The May bank holiday usually signifies the official start of barbecue season. It’s time to tear off the lid, mount the embers and grill. We’ve been cooking over fire since there’s been human life on this planet and it’s never been more popular. This is my favorite cooking method. There’s something so satisfying about taking a piece of meat or fish and placing it over hot coals to gently sizzle and be kissed by the smoke.
Last year I put up a cabana in my back garden so I could barbecue all year round. It was duly dubbed “Club Tropicana” in a deferential nod to a lifelong devotion to George Michael and his music.
I enjoyed creating a signature sauce to accompany the place. Club Tropicana sauce is a blend of spices, rum, pineapple juice and tamarind. When I was young, I always wondered what tamarind was when I noticed it on the ingredient list on the side of a bottle of HP Sauce. It is a tropical fruit tree that produces bean-like pods filled with seeds and surrounded by a fibrous pulp. It has a sweet and sour taste and is perfect as a base for hot sauces. You can get it in many Asian supermarkets and stores. The spices in the sauce are allspice, nutmeg, and pepper, giving it a nice heat to complement the zesty pineapple and tamarind. For the recipe here, it’s brushed over chicken thighs on the grill, but you can use it with pork chops, vegetables, sausages, or whatever you want.
True to the tropical pineapple vibe, the dessert recipe here is a Barbados cream with grilled fruit. Cream of Barbados is one of the simplest yet most effective and delicious puddings. It was introduced to me by my friend Linda who picked up lots of vanilla while visiting Ascension Island. The whipped cream is mixed with yogurt and vanilla and topped with dark brown sugar. Vanilla beans are very expensive but vanilla paste is a cheaper and just as good substitute. The pineapple is grilled to caramelize the sugar then brushed with a little maple syrup to glaze.
Club Tropicana Chicken with Black Bean and Avocado Salad
What you will need
For the Club Tropicana Chicken
8 boneless chicken thighs
75g tamarind pulp
1 tbsp oil + extra for brushing
1 onion, finely chopped
25 g chopped ginger root
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon all spices
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
50ml golden rum
500ml pineapple juice
75g dark brown sugar
Pour 225 ml of boiling water over the tamarind and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Mix then pass through a sieve. Discard the seeds.
Cook onion, ginger and garlic in oil until soft and golden. Add spices and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add rum, pineapple juice and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Puree until smooth and check the seasoning. Brush chicken with oil and season with salt. Cook on a grill skin side down until golden brown. Turn over and brush with a little sauce. Grill and turn occasionally until cooked through. Brush with a little more sauce and set aside.
For the avocado and black bean salad
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice 1 lime
1 teaspoon chopped red pepper
A handful of chopped cilantro
1 red onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Cream of Barbados with grilled pineapple
What you will need
200 ml fresh cream
250ml Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or seeds from a vanilla bean
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
Lightly whip the cream and incorporate the yogurt and vanilla. Pour into 4 glasses or ramekins and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the surface of each cream. Leave in the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.
Remove the core from the pineapple and slice it. Place on a hot grill pan or barbecue until charred on both sides. Brush with maple syrup and bake to glaze. Cut into matchsticks and let cool. Place on the Barbados cream.
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