Andrew Scourfield Summer 2020
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My wife Laura and I are both NHS doctors working in London. 2020 has been a very challenging year for everyone; many have lost friends, family members, jobs or businesses. By continuing to work through lockdown we realise how lucky we are compared to many. Laura specialises in HIV medicine. Much of her work during the COVID-19 pandemic has been ensuring patients are effectively receiving their treatment and safely managed. I work in acute medicine and have been caring for patients with COVID-19 who need to come into hospital for treatment and monitoring.
Unsurprisingly, we met at work when Laura was my boss and I like to point out she still is! We, like many, have always loved eating out. Laura’s first Christmas present from me was the San Pellegrino guide to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants with a plan to complete the list – this incidentally was alongside a plastic mannequin leg with a sign ‘not your main present, just a stocking filler’.
A year later and 10 establishments down, the new list came out with many different restaurants, so we realised it was sadly an unachievable goal. Until last year, our best meal had long been Noma, in Copenhagen. But for our 10th wedding anniversary we went to Ynyshir in Mid Wales, near the Snowdonia National Park. At Ynyshir, head chef and owner Gareth Ward serves up over 20 courses of locally sourced produce combined with Japanese flavours mostly cooked on the BBQ and we are planning a return trip soon.
We love entertaining friends and family, but it was only when we moved to Hitchin in Hertfordshire that we had a garden big enough to entertain outside and cooking outdoors became a natural progression.
Around the same time, on a visit to my hometown Cardiff, a friend took us to a pop up at a pub called The Canadian, hosted by Sam and Shauna who went on to found the legendary Hang Fire Southern Kitchen (see p4), and our BBQ addiction was affirmed.
I work shifts, including nights, and Laura works daytime hours, so our evenings together are often short. We usually plan our meals in advance and during the week will cook up something quick using our table-top Thuros T1 grill. Weekends off often involve lighting our Primo XL grill in the morning to make a lazy brunch such as baked eggs and then leave it running all day to slow cook something like beef ribs or pork belly. This allows us to go for a walk in the nearby countryside and take in a few of the local pubs, while the ceramic kamado holds a steady temperature and needs little attention.
I enjoy experimenting with new methods and the science of cooking whereas Laura is very much the artist, combining flavours and is known to throw tasty dishes together at the drop of a hat, as well as novel cocktails. The challenge arises when we try to remember the ingredients we’ve used!
Together we think we make the perfect team and our greatest compliment was when a friend said seeing us cook together is like watching two people dance. Laura likes buying vintage clothes and when we’re scouring charity and antique shops we are on a constant look out for items to use for cooking, whether that’s magazine racks to cook ribs, or a vintage clothes iron for searing steak.
For us, BBQ is just cooking outdoors. Anything that can be cooked indoors can be cooked outdoors and usually tastes better. Although sometimes it does take practice to get things right – for example, we eventually discovered for the perfect puffed pork crackling the Ooni pizza oven works best.
We are passionate about Welsh produce and get most of our meat, including the free range duck in our featured recipe, from Martin Player in Cardiff, although Laura likes to point out that shop local should be where you live, not where you were born!
COVID-19 has of course had a huge impact on how and what we eat. While eating out became a distant memory, as were large meals with family and friends, it has been fascinating and heartening to see the positives: restaurants adapting to collection and delivery, neighbours supporting one another, people learning how to bake bread and the wealth of recipes, lessons, shared experiences and tips online.
There are many people who’ve been affected in different ways and we are
proud supporters of the Food Chain www.foodchain.org.uk – a charity supporting the nutritional needs of people living with HIV in London.
One of the things we’ve missed most is not being able to cook for friends and family. However, we’re so appreciative of the support the NHS has received, with many restaurants and businesses generously donating food and other supplies at the COVID-19 peak. Laura would like to give a special shout out to Leon on London’s Tottenham Court Road that stayed open throughout, keeping many keyworkers fed.
We hope, when this is over, people will continue to appreciate what they have; continue to share, not squander, and that we all do our best to help local businesses recover as they reopen. Until then, here’s our salt-baked duck recipe to try at home.
Twitter and Instagram: @Flame_and_Dame
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