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Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Decadent chocolate dessert recipes for Christmas

13 of our most decadent chocolate recipes to indulge guests with this Christmas.

What the GT team is cooking on Christmas Day

We don't do things by halves in the Gourmet office. These are the recipes we'll be cooking on the big day.

Sydney's best dishes 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Sydney provided 16 answers.

Summer feta recipes

Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.

Top 35 recipes of 2016

2016 was all about slow-roasting, fresh pasta and comfort food. These are the recipes you clicked on most this year, counting back to number one.

Mango recipes

Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.

Paul Carmichael's great cake

"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."

Ed Mitchell, barbecue pitmaster

Ed Mitchell is an old-school pitmaster. For him, barbecue is a verb, not a noun. “In my neck of the woods,” says the burly 65-year-old from Wilson, North Carolina, “the true sense of the word means digging a hole, filling it with hot wood cinders, placing a hog over that, and then being prepared for a long process. Everything else is grillin’.”

Americans worship barbecue with a religious fervour bordering on mass hysteria. Pitmasters are their high priests. The great ones typically grew up in the rural South where the tradition – and quite often the secret sauce recipe – was passed between generations on occasions which called for huge portions to feed the hungry faithful. “When I was coming up, we were always celebrating a newborn or a church outing or a reunion during holiday times,” explains Mitchell, who began learning his trade as a teenager. “Back then, women would cook the collard greens and cakes, while the men would pretend to tend the pit all night so they could drink without being scolded. But it was also a rite of passage for young boys who wanted to hang out with their grandad.”

Barbecue is not just an excuse to stand around the fire telling lies and swigging illegal corn liquor from a jug. It requires serious concentration and skill to smoke a pig that might have topped the scales at 135kg while still alive and snuffling. “The craft of cooking a whole hog comes down to understanding where to position the coals,” says Mitchell. “And depending on the animal, it means a slow-roasted process that takes anywhere from 12 to 20 hours.”

Traditionally, pigs rested on simple wire racks about 50cm above an open flame. A sheet of corrugated tin might serve to cover the pit and retain smoke. Modern commercial cookers like the one Mitchell now tows to competitions on a trailer have hinged lids and sliding steel trays or even rotisseries.

Mitchell generally fires up to 35kg of charcoal at one time, then arranges it with a shovel under the thickest portions, such as the hams and shoulders, which need the most intense heat to cook uniformly. However, not all of Mitchell’s tricks were learned from the menfolk in his family. His mother, who loves extra-smoky meat, taught him to brine the logs of oak or hickory in a vinegar-and-pepper bath. “She soaks her wood like you would season a piece of meat,” says Mitchell. “Throw a handful of wet woodchips that have been sitting in salt and cayenne on the hot coals and the flavour comes up.”

Connoisseurs are also adamant about the quality of the meat before it hits the heat. “I can do a good job with whatever breed,” Mitchell says, “but if I can select the right pig, it will blow your hair back.” He prefers heritage stock such as Tamworth, Duroc or Yorkshire for their flavour and marbling. “The meat is more succulent, not as dry or lean, and when there is more fat, it has a different aroma. The drippings fall down into the charcoal and send out that mmm-yum yummy smell.”

Once removed from the pit, barbecue of this calibre is served three ways in North Carolina. Meat from all portions of the hog are piled together and “chopped” with a cleaver, then blended with a cider vinegar sauce containing cayenne for kick and sugar to balance the acidity. Chunky, leaner shoulders and hams are “pulled” or shredded off the bones and drenched with a sticky tomato and molasses sauce. But what Southerners really love is a traditional pig picking: a butterflied hog flipped on its back and spread on a picnic table for everyone to dig out whatever portion they fancy – ribs, tenderloin, belly, cracklings – with their bare hands.

Can authentic barbecue be scaled down for a kettle grill? Mitchell recommends smoking half a suckling pig weighing around 6kg, or a combination of shoulder, ham and belly cuts. “Then blend those pieces together for true flavour.” Serve it sandwiched in a potato bun or simply piled onto slices of soft white bread. American-style side dishes such as creamy coleslaw, candied yams and corn bread are a fundamental part of this meal, accompanied by gallons of sweet iced tea. Unless, of course, you happen to know someone in the moonshine business. Amen to that.

Catch Ed Mitchell at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, 2-21 March.

WORDS SHANE MITCHELL

This article was published in the January 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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