King Of The Grill

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King Of The Grill

Words by Mr Jonathan Dann | Photography by Ms Carol Sachs | Styling by Ms Sophie Hardcastle

8 June 2016

The barbecue has grown up. The days when a man could expect to satisfy his guests with a menu of underdone sausages, overcooked steak and charcoal-flavoured corn-on-the-cob are long gone.

The revolution is helmed by men such as Mr Ben Tish, whose new book, Grill Smoke BBQ, elevates the simple act of grilling over charcoal and firewood into haute cuisine.

Having worked at The Ritz and alongside Mr Jason Atherton at Maze, today Mr Tish is chef director of the Salt Yard Group, comprising restaurants specialising in food from Spain and Italy, including the award-winning Ember Yard in Soho and Fitzrovia institution Salt Yard, both in London.

Inspired by his travels to Tuscany and the Basque Country, Mr Tish is trying to encourage a barbecue culture that stretches beyond summer. “Ninety per cent of what we cook at Ember Yard is over charcoal and wood and we do it all year round.”

With the outdoor-eating season upon us, Mr Tish has agreed to provide us with a few expert tips, along with three easy recipes that’ll instantly up your barbecue game.

How to get a BBQ going

Put a lid on it: 

It doesn’t matter which barbecue you get, as long as it has a lid and a vent. Cooking without a lid is essentially grilling, but when you have a lid, this creates an oven. The true meaning of barbecuing is “cooking slower than normal while adding smoke” – this is what the lid is for. The vent allows oxygen to circulate and a chimney at the side lets the smoke out.

Good wood:

You can buy good-quality charcoal easily, and even different flavours of charcoal and woods such as oak, silver birch, cherry, apple. This adds flavour to what you are cooking. Because it comes from British woodland, it hasn’t travelled, and it has fewer chemicals, so it burns much cleaner and brighter.

**Chimney heat: **

Invest in a fire chimney. Light the firelighters in the centre of the barbecue and place the chimney filled with charcoal on top. Within 10 to 15 minutes, the coals will be lit and will have turned ash grey. When the flames have subsided, this will be optimum cooking temperature. If you are cooking all day, you can repeat this process and top your barbecue up with the right temperature of coals.

The flame game: 

Do not put the food on the barbecue before the flames have subsided – this is when you get food that is burnt on the outside and raw on the inside.

**Coal goals: **

Fast grilling can be achieved by filling the base of the barbecue with charcoal, and lighting as described above. This is known as direct cooking, as you are cooking directly over the hot coals. However, if you want to cook a shoulder of lamb for a couple of hours, set your charcoal to one side leaving the other side of the base bare. Start your lamb over the coals and get it nice and brown. Move it to the side so there is no direct heat underneath it, then close the lid.

Serves 4

Grilled mackerel with fennel, yogurt and sumac salad


  • 2 mackerel fillets, pin bones removed
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Sea salt and pepper

For the fennel, yogurt and sumac salad:

  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 large fennel bulb, core removed, very thinly sliced – ideally using a mandolin
  • ⅓ cucumber, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3½ tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp sumac


Light the barbecue and set for direct cooking.

Like sardines, the skin on mackerel is quite delicate, so make sure your grill is clean and hot to help avoid sticking. Rub the mackerel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then place on the grill in the direct heat zone. Cook for two minutes skin-side down until charred and then a minute on the flesh side, or until the skin is crispy and charred and the flesh is starting to become opaque. Mackerel benefits from being left a little pink in the middle. Rest the fish for two minutes before serving.

For the salad, toast the fennel seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Toss the pan as they toast then remove the pan from the heat when they colour lightly and become aromatic.

Put the fennel, cucumber, fennel seeds and chilli in a bowl. Season well and then squeeze over the lemon juice, pour in the olive oil and mix well. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt with the sumac and season with salt and pepper, then add 2 tsp water to thin the yogurt to a dressing consistency.

Place the salad on plates, top with the grilled mackerel and spoon the dressing over and around.

Best served with: grilled artichoke with lemon and sage.

Serves 4

Wood-roasted potatoes with thyme and garlic


You will also need some beech or oak wood chips, if you want an extra-smoky flavour.

  • 800g (1¾lb) charlotte, pink fir apple or other waxy potatoes
  • 1 garlic bulb, cut in half, plus 4 extra garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 50g (3½ tbsp) unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and black pepper


Place the potatoes in a medium pan, cover with cold water and add the halved garlic bulb and three of the thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain well and leave to cool, then cut the cooled potatoes into bite-sized chunks.

Light the barbecue and set for direct/indirect cooking. Throw a good handful of wood chips onto the coals, if you like.

Take a roasting tin or ovenproof frying pan large enough to hold the potatoes and place in the direct heat zone. Add a good glug of of olive oil and, when the oil starts to smoke, add the potatoes and season well. Toss the potatoes in the oil to coat, then close the lid of the barbecue.

Cook for four minutes before tossing the potatoes again and adding another handful of wood chips, if using. Cook for a further three minutes, then add the butter, extra garlic cloves and the leaves from the the remaining three thyme sprigs. Toss the potatoes again, then transfer to the indirect heat zone and cook for two minutes, or until they are crisp and golden brown.

Serve the potatoes immediately, spooning over any butter, garlic and thyme left in the tin or pan.

Best served with: any meat or fish dish – just make sure you have a little chunk of wood to get the proper barbecue flavour.

Serves 4

Marinated and grilled beef bavette with smoky salad onions


  • 4 x 100g pieces of beef bavette, onglet or thinly sliced rump
  • 1l brine for red meat
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1tsp thyme leaves
  • 8 large salad onions or large, bulbous spring onions
  • 50-60g crunchy shallot and garlic salsa cruda (see below)
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • Sea salt and black pepper

For the crunchy garlic and salsa cruda:

Makes 50-60g (about 4 tbsp)

  • 1 large banana shallot, or two medium-sized ones, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Sea salt and black pepper


Place the beef in the brine and leave, covered, for one hour. Drain and transfer to a clean bowl. Add the oil, garlic, chilli, lemon zest and thyme, then leave to marinate for at least one hour.

Light the barbecue and set for direct/indirect cooking.

Remove the beef from the marinade, season with salt and pepper and place on the grill in the direct heat zone. Keep a close eye on the steaks: bavette cooks quickly as it is quite thin, and it shouldn’t be cooked past medium-rare otherwise it’ll be tough. Grill for two minutes on each side to char, then move to the cooler edge of the barbecue to rest for a couple of minutes.

Cut the salad onions in half lengthwise, keeping the stalks intact. Toss them with a little olive oil, season and place on the grill in the direct heat zone and cook for 3-4 minutes until charred and tender.

For the cruda, mix all the ingredients together, seasoning to taste and adding the lemon juice at the last minute.

Thickly slice the steaks and serve with the grilled onions and salsa cruda.

Best served with: grilled chicory and pomegranate.

Grill Smoke BBQ (Quadrille Publishing) by Mr Ben Tish is out now