Tony Tobin gets out his barbecue

PUBLISHED: 11:11 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:12 20 February 2013

Surrey Life's celebrity chef Tony Tobin cooks up some barbecuing fun

Surrey Life's celebrity chef Tony Tobin cooks up some barbecuing fun

Kitchen diaries: Our celeb chef Tony Tobin warms up for some barbecue fun

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2009

Kitchen diaries: Our celeb chef Tony Tobin warms up for some barbecue fun

Recently, while channel flicking, I stumbled upon an extreme sports channel from America. I hovered for a second, suddenly thinking that I had somehow clicked on a food channel. People were eating. On a sports channel.

I suspect, like me, this might make you feel rather uneasy in the stomach department. Competitive eating? What has the world come to?!

Apparently, in America, it has come to competitive eating of the 'How many hot dogs can you eat in five minutes?' variety. This is wrong for just about every reason in the book. To reduce food to the status of competition and to stage televised events that show so little respect in the light of the world's nutritional problems - at both ends of the scale - is truly obscene.

Completely crackers

The nearest I've ever come to any sort of forced eating is a Jacob's Cream Cracker challenge. Yes, it's still forced eating of a kind, but the most that people can normally manage in consenting adult company is three or four so it doesn't really count.

The reason for this far-too-low sounding number - which will bring me on to the main topic for this month eventually, I promise! - relates to the simple dryness of a cracker. When we eat, the oral gymnastics that go on inside the mouth are nothing short of remarkable. The two leading gymnasts - the saliva glands and the tongue - work together to take your munchings and fashion them into a shape that is suitable for swallowing. For anyone interested (and I worry that I may have lost you all already), this little shape is called a 'bolus'.

Now, cream crackers are a particular challenge because they are quite sharp. They need considerable watering down and softening before an acceptable bolus is achieved. Swallow too early and it will be like eating a small pin cushion. You just have to wait - and chomp - and salivate - and chomp - and eventually swallow.

So, before I get on to this month's recipe, I'm going to teach you how to win a cream cracker eating contest hands down. First, place a bet with the person at your party who looks most like a certain winner. The chap who always goes back for thirds! Next, place the bet and give him a plate of plain cream crackers. Finally, serve yourself a plate of crackers with the underside of each cracker well-coated in margarine.

When the minute begins, you will find that you're easily able to eat three crackers for every two that your opponent manages to painfully digest. A cute party trick, but why does it work so well?

In short, it's all down to the sauce! Sauce is simply a tasty form of food lubrication and it's the foundation of digestible dishes whether you're talking about competitive cream crackers or the heady heights of French haute cuisine. Dry food thrills no one and places unnecessary strains on our mouth and the resulting process of digestion.

Go with the flow

So (call to action at last), as August hots up, remember to keep the sauce flowing. One of your primary jobs as chef, entertainer and barbecue wizard is to keep the food you serve digestible by keeping meats and mains (barbecued or otherwise) well-sauced or marinaded.

Personally, my absolute favourite part of every summer barbecue is the artistic challenge of making original sauces and marinades. Let's face it, a steak is a steak and a chicken breast is a chicken breast. You can have a bit of fun with venison and shallot sausages or exotic burgers but, ultimately, every meat will be much harder for guests to palate without the extra lubrication that a good sauce brings.

Opposite, I have served up one of my favourite barbecue sauce recipes. It is a winner. Never fails. It works on just about every level with every kind of meat and even with vegetarian barbecue elements such as nut cutlets and veggie koftas.

So, as you're heating the charcoal and pouring the drinks spare a thought for the indigestible bolus and thrill your guests with summer sauce extraordinaire. Ironically, I can sense your mouths watering as you start to think about it!

Tony Tobin's favourite marinade


  • 3 tbsp apricot jam or lime marmalade

  • 1 tsp turmeric (ground)

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp coriander

  • 1 clove garlic

  • Zest from 1 lemon

  • Juice from 2 lemons

  • 2 tsp olive oil

  • Salt & pepper

I use this to marinate everything from chicken and lamb to fish, and it works well with veggie options, too.

  • Whisk together all the other ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

  • Marinate the meat, fish or nut cutlets for at least one hour - or preferably overnight if you are organised!

Tony Tobin has been a regular on the BBC's Ready Steady Cook for over a decade and runs two acclaimed restaurants in Surrey: The Dining Room in Reigate and POST in Banstead.

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