Over in the UK, Summer has well and truly arrived with clear blue skies and lovely warm heat. That means one thing - it's barbeque season!
If you have the luxury of a garden, or even an open space nearby, a barbeque is a great way to get all of your family together to enjoy some good food, music and entertainment.
As someone who has attended many barbeques in my lifetime, I'd like to share some tips on how to host one that your friends and family will love!
Most barbeques are the same in terms of meat dishes - beef for burgers, pork for hot dogs. But you can serve your guests some dishes to remember by creating a variety of condiments and dipping sauces to compliment your food. I like to go for a 'World' theme - a nice oyster or sweet chilli sauce for an oriental touch, of course, some hot sauce like Tabasco for a Caribbean kick, Hummus for a Mediterranean feel - plus my 'special' homemade sauce (which is just a bit of ketchup and mayo mixed together!)
You could also create a challenge where you invite your guest to make and bring their own sauces - you'd be surprised with the concoctions your friends can dream up!
Good non-meat options
It's commonly thought that vegans and vegetarians can't have much fun at barbeques, so going out of your way to provide options for anyone that doesn't eat meat will get you a solid 'A' for effort. There are plenty of things you can prepare for your non-meat eating guests, from grilled corn on the cob, to black bean burgers, pasta dishes and grilled vegetables. I don't eat meat but I do eat seafood, so I personally love to season up some king prawns and grill them on skewers - with all the side dishes and salad, this makes a filling and healthy dish for your pescatarian friends!
An interesting selection of drinks is a must for any memorable barbeque. Fruity, rose wines are nice to drink in the summer, as well as light beers like Coronas (cut up wedges of lemon and lime and leave them on the side for your guests to pop in if they want an extra refreshing drink!) You could also try your hand at cocktail making - it's fun and your friends will love them! Don't forget to store your drinks in a cooler or a tub/bowl full of ice as they'll be sitting in the sun, and be sure to have a large supply of water on hand to stay hydrated.
The burgers are the star of the show for any barbeque, but the side dishes are what will really bring the meal to life. Again, you could go for a 'World' theme or simply provide a large variety - some of my must-have side dishes are mac and cheese (a firm favourite!), homemade potato wedges, coleslaw, creamy potato salad and big bowl of fresh, leafy greens. Also keep some snacks and starters around like chips and dip or bruschetta - easy for you, and yummy for your guests!
As you'll be sitting out in the sun for an extended period of time, it's quite a nice touch to have a few bottles of sunscreen around so guests can top up and keep their skin protected from the harmful UV rays. Nobody likes sunburn! Even if your family and friends aren't particularly bothered about using sunscreen, having the bottles there will show them that you care about their comfort and safety and will probably encourage them to use it.
The last barbeque I went to had a bouncy castle to keep the kids entertained, and a mini basketball court for the grown-ups! Everyone ended up getting involved and we all had so much fun. Bear in mind that this was in a small garden - but where there's a will, there's a way. As well as music, drinks and food - the best barbeques are the ones with activities to keep everyone entertained - or at least something for the kids to do so Mum and Dad can enjoy a glass of wine in peace!
I've saved my favourite, and most essential part of every barbeque for last. If you've never popped a marshmallow on a skewer and roasted it on an open flame - you haven't lived. It's the best thing ever - crispy and burnt on the outside, gooey, warm and sugary on the inside. Many extra points to you if you have some Nutella on the side to dip your 'smores in. If you have children at your barbeque, they will love this - but toasted marshmallows are fun for absolutely everyone!
I hope that you'll take these tips and make the most of the Summer months by throwing an amazing barbeque your guests will love.