Suffolk-based chef Lilian Hiw led SuffolkNews reporter Russell Claydon through Thai Vietnamese BBQ cooking in Live Al Fresco cooking course
I love BBQ cooking. But aside from the long cook smoking that really took off for me in lockdown, like many, my horizons have been fairly limited – based around the meat triumvirate of burgers, sausages and chicken wings with some buns and a simple salad thrown together.
While my two young girls lap it up, it often leaves me frustrated at the world of possibilities of cooking on fire that I’ve not yet been able to unlock.
Therefore, I jumped at the chance to head to the stunning Oaksmere Hotel in Eye for a Thai Vietnamese BBQ Cooking Course to take my ‘grill game’ to another exciting level.
Run by Andrew King’s Diss-based barbecue business Live Al Fresco, this particular one used our Culford-based columnist and multiple award-winning private chef Lilian Hiw (Lilian’s Kitchen).
It could be seen as a daunting experience to put yourself in a room (a welcome air-conditioned conservatory on a hot day, in our case) with a bunch of strangers of varying abilities to cook alongside.
But the bubbly Lilian has a great way about her that instantly makes you feel comfortable and that you’re in very good hands, whatever stage you’re at in your culinary journey.
Within an hour my ropey chopping technique had been changed forever and I had learnt some great food tips, such as to cut out the green shoot on garlic as it can give you bad breath and indigestion. Another was cutting cucumber into half moons to make the bite purely crunchy by removing that watery explosion.
I also quickly learnt how to prepare a chicken breast to remove the sinews and excess fat and a super fast way to de-skin a salmon fillet.
On our menu was: Tandoori salmon taco, Vietnamese lemongrass pork skewers and Thai chicken skewers, the latter with a peanut sauce.
It felt fantastic to get more of a sense of how to work with some Asian spices and make our own mixes. Lilian also gave us hints of what brands to look out for and which to avoid in the supermarkets.
After a good stint in the conservatory, with plenty to absorb as well as never being far from getting your hands in action, we were ready to make the magic happen on the grill.
Andy had both a charcoal and gas options for us to use, including a Kamado Joe Big Joe Standalone (£1,849) with a 61cm ceramic grill.
We cooked the salmon on a pizza stone to ensure it did not cook too quickly, though Lilian pointed out if you have a cooling rack you can skewer it up and suspend it on that.
Then it was down to the best part of any BBQ: the tasting.
And my word it was worth all the time we had put into it. The tandoori salmon taco served in a toasted flat bread just pipped the lemongrass pork skewers – served in a baguette. However, the spicy satay sauce with the tandoori chicken was also really flavoursome with the seared courgettes and crunchy cucumber.
A Q&A session over a drink to reflect on our day followed which also brought up some interesting ideas to work on with our new-found confidence.
It left me thinking as I drove away, why don’t more people consider paying to develop their cooking skills?
This particular course is also designed for you to test out a BBQ that Andy can help supply you with, if that’s what you want, though I found there was no pressure on that.
The day lasted from 10am to 3pm and cost £139 full price.
Live Al Fresco’s courses and their full range of BBQs and accessories can be viewed and purchased via their website: www.livealfresco.com
The next course coming up is Italian themed on August 12 and is £99.