Heston, the Everdure range and some very good food

* This is a collaborative post with Kettler GB

On a sunny, but chilly April day I attended the launch of the 4K Outdoor Oven from Everdure by Heston Blumenthal, which has been 4000 years in the making. It only seemed right for it to be put to the test, and for me to sample the food cooked on the latest addition to his hi-tech range - well, it would have been rude not to!

fat duck chefs at work
paying attention to detail

Although all future barbecues will have a lot to live up to from now on, the food, as you’d expect was a little out of the ordinary. By looking at it you’d think it was produced in a usual kitchen, but it wasn’t.

PASTRAMI ON MARMITE EGGY BREAD WITH CHIP STICKS

PASTRAMI ON MARMITE EGGY BREAD WITH CHIP STICKS

RIBS AND COLESLAW

RIBS AND COLESLAW

I was glad that MOH wasn’t with me, while he would have found it as fascinating and informative as me, I’ve a feeling that it would have got quite expensive pretty quickly as there was an impressive range of barbecues on show, and something for everyone I’m sure.

What was refreshing to see was that there wasn’t any “charcoal snobbery” from the Kettler GB team. They recognised that charcoal doesn’t work for everyone, and while they think it tastes better they acknowledge that the convenience of gas for many has its advantages.

I think they’re right, there’s nothing quite like the charcoal taste, but waiting for a charcoal barbecue to heat up after a day at work is likely to mean that we wouldn’t cook outside quite so much during the week when the weather is warm. I’m impatient enough anyway, but don’t make me wait for food!

But that’s about to be challenged, as you can see from the image below the charcoal is ready to cook in 10 minutes, which kind of changes things

some of the mighty barbecues

And if you’re wondering about why it’s 4000 years in the making, it’s been inspired by the 4000 year tradition of Kamado-style and man-made ceramic clay cooking, which merges the taste of charcoal with 21st century technology.

Accessories and portable/table top barbecues too

The 4K doesn’t look like you’d expect it to look either, I suspect that’s why it’s called an outdoor oven. As well as the fast flame charcoal ignition there’s probes which control meat and air temperatures, it’s exterior is cool-to touch and it even has Bluetooth connectivity.

I know. I told you it had 21st century technology. It also cooks food!

the unusual shape of the 4k everdure

It looks versatile too, whether you want to grill a steak, roast a turkey (don’t laugh - that almost happened to us on our first Christmas in this house, when the oven played up on Christmas Day!), smoke meat or bake a pizza the 4K will tell you how to cook it and prepare it, advising on temperature control, charcoal management and even the recipes. I’m pretty sure it’ll do a mean banger too.

a look inside the 4k everdure barbecue

And in case you were in any doubt, the food was excellent and didn’t hang around for long. There was also scallops, which I avoided, and there was also a baked Alaska on a stick, which I did everything but avoid. Only Heston would even contemplate ice cream on a barbecue, and it isn’t something that we’ll be trying at home, however tasty it was.

in case you were in any doubt the food was excellent

And I couldn’t end this post without sharing a photo with Heston himself, could I?

Me and Heston Blumenthal

He was a really nice man and while it was only a short chat, we did have a chat about his journey to Canary Wharf and of course, about the Everdure range. I left the event knowing much more about barbecues, enjoying some great food and pleased that Heston didn’t shatter my illusions of his TV self.

* Thanks to Kettler GB for the invitation to the event and their hospitality.

Prosecco on ice - a great way to end a day

Last Sunday we had a busy day in the garden, but I was determined that for once - and on what was the warmest day of the year - that we'd also find time to just be, and sit in our garden and enjoy it. Sometimes it's just too hot for working in the garden isn't it?  So after spending a fair bit of time cleaning the greenhouse so it sparkled and cleaning the barbecue so it was clean enough, well to cook off, we did just that.

And I had a masterplan up my sleeveless top. That was to use two of my recent blog deliveries, as in preparation I'd already bought some ice. That's not something I usually do, but when you need large quantities it's the easiest way, although in hindsight I didn't buy anywhere near as much as I needed to fill my new Wham Flexi-Square carry all. But with three bags of ice and, although I say it myself, some clever use of bubble wrap it worked - note to self, I'll need a lot more ice, or a lot more bottles(!) to make this work - but it'll be ideal for a party. In fact just like the party we're having in June to celebrate our 110th.
prosecco by premier estate wines on ice in my new flexi-square trug

I'm a big fan of these plastic trugs and regularly use them for gardening, we currently have four at home - bright pink, boring green, zingy red and vibrant yellow - plus another bright pink one on the allotment, but I didn't fancy using any of these for this.

Those are all round, this one's obviously square and a great lime green colour; so much more subtle than any I already had. It's the larger size, which has a capacity of 25L - so it'll take a lot of ice and more importantly store a party amount of bottles too.

The ice bucket cum flexi-square trug is a good size

The best things about barbecues are that I don't have to do anything. Actually, scratch that. For barbecues in our house I become the Sous Chef, prepping everything in advance and handing over to the Chef de Partie (MOH) for the manly barbecue cooking ritual. Which is actually fine, as it means I can sit and direct operations. And with a view like this, that's often a good thing.

