If You Go Down To The Woods Today……

If You Go Down To The Woods Today……

I am the daughter of a pyromaniac, have I ever told you this? It’s true. My late father liked nothing more than setting light to things whether it be a field (Okay, he was very young and didn’t know any better) a bonfire on a Sunday night which yielded 20 foot flames or our BBQ, particularly our BBQ. He was very proud of the fact that if he lit the BBQ the briquettes would be white in ten minutes and still hot 24 hours later.
How did he achieve this phenomenon? A bottle of BBQ lighter gel liberally doused over his briquettes. Oh it worked, the flames would regularly reach 10 ft. Next doors fence would be charred and sections of our grapevine would end up incinerated. It was a serious business BBQing and he had every conceivable tool, accessory, apron and even safety glasses !
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Why am I telling you all this? Well BBQ’s always evoke those very happy family memories, of cooking, drinking too much beer, eating together and now what was the IN thing in the 70’s 80’s even 90’s when this photo was taken is now so dated because BBQing or grilling has developed enormously and in the 17 years since my father has been gone the technology, types of grill, pit or BBQ have changed beyond recognition.
I have built up quite a collection over the past 5 years. 2 Webber BBQs , 1 Pro Q smoker, a Prakti grill and my latest acquisition the Traeger Timberline 1300. I love to cook outdoors in fact until our recent move to Devon everything in our restaurant was cooked outside albeit on camping stoves.
Recently I’ve been fascinated by what can be achieved on a grill and when I was introduced to the legendary Marcus Bawdon at the launch party for our restaurant La Petite Bouchée earlier this year I became even more fascinated. I subscribed to the Country Wood Smoke blog, You Tube Channel and watched in awe at the stunning food being made from simply grilling or smoking simple ingredients.
Like me, Marcus doesn’t really follow recipes, if it tastes good then it’s the right combination of ingredients and it works. Again, similarly he’s not afraid to push those flavour boundaries.
We are two very busy people in our working lives especially and I had been struggling to find a date where I could attend one of his BBQ courses, until he generously offered to run a course on a Sunday. I jumped at the opportunity, signed on the dotted line, paid and started crossing off the days.
Yesterday the day had arrived and I headed off to Country Wood Smoke HQ. A mutual friend who had been eating at La Petite Bouchée on Friday night described this magical place and told me I would simply love it. She wasn’t wrong. I stepped through a perfectly manicured hole in the shrubbery and followed a very pretty woodland path to an amazing wooden structure housing the most stunning collection of grills, BBQ’s, smokers and more. There I met Marcus and my fellow course mates and our magical journey around BBQing techniques began.
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There was a great mixture of people on the course including 2 vegetarians and three women !
Marcus had adapted the course to include delicious recipes and techniques to cater for them both. Did we carnivores salivate at the smokey dirty aubergine or swoon at the smoked halloumi and roasted fennel ‘burgers’ ? Of course we did …
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Without giving too many of Marcus! secrets away, this course is an absolute must for anyone who wants to learn how to BBQ and smoke properly. It takes us away from those infamous BBQ’s where everything is blackened on the outside and undercooked on the inside.
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It takes us on a journey of controlling temperatures, introducing flavours at the right time and experimenting, something that seriously appeals to me. We learned lighting techniques (yes, the looftlighter has been ordered) the right sort of fuel to use for different types of cooking and of course the right cuts of meat for different cooking techniques.
In those 3 hours we were basically treated to the incredible knowledge of one man who had turned his hobby into a thriving business. It was just wonderful to have access to Marcus to ask questions and above all to learn, something I never tire of.
The evening ended with Marcus and my fellow delegates eating our way through a sumptuous feast of BBQ’d delights and talking about our own experiences. What a magical way to spend a balmy summers evening..
I’m getting up early tomorrow to cook some dirty aubergines for Baba Ganoush and smoke some chicken for tomorrow’s painting party. Thanks Marcus the course exceeded all my expectations and I can wait to go on the intermediate level.
You can find Marcus Facebook group HERE, follow him on Twitter HERE and sign up to UKBBQ Magazine HERE 


  1. I absolutley LOVE the way you write! Re-living Sunday evening all over again and thoroughly enjoyed it- thanks Anita, it was a pleasure meeting you on Sunday. I hope that our paths may cross again. In the mean time, happy grilling 😉

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