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Barbecue tips: “Stick another Thors Hammer on the barbie!”

Pete and Holly Morgan at Butterbox Farm

Its that time of the year when minds turn to enjoying the great British outdoors and nothing screams summer more to me than an lazy afternoon with a glass or two of rosé and a juicy sausage in my hand, writes Nick Mosley.

In the past, I think most of us – and I definitely include myself and the motley crew of Brighton miscreants I’ve associated with over the years – have had a rather cavalier attitude to barbecuing but with a little more maturing I’ve wised-up and want my steaks and burgers to match the quality of the dishes I’d prepare in my own kitchen, or would visit a restaurant for.

For advice, I picked up the phone to my chef mate Simon Mckenzie who’s been banging pots and pans around fine dining restaurants and 5-star hotel kitchens for nearly 35 years.

“For me, the key to successful barbecuing is using the right charcoal or lump wood”, said Simon.

Honestly, I was already somewhat lost as I hadn’t a clue what the difference was but I’m reliably told that lump wood is whole pieces of wood pre-burned into carbon whereas the more familiar charcoal briquettes are machine-pressed and of a considerably lower quality. Lump wood burns hotter and faster than traditional charcoal briquettes and – if you have a fancy-schmancy barbecue with controllable air vents – it allows a greater control over the temperature.

“I use King-K restaurant grade lump wood”, continued Simon. “It lights easily, takes about 45 minutes to reach 200-250ºc and keeps white hot for two to three hours. Cheap briquettes simply don’t deliver that”.

I guess that it makes perfect sense that just the same as how you’d use your domestic hob and oven differently, depending on the type and cut of meat your cooking, the barbecue process should be no different.

“You need to think of a barbecue as a smoking hot frying pan and treat it appropriately”, said Simon.

“The difference being that you can’t turn it down, so I recommend you think a little more out-of-the-box and use multiple cooking methods to get the best of your meat”.

“For example, if I was barbecuing in the afternoon, in the morning I’d simmer quality pork sausages for about eight minutes then run under cold water. These can then be kept in the fridge until guests arrive then reheated in a well-oiled baking tray in an oven set to 180ºc for 10 minutes before finishing on the barbecue for colour and taste”.

“As long as your protein is good, I guarantee these will be the best tasting barbecue sausages you’ll ever eat and cooked to perfection”.

Chef Simon Mckenzie

Simon’s sausage expertise conveniently leads on to where to get your hands on meats that have come from animals reared with passion and care here in Sussex. So I turned to Holly Morgan at the wonderfully named Butterbox Farm, located at Scaynes Hill just to the east of Haywards Heath for a lowdown on their produce.

Longstanding champions of free range and high welfare farming, original founders Pat and John Garratt – both of whom come from farming families – handed over management to farm manager Pete Froggatt and Holly’s husband Pete who acts as stockman. They are particularly renowned for their herd of Dexters, a breed of small cattle from Ireland.

“We truly believe that the flavour and marbling of our Dexter beef is second-to-none”, says Holly.

“Being all-grass fed on the farm adds to the quality that the Dexter is already renowned for. It tastes as beef should; rich, tender and – well – beefy! Its also low in saturated fat and leaner than other breeds”.

Butterbox Farm is home to a variety of sheep breeds but their most recent success story has been the introduction of pigs to a large area of overgrown woodland on the estate.

Free range pigs in woodland at Butterbox Farm

“Our pigs have done a fantastic job of clearing brambles and bracken whilst agitating the soil. They are also able to express entirely natural behaviour, moving through the woods as a herd, keeping cool beneath the trees and creating wallows in the mud. On a warm evening they will even build an outdoor nest in which to sleep – it’s truly lovely to see”.

“Their natural diet and free range lifestyle massively contributes to an exceptional quality of pork. The flavour is great and the fat coverage is perfect for the best part of a pork roast - the crackling”.

The farm supplies to various butchers in the local area but also has a farm gate shop every Saturday from 10am to 1pm so you can buy directly, making Butterbox Farm a perfect choice for your barbecue meat shopping whilst also supporting Sussex’s rural economy.

“We welcome people to come to our farmyard and meet us and our animals and see what we do here”, said Holly.

“A lot of our customers are hugely into smoking their meat and cooking outdoors. They’re always challenging our butcher Tom to come up with new cuts and products. In the summer, hearty ‘Thors Hammer' on-the-bone beef shank is always popular. Most weekends we butterfly legs of lamb and of – course – our Dexter brisket is a perfect barbecue choice”.

“Recently we’ve started making our own Butterbox bangers and koftas, which are a simple recipe of our free range pork, seasonings and a gluten-free rusk that is made entirely of peas. We don’t add nitrates or additives so although that means a shorter shelf life it also means a natural product to enjoy”.

Following my fascinating chats with chef Simon and farmer Holly, I know I’ll be taking my home barbecues to the next level this year. So – if you get an invite – don’t be surprised to hear: ‘stick another Thors Hammer on the barbie!’

Nick Mosley

Keep up-to-date on Butterbox Farm and their weekly produce availability by following their Facebook page:


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