It's this time of year again - we get out of the kitchens and into the gardens. The gas or charcoal arguments, tongs wielding chefs for a day - here's something to throw on the barbecue!
Barbecue ideas or barbecue recipes?
I’m not entirely sure what to call this post as there is much more than just one recipe in it. It’s my barbecue hack, barbecue template, fit both for big summer parties and weekend family grilling sessions. All you need to do is adjust the quantities.
It's worth making an effort
You may well think it’s all wrong and going to too much trouble when Tesco value burgers and sausages stuffed into buns or baps do very well thank you.
You may say there’s nothing like burnt burgers and undercooked sausages for a successful barbecue because it’s just a fun, outdoorsy thing and not fine dining. Undoubtedly – if the ratio of beer to food favours beer by far.
But we should eat decent food, whatever the occasion. It will be far more fun if what’s coming off the barbie is enjoyable.
What to barbecue?
I’ve thrown all sorts of food on the barbie in my time: shrimp kebabs, whole sweetcorn in husk (success), broad beans in their pods (failure), chicken and beef patties and steaks. We'd done chicken wings to death; went through the burger period and at times just barbecued bacon.
And I’ve found that good quality meat marinated beforehand, then threaded on skewers with chunks of vegetables is the most popular and the healthiest option, however good a shop-bought burger might taste after several pints.
What else to barbecue?
But my kebabs are not the end all of barbecues. You can’t beat a few crispy and sticky chicken wings! The barbecue basket will be a useful tool here, rather than skewering individual wings into a kebab.
And though I berated burgers above, it’s only the overprocessed, ready-made ones that are nutritionally hazardous. Nothing wrong with grilling beef burgers, lamb koftas or chicken burgers made from scratch.
It’s not just minced or chunked meat that can go on the rack: a bavette or rump steak slapped on the barbie whole, then sliced and tossed with a salad will be absolutely spectacular. Mexican style carne asada or bavette steak with Thai flavours are good options.
Vegetarian and vegan barbecue
The framework below still works a treat even if you skip the meat. For vegetarians replace it with thick cubes of halloumi or scamorza. For vegans thread on marinated tofu, tempeh or seitan.
You can also marinate portobello mushrooms in any of the marinade mixes below and use instead of meat. Skip the ordinary mushrooms in the veg selection in that case.
It’s a good idea to serve plenty pita bread or tortilla wraps if you’re having a veggie barbecue. A juicy veggie kebab sliding into a warm pita or soft tortilla – and who needs meat!
What to serve for starters and sides?
For starters - and it's a good tip, even though I'm not a fan personally - get some good quality sausages to test the grilling readiness with, and to appease the hungry crowd.
The best and easiest side dishes for a barbecue are: flatbreads or wraps, pickles and condiments, and masses of green salad.
If you’re worried some of the vegetarian guests might go hungry, make a gorgeous potato salad, with vegan mayo and yoghurt if appropriate.
What’s the best dessert after a barbecue?
Ice cream! The one and only post-barbie dessert is ice cream, and it needn’t be homemade. But if you’d like to churn some yourself (or freeze a no-churn mix), I’m happy to oblige.
Which fuel to go for?
So you might be waiting with bated breath for my verdict on gas vs, charcoal - I'm sorry to disappoint.
I've used both and can't say which is better. Whatever works for you - it may even be the tiny disposable BBQ box that will cook you the most memorable meal ever!
And the final tip
Paper plates and throwaway platters, or even disposable bowls for ice cream served for afters, are perfectly all right. So limit your washing up to the cutlery as plastic is a no-no until they invent biodegradable forks.