As the days become longer and the nights become lighter it’s a time to enjoy your garden, writes Tracy Hargreaves
As soon as it turns warm outside, us Brits love a good barbecue and the supermarkets soon sell out of burgers and baps.
But walk around any garden centre and you’ll see that cooking outside has become big business, with barbecues available in all designs and all shapes and sizes, depending on how often you cook outside and how big your garden is. Whether you prefer a charcoal barbecue that offers an authentic, smoky taste or the simplicity of a gas barbecue, cooking outside now couldn’t be easier. So, put the boring bangers away and be a bit more adventurous.
Kebabs are probably one of the easiest things to cook and the combination of ingredients is endless. For the vegetarian option, why not try potato, halloumi and sage kebabs. Cook your new potatoes first, then thread them onto a skewer in between the halloumi and sage leaves, season, drizzle over some olive oil and cook for around 10 minutes on the barbecue.
Alternatively stuff a mozzarella ball into a pepper with some chilli flakes, pinto beans, cumin and an onion and roast the pepper slowly.
Fish isn’t something I would think about cooking al fresco, but squid loves to be barbecued. You can ask your fishmonger to score it if you don’t want to cut it up yourself. Serve with a cucumber, avocado and rocket salad for a light summery dish that’s full of flavour.
If you like your Sunday roast and don’t want to give it up, then try lamb. Marinade a leg of lamb for a couple of hours with Rosemary needles, olive oil, garlic and black pepper. Make sure your barbecue is hot and cook slowly until the meat is tender.
However, if you want to cook on something different and have the space, then people are turning their gardens into building sites in a bid to cook the perfect pizza. Wood-fired ovens made from bricks have become popular over the last 18 months. As well as pizza you can cook pretty much anything and the heat keeps going, so you can cook all day. They do also come in a range of portable options.
With the garden now becoming an extension of our home, you can now have a separate cooking station outside.
Popular in hotter climes such as Australia, they have now made their way over here.
You could either make one with recycled wood and bricks or opt for a pre-made island or bar style structure. Shop around and you’ll find some bargains if you are on a budget. Think about how you are going to cook. If you are doing to prepare outside, then you will need to have enough space for food preparation. You don’t want to be in and out of the house constantly carrying food. Don’t forget to keep cooked and raw meat separate to avoid contamination and make sure you have enough utensils and somewhere to keep them.
Think about installing an outdoor sink, handy for washing hands before cooking, but also doing the washing up after, but make sure it is covered during the winter months and keep it clean.
With our typical British weather, we can never guarantee that the sun will stay shining once we sit outside, so it’s a good idea to think about a cover for your outdoor kitchen and even a gazebo if you want to continue sitting outside if it starts to rain. Do make sure though that your barbecue or grill has cooled down before you cover and it’s well ventilated.
And finally, when dinner is finished and everyone is relaxing with full tummies, what better way to keep the evening going strong than by cosying up under blankets and lighting the fire?
Firepits have become increasingly popular. Some are just used for heat, but others you can also cook on.
Whatever size your garden, make the most of it and enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean in your home. Once you’ve experimented with a few recipes, you’ll soon be impressing your friends, family and neighbours. Here’s to the summer, let’s hope it’s a good one!