The Big Green Egg is based on the Japanese 'kamado' ceramic grill design with a vent below. As a result the BGE has incredible heat-retaining properties; a small amount of charcoal will keep it warm for hours and the vent below gives great control over the heat. The Big Green Egg feels to me rather like a BBQ equivalent of my Aga oven, which also produces moist, beautifully cooked food.
The thing itself looks like a dragon's egg; when I'm cooking on it I feel like the khaleesi of the fire tongs! This heavy-weight bit of kit is hugely popular with restaurants, it works as both a smoker and a BBQ.
Last week I smoked a side of salmon after curing it (recipe in my book Supper Club: recipes and notes from the underground restaurant). I also smoked some mozzarella. Now, I'm not really a huge fan of smoked cheese, I find it too strong, often overpowering, but smoking milder cheeses such as mozzarella works very well.
I paired it with lovage, which grows in my garden. In Sweden you can buy lovage and many unusual herbs in supermarkets, whereas our UK supermarkets stock a very limited range of herbs. Lovage has a slight celery flavour and a pleasing bitterness that matches well with mozzarella. I then added double-podded tender grass green broad beans and finished with lemon juice and hay smoked rapeseed oil. This recipe is gorgeous.
How to smoke in a Big Green Egg
There are three types of smoking: hot smoking, tea smoking and cold smoking. To make smoked salmon for instance, you need cold smoking. This is lighting a very small fire, which doesn't heat up the food but produces enough heat to ignite wood chips and these create the smoke. One can use different kinds of wood to give different flavours of 'smoke': apple, cedar, oak, hickory, olive, to mention a few.
In order to cold smoke, in conjunction with the Big Green Egg, I used a ProQ smoker,(around £35). It is a small square wire 'maze' that you first fill with fine wood chips, then light a candle underneath to ignite the sawdust, finally extinguishing it. I've had a few problems with the ProQ, mainly that it is difficult to get it to stay alight, but I've finally worked out a few techniques. It's essential to use very, very dry, fine wood chips. Sometimes I dry out the sawdust in my Aga oven prior to using the smoker. The ProQ smoker has a tealight candle in one corner to get the sawdust smoking, though I found it necessary to light the centre of the wire 'maze' as well.
I put this on the bottom grill in the BGE and overlaid it with herbs to add even more flavour. The mozzarella took only half an hour to be smoked but a side of salmon would take at least six hours. If smoking fish when the weather is very warm or there is too much heat, you can lay the salmon on tin foil and surround it with ice cubes to bring the temperature down. (There is a temperature gauge in the BGE.)
A second technique is to light 3 or 4 BGE charcoals (you get a bag with it) and overlay the charcoals with wood chips. Make sure that the temperature doesn't rise when cold smoking. If the BGE gets too hot, you are hot smoking rather than cold smoking!
Smoked mozzarella, lovage and broad bean salad recipe
375g or 3 balls of mozzarella, lightly smoked in the Big Green Egg, sliced thickly
3 tbsps of olive oil, or smoked oil
1 kilo of broad beans, podded
2 handfuls of lovage, leaves picked.
Juice of half a lemon
A sprinkling of good sea salt
First, prepare your Big Green Egg and smoke the mozzarella balls by placing them on tin foil and lighting the ProQ filled with sawdust. It should only take half an hour or so. You could also smoke your chosen oil by placing a bowl of it in the BGE.
Put the broad beans into a big pan of salted boiling water. After 2 minutes, strain the broad beans and plunge into cold water.
Then carefully slip off the broad bean skins.
On a large plate, place the slices of mozzarella, the lovage leaves and the broad beans, then dress with the oil and lemon. Finally, sprinkle the sea salt.
I'm going to be posting vegetarian and other BBQ recipes throughout the summer on my Big Green Egg. I'm in love with it! It's my new baby, albeit green and knobbly. Last week I did some corn on the cobs on the grill and they were so moist yet flavoursome. Check out more vegetarian BBQ recipes here and veggie BBQ dos and don'ts here.