With a Bank Holiday weekend imminent, all thoughts turn to the Great British barbecue, with fingers crossed for a few dry and sunny days in which to enjoy it! A barbecue that caters for friends and family is a joyful event – who doesn’t love an invitation to a garden get-together with the scent of smoke and sound of music in the background? But if you want to make your BBQ event really stand out from the crowd, follow this advice from your catering experts at Jasper’s. Trust us, we have hosted many a memorable occasion and if you follow our advice you will become a legend amongst your peers as King or Queen of the barbecue!
1) Set the background
When your guests arrive, you want to be ready to welcome them, not fiddling about finishing food and setting tables. Have the music ready and on when they arrive! Put out all cutlery, plates, cups, serviettes and serving utensils. If you have children coming, get some play things ready. Some ideas to keep them entertained (depending on your budget!) are: bubble wands, boules, football goal, hoops, waterbombs, sandpit and bouncy castle.
2) Prepare food in advance
By preparing food in advance, you are freed up to concentrate on your guests and will not be stressed about food not being ready. Meat and fish should already be marinated; any fresh sauces, dips and salad dressings should be in the fridge. Salads should be made, kept cool and covered. Burger and hot dog buns can be put out by the barbecue area. Ensure this area is organised with space to keep your uncooked food separate from the cooked. Disposable silver trays are ideal for this.
3) Keep cold drinks within easy reach!
To stop guests traipsing in and out, keep cool boxes outside packed with ice and filled with cans and bottles of drinks. Children will enjoy the autonomy of serving themselves if they have their own cool box filled with drinks for them. Ask each person what they would like to drink and get them sorted as soon as they arrive, this will help everyone relax.
4) Don't keep your guests waiting
We’ve all been a guest at a bbq where we have had to wait hours for the food, getting increasingly jittery and contemplating phoning for a pizza to bide the time. To avoid growling stomachs and whining children, have nibbles available from the outset, for example nachos and salsa; hummus with breadsticks and crudites; olives and sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese. Offer more filling and healthy alternatives than just bowls of crisps. Let people know when to expect the main barbecue food and stick to it. About an hour after everyone turns up is ideal to start getting the food out.
5) Get the barbecue ready
Before you’re ready to cook the food, you need to check your barbecue is good to go. Firstly (before your guests arrive!) ensure that the grill is clean by rubbing down with a wire brush and kitchen roll. Then get the barbecue warmed up. If you are using gas, make sure you have sufficient quantity in the canister and it is hooked up. If you are going with charcoal, put a few firelighters on the barbecue, light with a long match and wait a few seconds for the flames to grow then heap on some charcoal or wood. You need to wait at least 30 minutes after lighting a barbecue for the flames and temperature to calm down. Don’t have the barbecue blazing hot to cook, or the result will be blackened and charred food.
6) Safety is paramount
To avoid cross contamination, keep raw meat covered and in a cool place, out of the way of cooked meat. Keep your hands clean throughout the barbecue process. Once you have your barbecue the right temperature, it will be much easier to cook your food properly rather than burnt on the outside and uncooked in the middle. Split a sausage and burger from the same batch in half to ensure they are cooked all the way through.
7) Cater for all kinds
Burgers and hot dogs alone don’t cut it when it comes to the main event. Although it’s a good idea to offer these, especially if you are catering for little ones, have other options lined up: marinated chicken wings and drumsticks; pork or lamb chops, lamb koftas served in warmed flatbreads. For the vegetarians, halloumi and vegetable kebabs are a filling choice: marinate the cheese first and choose vegetables that grill nicely such as different coloured peppers and red onion. Fish kebabs work very well: simple spicy marinated prawns or choose a steaky fish such as tuna. Individual vegetables can be brushed with olive oil and charred: asparagus and spring onions work particularly well. A combination like this will suit different tastes and dietary requirements.
Although it’s lovely to have a variety of food, if you are preparing and cooking it yourself don’t do anything too complicated as it will be too stressful and the results may be unexpected. Keep things simple.
8) Accompaniments make it special
Have a range of different sauces and relishes available for your guests to customise their food. Ketchup and mayo are staples, but a few different sauces will add interest and variety to the rest of your menu. Make your own tzatziki with yoghurt, lemon, cucumber and mint to cool down the spicy food: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/145409/greek-tzatziki or give guests the option of extra heat with hot pepper or smoky chipotle sauce. A green salsa verde is a fresh accompaniment to fish: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/salsa-verde
To accompany the barbecue food, we recommend serving a large platter of sliced ripe vine tomatoes with sea salt to bring the flavour out, dressed with finely sliced shallots and a vinaigrette on the side. A good new potato salad is ideal as it is filling and summery. Coleslaw and a colourful mixed bean salad are welcome additions. Forget prewashed bags of salad leaves though, they will wilt quickly and are likely to be left in the bowl. If you want a green salad, make your own with crisp little gem lettuce and fresh herbs such as chives, mint and parsley.
Icecreams and bowls of fresh strawberries and cream are easy, enjoyable desserts.
9) Get a barbecue chef!
If it’s your own event, you don’t want to be spending the whole time sweating behind the grill! Rope in a friend to do the cooking or, ideally, take it in turns and do shifts, or better still outsource it!
10) Relax and enjoy
Even with the most wonderful food and drink, a barbecue will not be the event it could be for all guests if you don’t relax and enjoy it. If you are at ill at ease, your guests will pick up on this. So grab a cold drink, put on your sunglasses and enjoy.