Last night was one of those nights that reaffirms any doubt you had in your ability to cook food like the Neanderthals did.
Loyal readers of this blog may be familiar with my grilling obsession. While in Calgary, this blog became the sole resting place of endless pictures of food I had prepared using my good friend propane and a BBQ I found in an alleyway
.. As with all good things, my grilling time came to an end…or so I thought.
The grilling culture in Egypt is such that kofta, kebab, and chicken wouldn’t exist without it. Unfortunately this culture usually exists in cafes with relatively industrialized grills, i.e. ones I’m not going to be rolling into my house anytime soon. Then Tom found himself a grill
. It was a great day for all foreigners in Egypt. I must admit he put on quite the show, even though he doesn’t stand a chance this weekend in the first-ever “Meat Symphony vs. Meat Poetry Battle Royale.” Naturally, I had to follow suit by buying my own grill. For the last few days, though, it became a matter of if I was ever going to use it. Well, last night was the night.
It started with the usual preparations. Fennel-coriander chicken, ginger-yoghurt lamb chops, and a variety of veggies that Simon and Megan had brought with them. But there was this unforeseen challenge: lighting the coals. There is no such thing as a propane grill or charcoal bricks. No, we’re talking semi-burnt pieces of wood that sell for 60 cents a kilo. Lighting them is easy if you have a hairdryer or fan. We lacked both, so it was up to Simon’s wind generating techniques to get the coals firing hot.
Original efforts were somewhat futile, however progress is often a slow process. Salman, a self-proclaimed coal expert, came home about a third of the way through the process. His suggestion, admittedly a brilliant one, was to get some petrol. That was sure to get the fire started, if not only in the BBQ. So Simon and Megan set out to take care of that, while Salman and I continued to fan like crazy to get the coals going.
We had a decent base of coals going by the time the supply team got back armed with a jerry can of what we thought was petrol. Salman prepared to do the honours saying, “Simon, take this bottle of water and dump it on me if I catch on fire.” Holy $#&@, man. Don’t kill yourself. That’s taking the concept of “taking one for the team” to a whole new level.
One of the most anti-climactic things ever is when you expect a furious explosion of light and flames, only to get nothing. That’s exactly what happened when Salman sprinkled the gas over the hot coals…nothing. How disappointing. We eventually concluded that the gas was in fact diesel. I think it was a sign that we should stop cheating and go back to our Cro-Magnon ways.
And that’s what we did. We fanned furiously and finally got some semblance of cooking coals. Then it was my turn. Up first, the fennel-coriander chicken. It grilled up beautifully—tender, juicy, and seductive. Next up, some yoghurt-ginger lamb chops. Simply put: if medium-rare lamb doesn’t get it done for you, then I don’t know what will. Third, a bit of an experiment…honey-glazed broccoli grilled on bamboo skewers that turned out decently. Fourth, a menagerie of peppers in the bell family, also soaked in the honey glaze. To top it all off was grilled apple smothered in sugar, cinnamon, and raisons. As they say, “Go big or go home.”
All the while, Simon did up a legendary shisha—perhaps the best shisha I’ve had since arriving in Egypt. BBQ and shisha. It’s a combination for the ages. And the best part of it all was that we used the coals from the grill to burn the tobacco.
This was perhaps my greatest BBQ feat ever. Cooking like a caveman is just that much more rewarding. But, I couldn’t have done it without Salman and Simon working the coals (and Megan for morale support).
Business opportunities are currently being explored.