I think it was comedian Paul Merton who said that beautiful people are solar powered because they seem to come out en masse when the sun shines.
The same could probably be said for barbecues. Sunshine and barbecues just go well together. The merest hint of good weather has us heading out for barbecue staples.
Walking around our neighbourhood after six o’clock but while there is still natural sunlight, you can take in the heady aroma of smoke, of meat being grilled and sense the change in people’s mood that sunshine brings.
I’m all for the more Australian way of looking at barbecues. It is a method of cooking that can be enjoyed whenever the mood takes you. When I was in Australia, I had great breakfasts grilled on a barbie as well as lunches and dinners.
So now, I always have at least one disposable barbecue so that I can be up and running whenever the mood takes me. I have been known to be crouched outside over a disposable as storm clouds threatened, just because I had a craving for smoky meat and chargrilled vegetables that no oven could satisfy.
Thankfully, we have been blessed with sun and high temperatures, so being outside had no downside. But I was torn. I wanted a juicy steak but I also wanted a salad to help cope with the hot weather.
It was then that I realised it had been while since I had done anything remotely Thai and I have loved a good Thai beef salad ever since I first visited the Blue Elephant over 20 years ago.
The Blue Elephant transports you to the tropics, complete with forest setting and streams with fish darting around. Even when I moved to Brussels, I used to visit them in their Brussels outpost for an occasional fix. So, that was where I turned for inspiration.
All I bought for this dish was the steak. Everything else was already in the cupboard or fridge, waiting for me to show it some love.
What came off the grill was beautiful beef. Strips of steak crowned a salad of fresh spinach, spring onions, grilled strips of courgette and cucumber, slightly charred on the barbecue to give you a flavour hit that was smoky yet refreshing at the same time. Cherry tomatoes helped cool the fiery heat of the sauce which had several bird’s eye chillies, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemon juice and garlic.
Not bad for what was almost entirely a store cupboard dinner.