Finally we’re seeing some really beautiful summer weather, enough to make the Mediterranean a touch jealous. The only thing missing is the sea and well, a respectable 2 hour car journey should remedy that craving. There are plenty of great seaside towns to visit but I’m saving that for another article. This week sees my annual barbecue review, so get your apron, tongs and coal and prepare yourself for a summer of serious alfresco living.
Tips for a good barbie!
- First of all, we need a good barbecue. If you’ve left yours outside all winter, the chances are it’s looking a tad tired and probably a bit rusty. This is a great excuse to get yourself a new one and there are plenty to choose from. If like me, you like a traditional coal or wood burning barbie then most good DIY and home stores will sell them. I love the Weber Kettle Barbecue which is round, of a really good height and has a lid to protect the inside so you don’t have to store it in a shed. Even better, it has wheels so you can move it around the garden as you wish. Costs vary but expect to pay up to £100. Alternatively, you might want to try the more upmarket Gas barbecues. There are some great models out there but don’t forget you will need a gas canister such as Calor Gas, in order to use it. The advantage with those is that they crank up a lot faster and last a bit longer when cooking loads of meat. Expect to pay anything from £100 upwards for a standard model.
- Make sure you’ve got all the right equipment, including tongs, spatulas, coal/wood, gas canister etc. to get started with. Especially if you’re planning loads of guests over. There’s nothing worse than running out of coal or food for that matter!
- And speaking of food! Plan what you’re cooking, get it all prepared, marinate meat the night before, prepare rice and salads in the morning. Organise yourself with ice/drinks and any other dips and nibbly bits so you’re not rushing about like a loony while guests are all arriving. Think about the time they’re coming so you get the barbecue going before arrival time and then you can cook the meat so it all gets served hot. Remember, a good coal burning barbecue can take between 30 minutes to an hour to really burn, turn to that lovey ashen grey and be ready for any meat to be cooked.
- Talking of cooking, don’t slap loads of meat on the barbie unless the coals have burnt down and look grey with a reddish ember otherwise the meat will cook too quickly on the outside, burn and stay raw in the middle. Barbecues are a food poisoning hazard waiting to happen. Make sure in particular that pork and chicken are completely cooked through with no pink bits otherwise your guests may never speak to you again.
- Finally, enjoy the day but don’t get so drunk that you become a barbecue demon. They are hot and dangerous, so keep kids at a suitable distance and make sure you know exactly what you’re doing!
There’s nothing worse than dried bits of bland meat served up on paper plates to really put you off your barbie party. Here are some of my favourite marinades to give your meat and fish that va va voom and wow your party guests and family.
Marinade for Lamb – this is a great marinade whether you’re doing shish kebab or lamb chops. You will need: a little olive oil, some red chilli finely chopped, fresh herbs of your choice such as thyme, rosemary, mint or oregano, salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of all spice, a tbsp of natural yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Rub it well into the meat and use more depending on the quantity of meat you have. Leave to marinade overnight before cooking and make sure not to overcook lamb as it can get dry otherwise.
Marinade for chicken - this marinade works for both chicken legs, thighs and breast meat but make sure to leave the skin on. You will need: a little olive oil, fresh parsley and sage, some lemon juice and the grated zest, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Rub well into the meat and use more or less as needed. Leave to marinade overnight before cooking and make sure the chicken is slow cooked and white right through.
Marinade for white fish – it can always be hard cooking fish on the barbie and my advice would be to either wrap it in baking paper and foil and cook directly on the coals or carefully grill on the metal griddle/rack using lots of olive oil. Fish works well with most herbs but I particularly like it with lemon thyme, dill, oregano and even coriander. Score the fish three lines on either side and rub in a mixture of olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper and a little lemon juice. Place in a metal grill holder for barbecues so you can cook it easily, turning over frequently. Otherwise, wrap in baking paper with sliced onions and peppers then foil and place on the hot coals for about 30 minutes or so until cooked. Sea Bream, Grey Mullet and Sea Bass all work very well on the barbecue.
OK, so we’ve got the barbecue, we’ve mastered the technique to using it, marinated our meat and so we need some accompaniments. Now it’s summer we all want to eat lighter and there are some wonderful salads to eat. Here are a couple of my favourite salads that are simple to prepare and taste great.
A fantastic, very low cost salad that can be eaten anytime and works great with red meat.
You will need:
Either a bunch of spring onions or 1 large white onion
2 large vine ripe tomatoes
1 bunch of parsley
Finely dice the tomatoes and cucumber. Finely chop the parsley and finely slice the spring onions or dice the white onion. Place everything in a salad bowl. Mix with salt and pepper, a few tablespoons of olive oil and either some red or white wine vinegar or some lemon juice. Refrigerate until needed.
This a great way of making watermelon into a good savoury accompaniment.
You will need:
1 ripe watermelon
1 pack of good quality Greek Feta cheese
A very good grade fruity olive oil
White balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
Some toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Cut the melon in half and try to remove the brown seeds. Chops the melon into edible size chunks or use a melon baller to get little balls by pushing the melon baller into the watermelon and turning one way as if scooping out sections. Place in a large salad bowl. Pour in a mixture of vinegar and olive oil and mix in but don’t use too much. Crumble over the Feta cheese and sprinkle over the toasted seeds. Enjoy!