In his latest cookbook, Ben O'Donoghue teaches us that the true beauty of barbecue isn't all smoke and skewers.
By
April Smallwood

13 Jan 2014 - 4:12 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2014 - 1:45 PM

Why buy it?

Ben O’Donoghue’s a familiar face, having appeared on the ABC’s Surfing the Menu alongside fellow wave-breaker Curtis Stone, and currently as a host and contestant of LifeStyle Food’s The Best in Australia. He earned his chef’s chops working in a number of restaurants including Tribeca and Goodfellas in Sydney and Jessica’s in Perth, before moving to London in 1998 to solidify his name and strengthen his CV. Most recently, he opened a new Brisbane restaurant, Billy Kart Kitchen, one that's close to home and will no doubt enable him to give his beloved surfboard a workout.

Ben’s BBQ Bible is a follow-up to Ben’s cookbook Outdoor, which saw a similar celebration of all things barbecue – the unofficial symbol of Australian culture. If you’ve only ever tossed steaks and supermarket-marinated skewers over the grill, prepare to be educated. Ben illuminates many other foods that can be cooked remarkably well on the barbie, such as focaccia, polenta, and a whole pumpkin filled with biryani, whose grains are sunflower yellow, spiked with garam masala and adorned with chopped mint.

Obviously, the title is bashful – Ben's BBQ Bible has more than meat on its bones. You'll also find colourful and inventive salads (barbecued avocado and labneh), reinvented desserts (barbecued banana split), and knock-out spice rubs and flavoured butters that will elevate your barbecue output almost immediately. While there are classics peppered throughout, such as the Aussie steak sandwich, everything else is global, and the book’s best dishes illustrate how different cultures embrace this style of cooking.

 

Cookability  

Most ingredients can be bought from a supermarket or specialty store. The marinades feature long ingredient lists, but, once mastered, become a cinch next time around. You’d do well to have an Asian grocer close by, as lemongrass, ginger, galangal and tamarind are sometimes called for. Whatever you do, make sure to use a good-quality sea salt (Ben says Maldon is easy to find).

 

Must-cook recipe

Pulled pork slider. Add the crackling atop the meat for extra crunch.

 

Most surprising dish

Barbecued beef in betel leaf skewers. Serve with sweet chilli sauce or Vietnamese rice noodle salad.

 

Kitchen wisdom

Never hand the tongs to someone you can’t trust.

 

Ideal for

Entertainers who especially love to host al fresco ’dos; people with enviable backyards and the requisite barbecue; steak purists who've scarcely seasoned meat with little more than salt and pepper; seafood lovers and those who fish for leisure.

 

Recipe from Ben’s BBQ Bible by Ben O’Donoghue, with photographs by Billy Law. Published by Hardie Grant Books, $39.95, pbk.