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Meat and Greet

Matt Tebbutt, chef and presenter of Saturday Kitchen, steps outside the television studio to talk live-fire cooking with ANDY CLARKE

 Andy Clarke   Summer 2022

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Matt Tebbutt is the man we all need in our lives to teach us new tricks in the kitchen every Saturday morning, but even though he spends a lot of time behind the hobs in the studio these days, his heart is in outdoor cooking.

Since he first started presenting Market Kitchen in 2007, Matt has written three solo cookbooks and has always had a fondness for cooking over flames. At home, Matt loves to use his Sub-Zero & Wolf outdoor gas grill. He also mixes it up a bit with his Argentine-style Ox, which has a wheel and handle mechanism for adjusting the height of the grill bed. 

“When you cook with fire, it’s a totally different skill and mindset to indoor cooking. It’s one that needs a lot of love, so you need to learn quickly,” says Matt. 

But outdoor cooking isn’t always plain sailing, even for professionals like him. “The first time I used my Ox Grill, it was a family occasion after lockdown. I thought it would be a great idea to cook ducks on the spit. It turns out that ducks are one of the worst things to cook on it! The flames nearly caught the roof of the outhouse. But I love it I when outdoor cooking goes well.”

So, what does Matt like to cook outside when it all goes well? “I love big pieces of meat. When I was in South Africa, I learnt there it’s all about big hunks of meat. They’re much more manageable than piddly sausages and small fatty things that will set fire.” 

But it wasn’t just meat that Matt learned about during his Braai-filled time in South Africa. “They have these things called Braaibroodjies. They are essentially toasted cheese sandwiches cooked over coals, which are served while people are waiting for the main event. They’re a great idea.” 

Matt’s travels to Argentina also opened his eyes to barbecued food. “What got me was that every single place, from roadside cafés to glitzy restaurants, had excellent meat – homemade sausages, offal and charred meat served with toast. Meat was everywhere and held in high esteem.”

Meat aside, Matt also loves seafood on the barbecue. “I love cooking fish outside; It’s the charred crispy skin. Big red snappers are great for this. Lobsters are also excellent on grills and langoustines too.” 

But what about vegetables? 

“I have a piece of kit which basically looks like a frying pan with holes in. It’s great for veg and for mussels too. You use it like a frying pan and it allows the contents to be cooked by the flames.”

Matt cites family holidays in northern France as the starting point of his alfresco cooking journey. “We used to go caravanning to Brittany and we’d barbecue. In the early 80s the barbecues we used were very small and we cooked sausages and burgers and mum made a salad or two. It was simple cooking, but it was fun.” 

 

 

It was on these family holidays that Matt first got excited about food. “We’d go to all these great delis and we’d find things like pickled mushrooms, amazing fish, delicious vegetables and all these interesting accompaniments. It was great because you couldn’t get these things in the UK at the time.”

Speaking of accompaniments, what keeps things interesting when it comes to outdoor cooking? “I like to make my own barbecue rub. I use around 20 ingredients. I make a massive pot of it and then I can chuck it on everything. A homemade rub is a great way to make meat, fish and veg more interesting.” 

And Matt is not afraid to cheat too. “I’m all for the posh supermarket aisle with all the ready-made rubs. They can be a brilliant helping hand. Asian stores are also a great place to look for ready-made inspiration too. I’m also really into a Francis Mallmann cookbook I have. It’s all about relishes, dressings and marinades.” 

According to Matt all you need to do is open Argentinian open-fire cooking guru Mallmann’s books and your eyes will be opened to a whole world of inspiration. 

“If you don’t like veg, see what he does with whole potatoes and cabbages. Vegetables comes alive when blistered and charred. It’s really exciting.” 

Which brings my curiosity on to dessert because, in my experience, people don’t always think about barbecues in relation to sweet offerings. “I love fruit; hanging bananas over the coals so that they are blistering. I love putting pineapples directly on the grill. I also cook apples on the barbecue. I turn them into a puree by steaming them, then smashing them through a colander,” says Matt.

A popular outdoor cook in the Tebbutt household is a butterflied leg of lamb. “Ideally you want the meat to be one inch thick. I slash the meat to open up the flesh and I make a marinade with garlic, fennel, fennel seeds and chilli. I mix these with olive oil and red wine or sherry vinegar, pour the marinade over the lamb and rub it into the flesh. I then cook it for 10 minutes on each side, let the meat rest and save the juices to serve over the lamb. I also love to save the fennel fronds and scatter them over the lamb just before I serve.”

It’s not just at home where Matt likes to cook outdoors; he loves to let the flames 

lick the food at festivals during the summer too. This year Matt is cooking at Pub in the Park events in Wimbledon, Dulwich and Chiswick. Over 130,000 people ate, drank and danced their way through Pub in the Park events in 2021 and this year there are nine events happening throughout the summer and autumn, with a big focus on outdoor cooking with The Firepit, where BBQ magazine is media partner.

As well as cooking outdoors at festivals in front of actual people and going live to the nation behind the hobs every weekend on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped will be back later in the year. 

Matt hosts the show with Kate Quilton and Jimmy Doherty as they uncover myths and secrets about food and Matt can’t wait to get back out on the road. “Now that the world is opening up a bit more, we’ll be going away to some great locations.” 

But what about the future of food? “The nicest thing to happen to food lately is how it’s now not so elitist. You can go to great restaurants that don’t necessarily have Michelin Stars and not just one genre.” 

The future of food is bright and outdoor cooking will clearly play a huge part.

Weekend by Matt Tebbutt – Eating at Home: From Long Lazy Lunches to Fast Family Fixes is out now (published by Quadrille).


 


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