Think barbecue and you are likely drawn to images of balmy summer evenings and that envious feeling that accompanies the smoky smell of charcoal from your neighbour’s garden, probably followed by a rush to the shops to stock up on your own sizzling sausages. It’s not likely that you think about standing out in the cold wearing a Santa hat while cooking your Christmas dinner, but for Chef Manager and Development and Innovation Chef Alex Lovell, that’s exactly what was on his mind! Alex takes the story….
After some pestering in the summer, I was lucky that our client invested in a ‘Big Green Egg’ barbecue for our restaurant. The big green egg is not a traditional barbecue, it’s made of NASA designed ceramics, and obviously shaped like a (big green) egg. I love it and this year I’ve been able to smoke, cook and grill everything from pizzas to pies. It’s been a huge success and I’ve used it every week regardless of the weather!
I wanted to do something a bit different for my customers for Christmas this year, it’s been a hard year for a lot of people and I wanted to bring everyone together at my site for a bit of a knees up. It was time to fire up the big green egg for a Christmas dinner with a difference…
Deciding to go with the traditional Christmas turkey was easy and I was excited to see how succulent the meat could be after a nice low ‘n’ slow smoking in the egg. To prepare the bird, it was brined overnight with clementine’s, star anise, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Then the next morning I was outside bright and early to light the egg. I then smoked the turkey for around 3 ½ hours whilst basting with butter every 20 minutes or so. What we ended up with was a turkey that was super juicy, with a really crispy skin and without doubt the best turkey I’ve ever tasted.
The turkey was then sliced and layered with a cranberry and pine nut crumble, maple roasted pigs in blankets then popped in a toasted pretzel bun and dipped in turkey gravy. It went down an absolute storm. The vegetarians didn’t miss out either, as I also used the egg to make my ‘caveman vegetables’, slow-cooked over charcoal with toasted Cheddar nut loaf, cheese curds and veggie gravy.
Everybody loved the food and we had a free bar, homemade mulled wine, mince pie cookies (recipe for these below!) and of course a few Christmas songs, although I think there might have been a few sore heads the next morning…
Learning to cook over charcoal in the workplace has been a whole new learning curve for me and I love it, so much so I’ve bought a Big Green Egg for home as well. It feels like a really pure way of cooking and the flavour is incredible. It also goes to show that barbecue isn’t just for summer!
Alex's Mince Pie Cookies
125g Unsalted Butter
100g Dark or light Brown Soft Sugar
75g Caster sugar
1 Large Egg
250g Plain Flour
½ tsp Ground Ginger
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
½ tsp Sea Salt
200g Milk Chocolate Chips
200g Good quality mincemeat
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
2 tbsp boiling water
3 tbsp brandy
Add your unsalted butter and brown sugar to a bowl and beat together until creamy
Add in your egg and beat again until combined
Add in the plain flour, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt and beat until a cookie dough is formed
Add in the chocolate chips and mix until combined.
Roll your cookie dough into 10 cookie dough balls
Once they're rolled into balls, put your cookie dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up
Whilst your cookies are chilling make the brandy butter by creaming together the butter and the icing sugar until light and fluffy
Beat in the boiling water and brandy until smooth then put in a piping bag and set aside for later
preheat your oven to 180C Fan, or 200C regular
Take your cookies out of the fridge and put onto a lined baking tray
Bake the cookies in the oven for 9-11 minutes
Once baked use the back of a teaspoon to make a small dent in the middle of each cookie
Spoon the mincemeat into the middle of each cookie
Once cooled pipe the brandy butter on top and ENJOY
Download a copy of this recipe by clicking below: