Celebrity Chef Aldo Zilli shows us around his barbecue cabin, shares two of his favourite fish recipes and gives us a glimpse into the man behind the chef’s whites.
The cabin has rugs on the floor, cushions on the benches and an upcycled wooden barrel that Aldo uses as a preparation area. Today it is set out with fresh herbs, lemons and a buffet of spices and seasonings. It’s a lovely cosy setting; the fire is just starting to get going.
Aldo tells us that he first saw the cabins at the Grand Design Live Show at the NEC, Birmingham in 2014. He said, “I loved the look of the cabin and was very interested to see the cooking facilities inside. I was impressed with the quality of the barbecue and grill. But what really got me excited was that this was somewhere I could cook and create flavours and dishes that I couldn’t get from my kitchen or any restaurant. I knew I could create great dishes for family and friends all from this unique building. I was hooked!”
Aldo, dressed in jeans and t-shirt tells us he has some fresh sea bream and mackerel that he will be cooking today. He starts to make a paste for the sea bream using chilli oil, fresh thyme, lemon juice sea salt and garlic. He coats the fish in the paste, scores the skin and pushes some slithers of garlic into the fish. The mackerel he stuffs with butter, herbs, chilli and lemon which he then ties tightly with string so the fish doesn’t open up when cooking.
Aldo says, “I love fish, the flavours are fantastic, and it’s great for cooking on the barbecue. We’ve had some great parties in here and it’s super that I can cook and be part of the party without being stuck in the kitchen, it’s very sociable to cook in the cabin. It’s a multi-functional space, you can chat, cook, party, read a book, eat or just sit and be mesmerised by the flickering of the flames”.
Aldo places the fish on the grill and puts it over the now glowing coals in the barbecue. “Ten minutes on both sides and the fish will be delicious” he states. Ten minutes later he expertly flips the grill to cook the other side of the fish. There are no roaring flames, smoke or hint of burning, like you so often get from the traditional barbecues!
Aldo whips up a dressing of oil, chilli’s and fresh tomatoes that he pops in a pan to cook down on the small grill on the barbecue, he also warms fresh a loaf of ciabatta bread to serve with the fish. The smells and the atmosphere in the cabin is wonderful. We can see lunch taking shape, as we sip our drinks and chat away. Aldo says “the cabin is a great place to escape to, it’s quiet and peaceful, you feel like you could be anywhere, but you are only steps from home, it’s a real haven.”
Soon, we are tucking into a superb lunch; the fish is fresh, tasty and full of flavour, a real treat. Aldo says the cabin “is not just an extraordinary piece of kit for cooking, it is a place for parties, hanging out and relaxing, a place for the whole family”.