Simon Rimmer is preparing to swap the Sunday Brunch kitchen for the Strictly dancefloor after being announced as one of the celebrity competitors for 2017. We caught up with the chef ahead of the new series to find out how he is preparing for the show, as well as getting some much-needed barbecue tips to take advantage of the last of the summer sunshine…
You'll be swapping Sunday Brunch for Strictly soon, did you have to think about it much before you agreed to it?
Not in the slightest, it's a great opportunity and everyone who's taken part in the previous series says it's the best thing they've been done so why wouldn't you want to do it.
Who would you love as a dance partner?
When you walk into the studio you're so in awe of all the professionals, all of them are so amazing and upbeat, they're always willing to give you little bits of advice too so whoever I get as my partner will be amazing.
What scares you the most?
Dancing! I can't dance and I don't know how to dance, but I've had the most amazing week so far. Learning something new is quite exciting. I'm throwing myself into it whole heartedly from the costumes to the spray tan; genuinely, the more the better.
Will you have to follow a strict diet whilst training? Any certain foods you are cutting out?
I'm already relatively fit and generally eat healthy as you would expect, but I'm trying to make sure that I'm eating really well and drinking lots of water rather than cutting out specific food groups. I always believe in good eating and lifestyle to prevent injury and ill-health rather than try and cure it. I feel a million dollars already just a week into it. I'm also heavily exercising everyday with all of the training.
Tells us a bit about your partnership with Weber?
As a professional chef, I use the best quality produce and ingredients to get the best results; Weber is exactly the same – they are the best barbecue in the market. The barbecues and accessories use fantastic technology and are top quality products, not something that you just throw away at the end of the year. Weber are built to be used all year round, year after year – they are the world leaders.
What are your top barbecue tips?
• Keep a lid on it – that’s the best way to barbecue, it keeps the heat in and the barbecue then acts as an oven. Doing it this way has lots of benefits, from infusing the food with a fantastic smokey barbecue flavour, and keeping the lid down also helps to control the temperature so the food cooks more evenly and quicker than the lid up. If you don't use the lid then too much oxygen will get to your fuel, creating flames (or flare-ups) that can burn your food.
• My kingdom for a thermometer – Often people are worried about undercooking meat on the barbecue and resort to precooking food in the oven, overcooking it so it's burnt to a crisp or cutting into it to check it's done. The best solution though is to use a thermometer and check the internal temperature of the meat – the new Weber iGrill is perfect and even has a Bluetooth connection to your Weber iGrill app on your phone so you don't even need to be at the barbecue to know when it's cooked to perfection.
• Know your way around your barbecue – Your barbecue has warm, hot and hotter areas meaning you can use it to cook in different ways, this is called direct and in-direct cooking. Direct cooking is where the heat source is directly under the food being cooked; perfect for foods that take less than 20 minutes – steaks, burgers, sausages. Indirect cooking is where the heat source is either side of the food, so your food cooks above without indirect heat; it's great for foods that take 20 minutes or more such as roast meats, fish, desserts.
• Produce perfection – The secret to great cooking is great produce – that's true whether you're in the kitchen or behind a barbecue. Don't be afraid to cook large pieces of meat and whole fish – low and slow is one of the best ways to use your barbecue. And think about ways to add flavour; marinades, smoking, charring – there are a wealth of opportunities with the flame and smoking to instil flavour through every layer and texture of the produce. The pairings of flavours can come alive when a barbecue is brought into the process.
• Think outside the box – there's more to barbequing than burgers and buns but even if sausages and burgers are your menu of choice we've become a nation of gourmet burgers so get creative and give your guests something to feed their Instagram account as well as their bellies.
What ingredients should never be missing from a great barbecue?
My three essentials for a great barbecue are chilli, good tasty grilled vegetables, fantastic accompaniments and great company.
Other than summer and barbecues what’s your favourite food season and why?
I love the change from autumn into winter when you start getting all of the lovely delicious brassicas - cabbages, sprouts and cauliflowers - that are really in full flower, they're fantastic at that time of year. A barbecue can be used as an oven allowing you to roast whole cuts of meat, during the winter cook low and slow lamb or pork and serve with seasonal vegetables - it's so much more exciting than cooking burgers and sausages. You can also make your own rubs by combining herbs such as rosemary and thymes as well as red wine and stock, it's fun to experiment with the ingredients in your kitchen.
Simon Rimmer has been working with Weber, the world’s leading name in barbecues. For more barbecue tips and hints please visit weber.com