Holy smoke! Grills sans frills


After man discovered fire, the first thing he learnt was to grill his food. Despite the advancements in technology, it still remains the best way to cook food and retain its original flavour.

You can grill any kind of food – vegetarian or non-vegetarian. You can grill fish, meat, fruits like pineapple and vegetables like tomato, potato, capsicum and baby corn. You can grill a sandwich. Since grilling requires very little or no oil, this method is an ideal option for calorie-conscious people.

There’s a wide variety of grilling appliances and accessories to choose from. There are multiple varieties of grills, with most falling into one of the two categories: gas-fuelled/ electric and charcoal grills. There is tandoor, barbecue (where a skewer or a rotisserie is used to cook small pieces of food such as kebabs), toaster (mainly to grill bread for sandwiches), OTG (oven toaster and griller) or a convection oven.

There is a great debate on the merits of charcoal grills over gas/ electric grills. Indoor electric grills are growing in popularity. Grilling is a popular tradition in many countries. There are contests for different styles of steak grilling and barbecue. Almost all competition-grillers use charcoal, most often in large, custom-designed brick or steel grills.

Winter is the perfect time for grilling or setting up a barbecue in the backyard with family and friends gathered around it. There are interesting choices in grills ranging from Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican and fusion.

Cooking is really about heat management — too much will burn the food, too little will make the food taste raw. Intense heat, low heat, simmering heat and dry heat are used in getting the right taste. Grilling is a form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, commonly from above or below.

Food to be grilled is cooked in an open wire grid with a heat source above or below; a grill pan, similar to a frying pan, but with raised ridges to mimic the wires of an open grill; or a griddle, which is a flat plate heated from below.

Grilled mackerel

One of the most popular grilled foods in coastal India, in places where mackerel is found (like Mangalore), is grilled mackerel. In the past it was quite common to season the cut and cleaned mackerel, wrap it in banana leaves and grill it over charcoal in an open place.

Ingredients: 12 mackerel; 25 to 30 long red chillies; 2 tbsp coriander seeds; 1 tsp jeera; 1 tsp methi; 3 tsp pepper corns; 2 tsp turmeric powder; 6 to 8 garlic cloves; 1 small ball tamarind; salt to taste; 1 pinch hing; 10 to 12 green chillies chopped; 2 inch piece ginger; 1 full pod of garlic crushed; 4 tsp coconut oil.

Method: Fry the coriander, jeera, methi, pepper corns, turmeric and garlic to make a masala and then grind the rest to a fine paste. You can add half teaspoon hing powder while grinding. Remove the masala and keep aside. Now take the green chilly, ginger, crushed garlic pod and mix in coconut oil, then add this mixture to the masala.
Clean the fish and make 2-3 horizontal slits in each fish. Coat the fish with the masala and keep every slice in a flat greased vessel placing a plantain leaf below and above the fish and bake until done.

Pathar ka Gosht

There is one style of grilling meat, using stones, which is unique to Hyderabad.  Pathar ka Gosht (lamb grilled on stone) was an integral part of the Hyderabadi cuisine in the days of royalty and continues to hold pride of place.

In making Pathar ka Gosht, very thin lamb steaks are grilled on a very hot, black, unpolished granite stone, not more than two inches thick.

These stones are usually family heirlooms, passed on from mother to daughter. The meat is thoroughly marinated with raw papaya, green peppers and garam masala, and the marination is over a period of eight to ten hours. The papaya has a tenderising effect.

The flattened meat is then placed on the pathar and cooked over a pit of glowing charcoal. If you like to experiment, try making Pathar ka Gosht using this recipe.

Ingredients: 1 tsp fresh ginger, crushed; 1 tsp fresh garlic, crushed; 6-8 fresh green chillies, crushed to a paste; 1 tsp cassia buds, ground; 1 tsp black peppercorns, ground; Salt  to taste; 1 tsp garam masala power; 2 tsp refined oil; 1 kg lamb boneless; 250 gm yogurt; 100 gm raw papaya; 2-3 onions, sliced into rings; 2-3 lemon wedges; 1 bunch fresh mint leaves.

Method: Take ginger, garlic, chilly, cassia buds, black peppercorn, refined oil, salt, garam masala powder, yogurt and raw papaya in a bowl. Marinate the lamb steaks in this mixture and keep aside for an hour. Heat a stone, preferably granite on charcoal. Place the marinated lamb over the heated stone. Cook on both  sides. Serve hot, with onion rings, lemon wedges and fresh mint leaves.

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