I thought we could use a lighter-hearted topic that may also allow us all to learn something from each other.
I was never too much into the barbie. In the UK they typically consist of a drunk bloke giving his guests food poisoning with a few nasty burgers and sausages [made from mechanically recovered meat] that are burnt on the outside and raw on the inside.
When I was first invited to the dacha in Russia, there was a big pan full of pieces of pork that were sat in water with chopped onions and a heavy weight on top all day. In the evening they were skewered up and cooked over a barbie of the type I had not seen before. It was a small steel box with holes, fuelled with wood from the garden. FIL cooked over the embers with a water bottle handy to quell the flames caused by the pork fat. It sounds a bit dodgy, but the food was perfect. Made even better as the accompanying salad was collected fresh from the garden by the ladies.
When the in laws visited the UK, they were surprised to see we had no barbie of any kind. However, FIL soon fashioned something with a grille from the oven and a pile of bricks I had nearby and some carefully-chosen wood from the forest next door. Again, the result was superb!
This fuelled my interest in the barbie. I consulted my pal who lived a few years in Florida, he pointed me to a “beginners” barbie that was an American Weber; I bought two, one for England and one for Estonia and set about teaching myself some stuff. Here is my one in Estonia in full flow.
As anyone who has spent much time in the FSU will know, grilling meat is a big deal. Everyone does it, but it seems to differ from place to place. In the FSU, the box type units seem popular. We were recently invited to a pals house in Estonia so he could show off the one he had just had made. He claimed he couldn’t buy a “proper Russian one” there, so he had a local fabricator make him one. He paid 200 Euros for a local guy to make him this one, complete with very heavy duty meat skewers.
(That’s a meat smoker in the background BTW). After playing around with this one above, I decided I wanted one. The 200 Euros is OK for a bespoke item, but the weight and size makes it prohibitive to ship to the UK by courier. And they dont sell heavy duty ones like that in the UK that I found. All we can buy here is mild steel Chinese ones and occasionally American Webers if you pay enough.
I am quite enthusiastic about the barbie now; so much so, I imported all my skewers, special fish grilles, tons of marinades, oil brushes and all kinds of stuff from Russia as the stuff in the UK is just total crap and very over-priced compared to what is available out there.
Now, as to why I think this will be a good topic: From the time I have spent in the US, I know we Brits have not the slightest clue about the barbie compared to our pals over the pond. We [as a nation; not me personally] cook cheap sausages in the drizzle; the Yanks are cooking fillet steaks and all kinds of other yummy stuff. The Aussies appear to have written the book on the barbie as they have the climate to do it almost daily – a lot of fish seems to be on the menu there. The Russians seem to have their own way, and seem to stick to variants of this rectangular steel box design, and appear to favour pork.
So what is your experience of the barbie in the FSU?
What do you cook at home?
What do you cook over?
What style of grill do you prefer?
Nice topic. I love grilled meats. Great pictures of shashlik.
Weber makes good-quality grills. But there is something I really like about seeing those cruder steel box FSU grills. The skewers pictured are great because their flat, swordlike shape keep the meat from rotating as often happens with the cheap, thin skewers. Plus, they have handles that are large enough to grab hold of.
There are currently some proper barbecue skewers on eBay that are imported from Russia. They can be found here: Genuine Baltic/Scandinavian stainless steel barbecue shashlik/kebab skewers – pack of four.