that will give you a good grip on your food; a brush is used for basting your meat with olive oil, melted butter or other liquids as they grill. And, finally, gloves to protect yourself.”
Here are more tips on grilling from Carol.
CHOOSING THE MEAT
Firstly the meat must be fresh and tender. Strip meats are preferred over cuts. Although many people do not like fat, meat for grilling purposes should have a layer on it. Lots of marbling (fat content within the grain of the meat) will help the meat to stay tender. If you want to reduce the fat, trim the meat after it cooks instead of before. Another point to remember is the thickness of the meat — it is better for it to have an even thickness and it should not be too thick. If you are grilling chicken, go for chicken thigh fillet as chicken breast tends to dry up fast.
MARINADE TO TASTE
You don’t need to wait till the last minute to marinade your meat. It can be prepared ahead of time. Marinade the meat and keep it refrigerated until you are ready to cook. Different people have different styles of marinade and it can be with olive oil, chopped fresh herbs, minced garlic or onions. You can add a bit of lime juice to add flavour. A good marinade keeps your grills moist and flavourful.
BUILD THE FIRE
Make sure the heat source is correct. It is advisable to use medium heat. Grilling with charcoal is preferred to gas as it gives a smoky aroma. When lighting the charcoal, pile the coal pieces and light them. Leave them to burn for around 20 minutes and then distribute them, creating a great cooking base. Adjust the heat you need to grill the meat, by moving some of the charcoal to the side or spray a little water to cool it down.
Lay the meat down on the grill and cook it for two minutes on one side before you rotate it a little. Then you flip it over using the tongs. Do not keep it too long and never stab the meat with a fork as this will cause the juices to seep out on to the coals and also cause the meat to dry. If you are grilling small pieces of meat, never cook it for more than three or four minutes.
No phones! Focus solely on your grilling as you are only grilling for a short time. Do not try to multi-task when you are grilling. The few seconds that you turn your back on the grill can ruin an otherwise perfect grill.
Use a scrunched foil to clean the grate right after you finish cooking. If you do it while your grill is still hot, it will make it easier to remove food particles from the grate while it is still hot. If you wait until it gets cooler, you will end up spending more time to scrub off the stuck food and hardened grease.
As much as we love grilling (especially outdoor grilling), we should also take note of the current haze situation and its effects on our health. It is advisable to either conduct any grilling indoors or wait until the situation improves.
Cooking with Carol
CAROL Selva Rajah, who resides in Australia, is well known in the foodie world. She teaches Asian cooking in Brisbane and Sydney and also writes cookbooks.
Over the years, Carol has contributed to a diverse range of publications including the Australian Gourmet Traveler, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living Magazine and Kitchen Culture Food and Travel, Singapore.
In 2001, she won the coveted Jaguar Gourmet Traveler Award for excellence in Gastronomic Travel for “Day Trips to Asia” in Cabramatta, (New South Wales), which have become a template for other food tours today.
In her latest book, Hot Off The Grill: Barbecue Recipes with an Asian Touch, Carol shares with her readers barbecue recipes married with Asian style cooking and various sauces and marinades.
For beginners, Carol has listed out the essentials required at the back of the book.
Hot Off the Grill: Barbecue Recipes with an Asian Touch, published by Marshall Cavendish, is available in all leading bookstores at RM39.90.
Corn with Coriander Chilli Butter (serves 4)
4 ears fresh sweetcorn
2 tbsp melted butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 slices chilli butter, each
1 lime, cut in wedges
1. Cut each ear of corn across into 2-3 pieces.
2. Cook corn in boiling water for 2 minutes. Refresh in cold water. Brush with melted butter then grill or barbecue.
3. For outdoor BBQ, grill over medium-hot coals. For indoor grill, preheat overhead grill.
4. Grill, turning the corn frequently until lightly charred, for 5 minutes, brushing frequently with oil or butter.
5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve each piece warm with a slice of coriander chilli butter and a wedge of lime.
Coriander Chilli Butter
50g coriander (cilantro) leaves
2 green chillies seeded
3 tbsp salt to taste
1. Blend well coriander leaves and chillies in a mortar and pestle or food processor. Add butter and continue to blend, adding salt to taste.
2. Shape mixture into small brick-shaped pieces. Freeze and use as required when corn is cooked.
TIP: Coriander chilli butter can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Tandoori Maach serves 4-6
1.5-2kg or 4x180-200g bass red Snapper (yellow grouper) cutlets, cleaned
2 tsp cooking oil
2 pieces Banana leaves or foil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp lime juice
¼ tsp salt
6 cloves garlic peeled
5cm knob ginger peeled
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp or to taste chilli paste
1 tbsp tamarind paste
Lime juice, to taste
1. To make paste, dry-roast coriander seeds, blend, then add remaining ingredients and blend well, until all spices are smooth. You may have to add a few drops of water.
2. Assemble fish cutlets on banana leaf and brush with oil. Cover all over with paste. Place the fish onto a preheated and oiled BBQ plate.
3. Cook fish for 40 minutes or until flesh is flaky but moist. Turn the fish and press more paste into cutlets halfway through cooking time.
4. Remove fish and place on a plate. Scrape remains of paste that have been left on BBQ plate and place on fish.
5. Serve with bread or rice.
Egyptian-style Kebabs serves 4
1,200g onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh thyme or basil chopped
1 tbsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp, fresh basil chopped
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup plain yoghurt
500g minced chicken
20 wooden skewers pre-soaked
1. Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor, except yoghurt pulse until well combined.
2. Add yoghurt and pulse until blended.
3. Place blended marinade into a dish to mix with minced chicken.
4. With oiled hands, form mixture into sausage-like pieces and thread onto skewers. You must press pieces firmly to hold. Refrigerate covered for 6-8 hours.
5. Preheat grill. Oil grill and kebabs. Grill kebabs until aromatic, turning once midway.
6. Serve immediately.
TIP: For accompaniments, grill skewers of capsicums (bell peppers) and mushrooms, brushed with some oil and serve with roti or chapatti and any other sauce, or a dipping sauce mix of yoghurt, chopped onions and chilli.