How to ensure your next barbecue isn't a flop
Despite these sombre times, this Bank Holiday weekend brought some glorious weather, which can only mean one thing... terribly executed barbecues!
I honestly cannot recall how many times I have been invited to a friend's or relative's barbecue, then waited days in anticipation, prematurely painting a picture inside my own head of a bliss afternoon on a weekend (or even better, a bank holiday weekend!), carefully holding onto an ice-cold beer as the beads of condensation from the heat carefully trickles down. Then, some time later, finished with delicious, hearty, homely yet simple barbecue grilled meat and accompanied by a nice side dish of some sort. This of course, LONG before lock-downs and social distancing!
Anyway, the reality sadly, was far, far from the case. Well, food-wise anyway. Weather - superb. Beer - ice-cold. Food - ? As a keen home-chef with major enthusiasm for food, I cannot fathom why or how a pack of Richmond's sausages and a tray of low-end burgers, cooked on too high in heat (horrendously overcooked) and served between plain bread, gets classed as a "barbecue". It's an absolute cardinal sin! Here's a recent example...
You must surely be rendered speechless...
Now, my point here isn't that barbecues need to be overly complicated, or that they need to be especially expensive with Kobe beef served by a crew of waiters. Far from it. But come on people, PLEASE, at least use your imagination!
Having a South American mother and subsequently many South American relatives, barbecues were a not-to-be-missed weekend religion during the summer holidays that we would spend in Brazil. It taught me that the best barbecues didn't have to be overly complicated. They were kept relatively simple, inexpensive and delicious.
How to improve your barbecue skills
Here's what you should do when you host your next barbecue, pick one or two (or all!) of the suggestions below - the key is, keep it simple:
Have one or two steak options
Rib-eye and sirloin are great cuts to grill; fillet is great too, if you are an especially generous host! Simply, marinade with a generous pinch of rock salt and slug of olive oil on both sides - add crushed and finely chopped garlic for that extra zing. Guests don't need a steak each - plan for half or a third of a steak each and cut it in strips before serving.
Pork is such an underrated meat. Season with rock salt and pepper. Marinade, if you like, with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous amount of honey. This is a consistent winner!
A classic crowd-pleaser. Chicken breast is a safe bet. It's practical with a short grill time. But, chicken legs or thighs tend to be juicy, though they take a bit longer to grill. Both can be marinaded simply with crushed and finely chopped garlic, herbs (you choose), sale & pepper and olive oil.
By popular demand, apparently... No seriously, I have nothing against burgers. I love a nice and juice home-made burger with some relish and cheese, of course. BUT, they are so easy to make, it's a crime to grill shop-bought! Get yourself some good quality mince-beef, some finely chopped onions, eggs, sale & pepper and mix it all together. Then mould together some nice and big burger patties and grill - done! Build the burger if you can, before serving, with some lettuce, tomato (and whatever else you like), don't forget the relish/sauce. Then, half the burger so your guests can enjoy some of your other options.
Then, we arrive at side dishes/accompaniments. Again, keep it simple, no need for more than 2 or 3 (max) dishes:
Salad leaves with dressing on the side
Done. Feel free to make it a bit more exciting - tomatoes, cucumber, avocado for example. There's not much (within reason) that can't go into a salad.
Quick salad idea
Here's a favourite of mine that goes down well, even with the fussiest of guests - cherry tomato, feta cheese and basil salad. Mix them all together carefully and drizzle olive oil on top. Done. Here's a sample picture...
Rant over. I would love to hear your barbecue suggestions and recipes – as long as it doesn't involve sausages and store-bought burgers...
Stay home. Stay safe.