Last Saturday I’m pretty sure the summer switch got turned on. I woke up and much like Scrooge on Christmas morning, I rushed to the window, swung it open and
yelled at a boy to go buy me a turkey realised that it was in fact, bright, brilliant and sunny – not a cloud in the sky. In haste, I dusted off my flipity flops and reached to the back of the shelf to find my shorts. Pale legged and excited, we decided to go for our first kayak trip of the year. We dug the Fatyaks out of storage and gathered all the gear. With the van fully laden, we headed to Maenporth as it’s one of the easiest beaches to launch from on the South Coast and I know all the best fishing marks around there.
We had packed our picnic lunch away in the Kaafu’s Kaddy Storage Pod then paddled off to find a beautiful, inaccessible beach who’s sands were smooth and hadn’t been spoilt by human feet yet. This is one of my favourite things about kayaking, you can literally go and claim your very own private beach for the day! After a lovely, peaceful lunch, we paddled back out to now concentrate on our next meal – dinner. We needed to catch it!
We took turns, one of us with a 6 foot spinning rod and dexter wedge lure and the other with a hand-line and Hokkai Shrimp style feathers (my personal favourite and choice of feathers). With sun beating down over head and a gentle swell rocking the kayak, it was exactly what I’d been dreaming of all winter. Sadly, my wetsuit was even more beaten up than I remembered and definitely needs replacing ASAP. After drifting a short while down the coast, I eventually got my first bite, quite close into the shore and pretty high in the water…
It was a beautiful, big mackerel. It was the sort of size that should take some beating over the entire summer. I didn’t measure it but when, upon returning to the van, I popped it into my coolbox, both the head and the tail of the fish had to bend to get in there! I was chuffed to have gotten a bite. I had heard the mackerel had come in, but also that they had then been missing for the last week or so. I didn’t manage to locate many of them but I had found one good sized one and that was good enough for me. This first catch of the season felt amazing. Especially knowing what we had planned for this gorgeous little striped beauty.
This regal first mackerel of the year deserved a proper send off and what better way to cook the symbolic, opening shot of the summer than in front of the setting sun. Luckily, we had just got a new BBQ and had a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel. We went home, put the kayak away, packed some beer and snacks, then did a bit of prep on the fish and chopped up some veg (just to make life a little easier). After this, we gathered further numbers and headed to Chapel Porth. Seeking out the spot that would catch the sun, we walked up east along the coastal path until we had a spectacular vantage over the beach and ocean.
Fortunately, the new BBQ comes with a carry bag which, along with its small size and light weight, make it a dream to carry and take to more interesting locations than your back garden. It’s an ideal, portable adventure meal maker! When I said BBQ I really did it a disservice because it is a lot more than this. The Campingaz Party Grill 400 is far, far more than this. It’s an uber versatile outdoor cooking stove that can make your alfresco cooking even more diverse. With a powerful 2000W burner and easy piezo ignition, it’s really simple to get going, can cook quickly and is super convenient. This is great if you’re like I often am and are super hungry and can’t wait to get stuck into your grub (this is when I feel that charcoal BBQs seem to take forever).
We started off testing out the most conventional aspect of the Party Grill – the grid. We popped some burgers on and left it to go. I found that because the stove has a burner shield which distributes the heat, the burgers were very evenly cooked. It also has a lid which is essential for getting really nicely barbecued food. This is the part that will ensure the food is cooked all the way through and not just burnt, making it much easier to avoid dodgy bellies!
It runs on a R904 or R907 cylinder. I found these to be pretty pricey at first as you need to put cash down for the cylinder and then buy the gas. However, with a run time of almost 20 hours on a R907, they’re actually good value when you work it out and much better value than disposables (plus throw-aways are a nightmare to cook on). I’d definitely recommend getting the slightly larger R907 as they are only a little bigger and a couple of quid more but hold a lot more gas.
It cooked the burgers (and a sausage) perfectly and as well as any portable charcoal barbecue I’ve ever used. In the bottom of the stove is a water compartment which cleverly collects the fat and grease as you cook. I didn’t really get the point of this at first but at the end of the evening when I had to pack it away, I realised how smart an idea it was. All you do is tip out the greasy water and wipe around with a paper towel for a ridiculously easy clean. Oh, and the legs also unscrew and can be stored in the main body – a great design!
As the Party Grill has multiple cooking surfaces we had decided to have a go at a mackerel recipe that would take advantage of a couple of these different options. Firstly, we removed the grid and heat distributor to reveal the pan support. Now this will work with any pan so you use your favourite kettle, pot or frying pan if you wish. However, being the swiss army knife of cookers, you can also just remove the lid, flip it over and use it and its non-stick surface as a wok. Genius! We did this, threw in our pre-prepped veg and stir fried up a little masterpiece.
The star of our meal was still behind the curtains and had to make their grand entrance… We popped the wok off then put the heat distributor and reversible grill/griddle on. This non-stick beaut has a smooth sided griddle and a ridged grill side. I’d use the grill for things like steak or chicken but for a light delicate fish like mackerel I used the smooth grill. The smooth side would also be great for eggs and bacon (ideal for awesome camp breakfasts)!
It heated up really quickly and I popped on the mackerel, which I had sprinkled with salt, pepper and lemon juice, onto the grill. Within a couple of minutes it was done on that side so I gave it a quick flip before a final minute on the other side. I really loved how the Party Grill has a fully adjustable control so for light cooking, such as fish, you can get it just right. This is definitely another big advantage over a charcoal barbecue.
With the chilled evening air, cooling down our stir fried vegetables, I placed the mackerel into the wok with the rest and gave it a final heat through to ensure it was all piping hot before serving. This is when turning the stove up to eleven and giving it the full 2000w really works! A quick zap through and it was good to go.
Now I can’t tell if It was a particularly good recipe, if the flavours complimented each other or even if the veg was particularly in season, but the meal tasted delicious. This may be down to the awesome Party Grill, or the feeling of cooking outdoors on a cliff with an amazing backdrop of miles of naked ocean, or it may have been spending the evening with my friends, or the fact that I had plucked the main course out of the sea with my bare hands that very morning. Whatever it was – it made that meal taste the best.
There is something innately satisfying about fishing and catching your own food and there is something that is primeval in the way cooking and eating outdoors feels natural and great. My new stove didn’t make me go outside and choose to live my evening in this particular way, although it did make it easier, quicker and way more convenient to cook an awesome and varied meal outside with my friends – that’s got to be well worth it in my book!