A barbecue with prosecco on ice is a great way to end the warmest day of the year (so far)
sitting back and admiring the hard day's work in the garden while MOH tends the BBQ
On this occasion I made use of my "free" time to take a closer look at the Premier Estates Prosecco which I'd been sent to try. I know, sometimes it's a tough gig, hey? I wasn't sure about why, or if, a small 20cl bottle would be a good idea, but actually it turned out well as I made a couple of apertifs to whet our appetite, and it was just the right amount.
Trying the 20cl bottle of prosecco from premier estates wine

I added a splash of elderflower liqueur to the bottom of the glass along with some frozen raspberries which we'd grown on the allotment last year and topped the glasses up with the small bottle of prosecco. I wasn't expecting it to be a screw top (that's just the smaller bottle) and that makes it more useable, but not that I needed to put the top back on...

Enjoying an aperitif - prosecco from premier estates wine, elderflower liqueur and frozen raspberries grown on our allotment

Meanwhile, the manly cooking was going quicker than expected - I think he needs a bit more practice, but to be fair it's early in the barbecue season isn't it?

the barbecue's well underway - the first of the year

With dinner cooked it was time to open the rosè. If I get a choice of normal or pink champagne I'd opt for the pin everytime so I was looking forward to this. And with MOH back in his sommelier role, all was good. I bet you want to know what it tastes like, don't you? Well, it was good and very drinkable. The alcoholic volume was low at 11%, but more importantly it was a dry prosecco and so not too sweet. I think this is why it's so drinkable. And at £7.99 a bottle it's reasonably priced and I'd consider buying for a celebration. Actually it'd be great for those sunny afternoons in the garden, when the celebration is that it's sunny. You have those too right?

Ah that's more like it, being waited on with rose prosecco
A great way to end the warmest day of the year (so far) let's hope there's many more to come

So - and as I'm watching BGT as I'm typing this - both of these get a yes from me. 

A great end to a lovely day - prosecco on ice and a barbecue, what else could I ask for?  (a little less charcoaled food perhaps!)

And here's to plenty more barbecues too. I think the start of April is our earliest ever - have you barbecued yet?

 

* I was sent the prosecco and trug free of charge for the purposes of this post, but all views and opinions are my own.

Creating an Al Fresco Dining Area

This summer my plan was to use the barbecue more than the oven and while the jury's still out on whether I did or not, it also meant that we planned (and mostly managed) to eat outside too. I mean after giving these chairs a revamp, I had to use them didn't I?

Eating outdoors is one of life’s little pleasures, so whether your space is large or small, your focus should be on making the most of it. Don’t rule out outdoor dining if you only have a small space rather than an extensive garden; make the space work for you and you’ll be grateful of the extra ‘room’.

The dining area

Tables and chairs work better on patio or decking, which is great news if you do have a paved area only. Rattan furniture wears well and as such remain many people’s go-to choice for outdoor furniture. Long tables and matching benches made from reclaimed wood are becoming more popular as people look to make garden parties less formal. If you’re worried how your garden furniture will stack up against the weather be sure to treat any wood and cover with a protector when not in use.  If you’re space poor you could choose a table that folds up against a wall, many of these come with storage space for chairs underneath too.

If you have room, having an outdoor ‘bar’ can be a nice touch. This could be as simple as a table laid out with ready-filled plastic wine glasses or colourful jugs of cocktails. If you’re more of a wine drinker, think about buying a few wine cooler stands so that you don’t have to keep popping back in doors to the fridge. Purchasing from an industry specialist like Lockhart Catering or Nisbets is a good way to find these a little cheaper than you would on the high street, particularly if you’re ordering a few.

If you are working with a small area, easy access indoors with bi-fold doors can help open the space up and give you extra room. Creativedoors design bi-fold doors with wooden finishes that blend in better with your garden compared to other plastic styles. 

And remember it's not always warm (as if you need reminding after the last week) so we won’t always have the weather to complement the Spanish villa vibe you might be aiming for. Think about adding a good-sized umbrella to provide cover for your table area and if you have space, a gazebo gives you a reason not to go indoors if it rains a little.

The cookery kits

You might be yearning to build your own pizza oven or smoker and for those with the room (and time) there are kits out there to help you construct what amounts to your own outdoor restaurant. Thankfully, there are also a lot of temporary options too, so if you’re space and time poor, smoking kits that sit on top of the barbecue or smoking guns are great gourmet gadgets. Pizza stones used on top of the barbecue will help you tap into that fresh-baked taste too and for a fraction of the cost and effort. This video from Weber shows how their pizza stone, which retails for around £50, can be used on even small barbecues.
If you’d prefer not to be away from your visitors tending the barbecue, you might want to explore the idea of using barbecue tables like this one from Jamie Oliver which allows guests to grill their own food. Fondue kits are another great social sharing food option that are perfect for outdoor occasions, and the host!

Setting the scene

Making your outdoor space look party ready in the evening can be as simple as hanging strings of solar fairy lights to frame your garden or yard, though citronella candles will help you keep insects at bay. For daytime dining think about using the natural features of the space – flowers are very decorative after all. If you really don’t have time to garden, check out these pre-planted hanging baskets from Garden Wants. Consider comfort beyond the outdoor table and think about adding a fire pit or Chimenea for guests to gather around in the evening when things get cooler, and don't forget to keep blankets to hand too.

So, as the barbecue season draws to an end - or has it? - what were your successes? For me, it was delegating the cooking to MOH and that cauliflower cooked in foil with butter, seasoning and some Parmesan. Delicious!

 

This is a collaborative post.