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The art of barbecue: firing up the grill and your imagination

IF you can't stand the summer heat, get out of the kitchen, fire up your grill and try some fresh barbecue recipes from Park Hyatt chef Gerhard Passrugger. Sam Riley picks up the tongs. Shanghai's sultry summer gives cooks the perfect opportunity to escape the heat of the kitchen and dust of their barbecues.

Despite humans charring meat over hot coals for thousands of years, the art of barbecuing is still a hotly debated topic, with as many different theories as there are backyard barbecuing experts.

On Saturdays at the Park Hyatt hotel, you can see how the pros elevate a humble barbecue from a standard steak and sausages affair to a gourmet treat.

Park Hyatt chef and keen balcony barbecuer Austrian Gerhard Passrugger will share his secrets on Saturdays through August.

He will demonstrate some easy barbecue recipes and provide tips on what locally available and affordable produce works best.

While acknowledging his Austrian countrymen were not less than masters of the barbecue, Passrugger will use the knowledge he has gained from his culinary experiences working and traveling through Australia and Southeast Asia.

A keen home entertainer, despite running the various Park Hyatt's hotel dining outlets, Passrugger says there are simple steps to make a barbecue a stand-out meal.

"You can make very impressive marinades using simple, easily available ingredients that are not expensive," he says.

"When marinating keep it simple with powerful flavors," he advises.

"There are usually two types of barbecuers," he observes. "The ones who just add salt and pepper, which is a bit boring and plain, and those who make barbecuing a science and are way too complicated."

Passrugger advises home barbcuers to look past the high-priced beef and bland sausages and to go to their local seafood markets to seek out the freshest catch.

At his last dinner party, Passrugger pre-prepared scallops and marinated baby squid, which he cooked quickly at the beginning when the coals were very hot.

He then slowly cooked a 2.2-kilogram red snapper, all bought from his local seafood market.

"People rarely put a whole fish on the barbecue but they are so easy and produce stunning results," he says.

He marinated the snapper in a lime and tom yum paste and then stuffed it with lime leaves, ginger, garlic and slices of lime.

Passrugger says local supermarkets offer a range of Southeast Asian spice pastes that provide a simple and easy marinade when rubbed into meat or seafood.

He also advises people to look for chicken and pork, which are usually of a higher quality and cheaper than beef.

"Most people just put ribs, sausages and steaks on their barbecue or small fish fillets that fall apart but a whole fish like I served can go a long way to feeding 10 people," he says.

By preparing salads, marinating meats and planning the correct cooking order - fast-cooking items cooked first while the coals are hottest - barbecuers spend less time sweating over the barbecue and more time talking with their friends, Passrugger says.

"It is all about the right marinade for the right product and the preparation before," he says.

"When I do a barbecue I marinade and prep everything in the afternoon and then all I need to do is put things on the grill."

He will teach his class, among other things, how to prepare and cook a whole fish and how a variety of easy-to-find ingredients can be combined to provide an almost endless array of marinades.

The class will take place at the Chef's Table on 87th floor of the Park Hyatt. The setting is casual, students sitting on bar stools and watching Passrugger work his magic.

The class gets to eat everything on the grill.

Passrugger will also show how to make a simple and refreshing mint and fresh lemon lemonade, which can be kicked up with a liberal dash of vodka.

Those who want no-sweat barbecue can sample Passrugger's recipes at The Pantry's supper buffet, a small boutique buffet for a maximum of 60 people.

The class costs 480 yuan (US$70), plus 15 percent surcharge, and includes lunch, coffee or tea.

The class starts at 10:30am on Saturdays. For reservations, call 6888-1234, ext 4335.


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