I learnt how to create a barbecue feast for 8-10 guests from Alex Maka, who can be found behind the butcher’s counter in Ponsonby's Nosh and knows how to feed a crowd,. He is half Tongan and his wife is Italian, two cultures known for their hospitality and generosity when it comes to food. It's very useful to have a helpful butcher to turn to for advice on how best to cook meat.
Alex suggests the host “choose 3 different kinds of meat to please everyone”.
“You want to be able to serve up all the food at once. Timing is everything.” His secret is partially cooking some of the meat beforehand, making it easy to put it all together.
Alex would serve three meats:
Steak – Scotch Fillet
This is marbled with fat which keeps it moist and tender as it is cooked. For some extra flavour you can apply a rub to this a few hours before firing up the barbecue, which allows the rub to become moist. Any liquid which forms can be used as a baste when the steak is barbecuing. One of Alex’s favourites is from a tin of Raptor Cowboy Steak rub.
Use boneless chicken breasts. Cut a pocket into each chicken breast and insert some stuffing – a mixture of cranberries, walnuts and camembert tastes good. Alex also likes to sprinkle some crushed pistachios over the top to form a crust.
Make a small boat shape out of tinfoil for each chicken piece. Arrange them in a flat baking dish, then partially cook in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180C. Finish them on the barbecue, barbecuing only the bottom as you already have a crust. This should only take about five minutes.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Once boiled take it off the heat and place the sausages in the water, leaving them to sit for 10 minutes. The sausages can then be put alongside the steak for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
When you have fired up the barbecue the steak will take about 10 minutes, depending on whether your guests prefer rare, medium or well done. The chicken and sausages take around five minutes, so all can be ready and served together in a very short time.
I like to try out a recipe before I pass it on, so I duly prepared the stuffed chicken pieces - but when the time came to bake them the weather had turned and it was raining outside. I left them cooking in the oven until they were done and served them up in their tinfoil boats. The cheese had melted around the crunchy walnuts and sweet cranberries and amalgamated with the meat juices into a rich gravy. Not quite as delicious as if the bottoms had been charred on the barbecue, but still really tasty. Good to discover that this can be a flexible all-weather dish.
To go alongside I would serve hot bread rolls or the perennial favourite, garlic bread; a green salad made with mesclun, cucumber and avocado; and a platter of new season asparagus dribbled with a squeeze of lemon juice, some good olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.To follow, the perfect choice would be some new season's strawberries and ice-cream.