Sunny weather + friends coming round = barbecue! Yes, it’s that time of year.
My friends all know I’m not a huge fan of barbecues. Whatever you cook on the outdoor grill, you can cook much better indoors, in the comfort of the kitchen.
The gorgeous smoky flavour? Yes, all over your back bedrooms because you forgot to close the windows. The convivial food making? That means waiting for about two hours getting more and more tipsy on Pimms, before the charcoal is ready to go because of course, of course, we lit the fire too late again. Mouth-watering crust on burgers? That’s pure carbon, as the chef went off to fetch more beer. And don’t even start me off on sausages.
Plus, here in Britain, barbecues tend to start in blissful sunshine, halfway through turning into a dash for cover, and ending in eating soggy burgers under umbrellas.
It’s all very well if you’re Australian and have a permanently stoked up enormous barbie in your backyard, practically a summer kitchen. Because also you know so well what you’re doing and how to adjust the heat on your stove, it’s possible to perfectly grill prawns, corn on the cob and a rare steak. Here, we only know two settings: ‘not hot enough yet’ and ‘furnace’.
I am aware of being in a minority – most people love BBQs. Most of my friends and family do too, and I love my friends and family so I do relent, frequently. And anyway, it’s not purely about the food, is it?
But it is, from my point of view. So today, ideas for the toughest part of the barbecue party menu: side dishes. If you want to browse meat dishes, you’re welcome but I know that burgers and sausages will still be firm fixtures.
On the side, there’s usually a bowl of sad green salad and some burnt cobs of corn. It doesn’t have to be this way. Banish green salad and make a bowl of spring cabbage salad instead, and another of raw broccoli. Corn on the cob is fine, but make it interesting: corn ribs with dukkah, cooked on the barbecue but in a tray or wrapped in foil.
If you do make an effort to make your burgers from scratch, you could also bake the buns. And if you’re grilling sausages, why not served them wrapped in homemade pitas, with a garnish of coleslaw.
I can’t survive a barbecue without potato salad. And guess what – it always disappears within minutes!
If it is still in season, a bowl of asparagus and couscous will be a good addition to the table. Otherwise, swap the asparagus for green beans.
And now desserts: I don’t want to hear about toasted marshmallows. A proper dessert that takes 10 minutes to make is strawberry fool. Or ice cream – but that’s a matter for a whole new post! Happy grilling!