The big grill

Celebrate Yom Ha'atzma'ut the Israeli way.

mangal bbq 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
mangal bbq 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
Before you read our tips and recipes below, please take a moment and imagine the British Mandate over Palestine had expired during the cold winter of 1948 or the sizzling hot summer of 1949. It would have been too cold or too hot to celebrate our beloved national barbecue holiday, better known to some as Independence Day? More than any other month, May offers the most ideal weather for spending a day out in the parks and forests. Throughout our 58 years of independence, we Israelis have achieved success in many fields and gained international recognition. When abroad we pay our respects to our fellow countrymen's achievements. In arts, music, architecture, design and science, Israelis have made their name throughout the world. But here on our home territory, we all love to take pride in our one own very special achievement: We are the undisputed Kings of the Grill. Barbecues - known as mangalim in the vernacular - are great fun, but they do need some thought and planning. If you're new to barbecuing and want to make something easy, but a little more advanced than burgers and sausages, I've gathered a few tips, some creative recipes and a lovely dessert to upgrade your outdoor cookout.
  • Marinate the meat for as long as possible before it hits the grill. Typically this results in meat that's bursting with flavor and so tender it falls off the bones!
  • Never mix different raw foods (fish and chicken) in the same marinade. Always keep in separate containers.
  • Do as much preparation as you can the day before. Make the marinades, and if appropriate, marinate the meat or poultry. Make the side dishes and prepare an easy dessert that just needs finishing off on the day.
  • Remove meat and poultry from the refrigerator an hour before cooking and leave covered in a cool place until required. This will help bring the food back to an ambient temperature and will result in a more succulent dish.
  • Store raw food in covered containers away from bright sunlight. It pays to invest in a big cooler for convenience.
  • When using skewers, cut food into chunks that are too large to fall through the grate. Or grill foods whole, then cut them before serving.
  • A hot grill is your best defense against sticky situations. Be sure the grates are piping hot before laying down your food - or be prepared to clean it later!
  • The best way to tell if the grill is hot enough is to hold your hand just over it (but not on it!) and count to 10. If you can leave your hand there longer, it's not warm enough yet.
  • When cooking anything skewered, such as kebabs, soak wooden skewers in water first, to prevent them from burning. Sweet and Spicy Lamb Kebabs with Mint and Red Onion Relish For the marinade: 600 gr. lamb fillet cut into 2.5 cm. chunks 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tsp. fresh thyme , chopped 1 whole red chilli or 1 tsp. fresh chopped chilli 2 tsp. paprika 1 Tbsp. ground cumin 1 Tbsp. ground coriander 2 Tbsp. apricot jam 6 dried apricots Juice of 1 lemon Salt and freshly ground black pepper For the Mint & Red Onion Relish: 1 red onion, finely sliced 1/2 cucumber, peeled, and finely sliced 3 Tbsp. freshly chopped mint leaves Juice of 1 lemon Salt and freshly ground black pepper Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor and process until smooth. Rub well over the lamb chunks. Cover and leave to marinate in a cool place for 5 to 6 hours or overnight (preferable). Prepare the mint and onion relish; mix all the ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill. Thread the lamb on four skewers and cook on a hot barbecue for four minutes on each side. Leave to rest for five minutes. Marinated Coriander and Lemon Chicken 8 Tbsp. olive oil 2 tsp. honey Juice of 1 lemon 4 tsp. chopped coriander Salt and pepper, to taste 4 chicken breasts, skinned Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes. Place on the grill and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally and brush with the left-over marinade until cooked throughout. Salmon fillets can be used as an alternative to chicken. Teriyaki Beef Kebabs 1 kg. beef 2/3 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup medium-dry sherry 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated 1 large clove garlic Cut the beef into 2.5 cm cubes. Combine the soy sauce, sherry, ginger and garlic. Marinate the beef cubes in the marinade for four to six hours at room temperature. Drain well. Cook on skewers on medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn frequently to brown evenly. Makes four servings. Honey and Mustard Sauce 6 Tbsp. honey 3 Tbsp. mustard 1/2 tsp. horseradish sauce 1 Tbsp. corn flour 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar 2 Tbsp. lemon juice Put all the ingredients in a heavy-base saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture clears and thickens slightly. Makes about 250 ml. Serve with hamburgers, steaks and chops. Chimichouri 2 handfuls parsley leaves 4 green onions, chopped 8 garlic cloves, crushed 1 tsp. dried oregano 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 1/2 cup canola oil Salt, black pepper Place parsley, onions, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, vinegar and oil in a food processor; pulse until the mixture is well blended but still retains some texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 3/4 cup. Sweet and Sour Barbecue Sauce 250 ml. tomato ketchup 150 ml. orange or apricot jam 2 Tbsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp. soy sauce 1/2 tsp. horseradish sauce 1/2 tsp. salt A pinch of freshly ground black pepper Put all the ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan and heat until simmering. Makes about 300 ml. Fresh Figs with Honey Sauce 1/2 cup honey 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice 8 to 12 fresh figs, stems trimmed, halved lengthways In a small saucepan combine the honey and lemon juice and stir until blended. Lightly brush the cut sides of the figs with some of the honey mixture. Leave the remaining honey mixture in the pan. Grill figs, cut-side-down, over high heat until golden, two to three minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time. Use a spatula to lift figs from the grate and transfer to a plate to cool slightly. If the figs are large, cut them into 2 cm. wedges. Add the figs to the remaining honey mixture in the saucepan. Heat gently over a low heat. Serve over ice cream. Makes six to eight servings.