Rumour has it that the good weather will still be with us at the weekend, great news! That means we can have an afternoon party in the garden with the barbecue fired up, possibly my favourite way of entertaining. To that end I thought I'd share some tips to ensure a stress free barbecue party which will help you enjoy it as much as your guests.
I’m going to assume that you have BBQ’d before and know the basics, certainly you should be familiar with your own set up, but sometimes we all forget some basics so here we go…
Light up early. It sounds obvious but if you forget to light up and the guests arrive you are already chasing your tail.
Be prepared and have everything in place ready to go. Any prep that can be done ahead of time, the day before even, you should do. Particularly any marinating that needs to occur. The last thing you want is to be skewering kebabs as guests arrive.
The Chefs Table is crucial. You should have a table right next to the BBQ where you can organise all of the essential ingredients – bread, salad, sauces – this is where the hot sandwich assembly will take place.
Drop anchor. Don’t be tempted to wander off from the BBQ. I’m afraid it is a commitment you have made to both your guests and the food. For the very best results stay with the BBQ and keep an eye on the cooking. There’ll soon be an audience and people to chat to, such is the lure of fire and meaty smells.
Assembly and Distribution is something that you should do too. You will make a much better sandwich than your guests. You can also make sure everyone is fed and the kids aren’t constantly sneaking the burgers away.
Plastics for everything – food cutlery and drinks, the last thing you need is broken glass. Also use squeezy bottles for sauces (if making your own sauces save a few old bottles and re-sue).
Buy more Napkins than you could possibly ever imagine needing. Then go and buy some more.
Bonus Expert Tips
Moroccan Lamb Kebabs
These are to die for, I love them. Buy the best lamb cut you can, I like to use a shoulder of Welsh lamb.
Kebab Ingredients - Makes 12 - 15 kebabs
750g lamb, cubed 2 red peppers, 2 green peppers, 2 orange peppers
2 large red onions quartered
4 tbsp Ras el Hanout spice blend Zest of 2 lemons (keep for juice)
1 tbsp olive oil 5 tbsps natural yoghurt
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander 3 tbsps chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
Mix all of the marinade ingredients together really well before coating the lamb chunks. Get stuck in with your hands and make sure the lamb is really well coated. I like to marinade the onion and peppers too but it isn’t necessary. Leave overnight.
When ready to assemble just thread a piece of onion, pepper and lamb onto the skewer and repeat another two times. Each skewer should have 3 good size pieces of lamb.
Grill to taste – I like them quite rare.
Thai Green Chilli Marinade
I love this marinade, even if I am occasionally guilty of adding too many chillies. The flavours are really bright and will cut through the heat if you only use the suggested amount of chillies below!
Ingredients – Makes enough for about 1KG of chicken or meat. Can be used on fish too but restrict to a 2-hour marinade
2 tbsp sweet Thai basil (normal basil will be ok) 1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped coriander (leaves & stalks) 1 tsp sesame oil
5-6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (or zest of 2 limes if no kaffir leaves)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 tsp ground ginger
2 pieces of lemongrass, tougher outer leaves removed, finely chopped
4 large green chillies finely chopped with seeds
Blitz all of the ingredients together in a blender before rubbing all over your chosen meat, fish or veg. I think this is best on chicken wings, thighs or drumsticks. Use the juice of 2 limes to coat before serving.
My Favourite Burgers
Makes about 8 if you’re playing it safe, 5 or 6 if you aren’t having anything else.
1kg of chuck steak or fatty mince 1 large free range egg
1 large white onion, peeled & chopped finely approx. 120g breadcrumbs
olive oil Buns to your taste
60g grated parmesan sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns 1.5 tbsp coriander seeds
1.5 tbsp cumin seeds 3 dried red chillies
Chop your onion as finely as you can or blitz in a blender. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and over a low heat slowly cook the onion until it is soft but not coloured, about 5 minutes. If you are using the chuck steak cut it into dice and pulse in a food processor until mince like.
Once the onion has cooled sufficiently to handle - I always, without fail, forget - add it to the meat and mix well. Drop the peppercorns, cumin, coriander, chillies and a four finger pinch of sea salt into a grinder (domestically I use a Krupps coffee grinder for this) and whizz them into a powder. The chillies should be flake like. Add this to the meat and mix really well.
Next add a handful of breadcrumbs, egg and parmesan to the mix and using your hands work the mixture well. You can add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too sticky. Spread the rest of the breadcrumbs out on a non-stick baking tray sufficiently big enough to deal with your burgers.
Next mould the mixture into burgers. I make a ball of mince in my hand and then flatten it out with my palm before cupping it like hot soup with gloves on and moving it round into a burger shape. Dab it on both sides in breadcrumbs and repeat.
Be sure to chill for at least 30 minutes in order that they set and infuse with the spices but take out a while before cooking to allow them to cook more evenly on the grill.
Part two next week and I'll share some of my favourite side salads and dips with you.