There really is no excuse any more for an average barbecue. Celebrity chef programmes, social media (especially Pinterest) and the welcome explosion of street vendors means that there is no excuse to at least try new ideas with different meats, salads, sauces and treats.
BBQ affecianados want exotic foods from across the world; south-east Asia, South America, Louisiana/Deep South and Eastern Europe are just four areas where grilled or smoked meat and humble salads have been boosted with the addition of fresh produce from local farmers and allotments; herbs, sauces, vegetables and fruit additions can be incredible.
The good news is that you dont have to visit these places (although we strongly recommend it). Here are five little twists on the old traditional barbie:
1) Making your own burgers is easy and fun and you can add anything you like. Get some good beef mince and combine it with some of these: Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, mixed herbs, chillis, onions; garlic and mustard. Or if you fancy something a little more exotic, curry powder, or cornflake crumbs!
If youre unsure, try a couple of mini versions in your kitchen frying pan in advance and see if they work. But once youre happy press them into pattie shapes, chill for an hour or so, and then get grilling!
2) A burger on its own is no fun, so prepare ahead and have some bowls laid out with these fillings: very thinly sliced and fried bacon; fried red onion, lime and chilli; peanut butter (yes, this does work!); a mix of soy sauce, maple syrup and chilli flakes; 2-3 cheeses; pesto; a chimichurri marinade; and home-made ketchup.
3) Chicken breasts can be made much more exciting with the addition of simple spice mixes or marinades in advance. A sauce combining tomato ketchup, brown sauce, chilli, honey and garlic, applied to breast pieces an hour or two in advance, will give the meat a powerful punch.
4) Buns are OK, but you want to excite, so go to town with alternatives. Tiger bread, French baguettes, and pittas are all great, and dont be afraid to give them a little bit of grilling. Rubbing garlic and olive oil into the grilled surfaces is a neat little touch.
5) Blending mixed herbs, a tin of chickpeas, sun dried tomatoes, a little olive oil, spinach, halloumi cheese, an egg, onion, breadcrumbs and some spinach in a food processor will give an incredible basis for some veggie sausages or burgers. Turn them over on foil on the barbeque, and dont be surprised if carnivores soon make their way over. Dont worry too much if they fall apart combine them with salad in a pitta bread or a bit of pasta and no-one will complain!
Your vegetarian section could also include flame-grilled corns, roasted stuffed peppers, sweet potatoes (wrapped in foil), and maybe a vegetable kebab or two. Variations on kebab ingredients can include paneer cheese, boiled potatoes, and folded aubergines. Salads can always be livened up with chilli, lemon juice and marinades, so make sure these options are nearby.
These are just a few variations for your normal barbecue, but be warned: experimenting with these ideas will could set a colourful and creative benchmark for all future similar events!