Making your own food for a barbecue
Barbecuing is probably one the most fun ways of cooking for friends and family, and one of the most sociable as well. There’s something about standing around a smoking charcoal barbecue that makes the gathering a real occasion, yet the atmosphere is always relaxed and laid-back, particularly if the weather is fine.
One of the best things about a barbecue is that you can call one at the last minute; pop down to your local supermarket for supplies, and in no time at all you’ve got a delicious feast on the go. However if you’d like to plan ahead and take a chance that the weather will hold out, there’s nothing quite like homemade food at a barbecue to make it something really special. By making your own burgers, salads, side dishes and even breads for your barbecue, you can really add some flavour to proceedings and impress your friends with the effort you’ve made. After all, frozen burgers, no matter how tasty, just can’t compete with the juicy treat that is a homemade burger fresh off the grill.
Burgers can be a simple case of combining minced beef with some salt and pepper, or you can spice them up a bit by adding some Cajun seasoning or lots of mixed herbs. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you choose good quality low fat mince as the more fat that drips onto your barbecue the more difficult it will be to control the flames. Allow about 1lb of mince for six or so burgers and blend the mince with an egg yolk, a medium onion finely chopped, a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and your choice of coriander or Cajun spices to season. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl then leave the mixture in the fridge for an hour or so before shaping into 6 burger patties. Cook them on your barbecue for about fifteen minutes, turning them a couple of times each, then serve them in a large flowery bap with tomato and crisp lettuce to balance out the flavour of the meat.
Kebabs are another great option for gas barbecues and are quick and easy to prepare at home. They are also really easy to eat – always good news when people are standing around enjoying a beer and a chat.
Here’s how to make delicious chicken and grilled vegetable kebabs:
Cut up some chicken breasts into big square chunks and marinade them for about half an hour in some barbecue or sweet chilli sauce. Next dice up your vegetables. The easiest veg to add to a kebab skewer are bell peppers, mushrooms and courgettes. You could also add some whole cloves of garlic, which will be delicious roasted over the barbecue grill. Coat your veg in a little olive oil then start building your skewers. Start with a chunk of chicken then add veg and chicken alternately until you’ve reached the end of the skewer. Kebabs should only take about ten minutes to cook on the barbecue, depending on the heat. You’ll need to keep a careful eye on them as they will burn easily if left unattended; so don’t get too deep into conversation with someone until they’re all off the barbecue and onto the serving plate. Don’t forget to use metal skewers rather than wooden ones, for obvious reasons, and be sure to warn your guests that the skewers will be hot when they first come off the grill.
Though the key feature of any barbecue is obviously the meat, even the heartiest carnivore will probably want a little salad or side dish to go with their burger or kebab, and in the interest of a balanced diet, you should make sure there are lots of side options to choose from. A bean and rice salad is a great accompaniment, and is also really easy to prepare at home. You can even make it the night before your barbecue so you have more time to mingle with your guests on the day. Cook as much rice as you think you’ll need, and combine it with some red kidney beans, one red and one yellow pepper chopped, half a cucumber finely chopped and some chopped red onion and celery. Mix all the veg and rice together with some red wine vinegar and then leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours so that all the flavours can blend in well together. Not only will this salad look great and brighten up the plate, it’s also super-healthy and a great option if you have vegetarian guests who might want something hearty to go with their veggie sausages or Quorn burgers.
Remember, if you are planning on making most of the food for your barbecue, give yourself plenty of time to prepare everything and marinade your kebabs over night if you can. The last thing you want to do is spend the whole afternoon chopping and mixing to get your food together, when you should be outside in the sun enjoying the company of your friends and family.