By Ren Behan
We may have seen the last of the British Bank Holidays for this year, but with the weather staying warm for a while yet it’s not quite time to pack up the barbecue. It takes no time at all these days to fire up a gas-fired barbecue, making it easy to turn up the heat as you need it and cook a tasty outdoor meal. If you are more into traditional coals, just light them ahead of time and start cooking when the flames have died down a little.
A fair amount of barbecue food is pre-marinated these days, but it can be more expensive that way. Why not buy your own barbecue-friendly cuts and whisk up a quick marinade yourself? Marinating doesn’t just add flavour, it also tenderises your meat and makes it juicier when cooked. If your meat is marinating in the fridge, make sure you take it out and let it get to room temperature about twenty minutes before barbecuing.
When deciding on a marinade, think about the sort of flavours you’d like to create. Perhaps a very simple and sweet American-style BBQ sauce, or, try spicing things up a little (or quite a bit!) with a Caribbean-inspired marinade. Levi Roots-stylee Jerk chicken with jalepeno breads is a great recipe to try if you’ve never tried a jerk chicken marinade or rub before. You’ll be in for quite a treat with punchy flavours like allspice or pimiento, scotch bonnet chillies, honey and lively green herbs. For barbecued food with a difference, you could also try a Thai-inspired marinade. Use bashed up lemon grass, chilli, garlic and ginger, or even simpler, try coating your meat with a green Thai curry paste mixed with a little coconut milk or yoghurt.
Tasty salads and sides often make all the difference when it comes to feeding a crowd at a barbecue. Get prepared ahead of time and make as many of the accompaniments as possible in advance, so that as soon as the mains are cooked to perfection, you’re ready to serve and begin eating. Everybody will love a New potato salad with garlic mayonnaise and cress or a simple homemade coleslaw with white cabbage, carrots, onions and mayonnaise. Put out plenty of rolls and fresh bread, with pickles and a selection of sauces.
Finally, don’t forget the vegetables to add some extra colour to the table. You can grill lots of different vegetables on the barbecue once the heat had settled a little. Try peppers sliced in half and filled with couscous, wrapping them up in tinfoil and cooking until tender. Or, simply add slices of aubergine and courgette to the grill. Here’s a Masterclass on BBQ vegetables for a few extra tips – just ignore the rain in the video!
Ren Behan is a food writer and mum of two. Find our more at www.renbehan.com