Barbecue season has begun and with outdoor socialising on the cards for the foreseeable future, here are a few ideas to get your taste-buds tingling and your friends applauding.
1. Home-made Burgers (Serves 6-8)
It’s easy enough to buy burgers ready-made, but making them yourself is usually cheaper, allows you to introduce the flavours that you want, and is so simple it’s a job you can get children to do. As with nearly all these recipes, these burgers can be mixed and shaped in advance so you’re not fussing when your guests arrive.
- 1kg minced beef (not too lean)
- 1 red onion finely sliced
- 1 egg, or 2 as needed – see below
- 1-2 handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs
- 10ml Dijon mustard (or horseradish cream if you like)
- 2 tsps of your favourite spices (I like 1 tsp powdered coriander and 1 of powdered cumin)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: additional extras to taste (e.g. crumbled blue cheese, sliced mushrooms)
Using your hands, scrunch all the ingredients together well in a large bowl. Start with 1 handful of breadcrumbs and add more as needed. Squish everything through your fingers so the mix is well amalgamated. Trust your senses. You will know when the mixture feels like it will hold together and not crumble apart over the grill. Bear in mind that the chunkier your onions or cheese (if adding), the less likely the mix is to hold together well.
Shape into patties about 3cm thick and 8-10cm across. I usually get about 8 burgers from this quantity. The patties don’t have to be perfect round. They’re nicer if they look homely.
Grill over a medium hot barbecue until cooked to order. Serve with a bun and allow guests to build their own burger with ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, gherkins, tomatoes, lettuce etc to taste.
These burgers could also be made with lamb mince instead of beef, adding mozzarella and mint.
2. Veggie Burgers (Serves 4)
Rather than lugging home cans of mediocre chickpeas from the supermarket, I’ve started buying dried chickpeas and soaking and cooking them myself. It’s not hard and you get to control the consistency of the cooked chickpeas. I then freeze them and they can be whipped out and added to recipes whenever you like.
- 400g ready-to-use chickpeas
- 200g mushrooms (finely sliced)
- 100g spring onions (finely sliced)
- Plump garlic clove (finely sliced)
- Juice of ½-1 lime
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- Salt and pepper
Fry the mushrooms, garlic, onions in some olive oil. Add the curry powder and seasoning to taste and finally squeeze over the lime juice. (Don’t add all the lime juice at once. Hold some back so you can adjust the consistency of the burger patties later.) All this should take around 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat through the pre-cooked chickpeas in boiling water. Drain the chickpeas and mash them up using a hand-blender or potato masher. You don’t want to over blend because it’s nice to have a bit of bite from some intact chickpeas, but you need to blend enough to be able to squidge the mixture together and be sure that it will hold. Add the mushroom mix and amalgamate well, adding more lime as needed if the mix feels dry, or some breadcrumbs if it feels wet. Again, you’ll be able to tell when you’re shaping the patties, if the burgers will hold together or not. Cook the burgers for about 4 minutes each side and serve as above.
3. Fish Kebabs (Serves 4-6)
- 600g of firm white fish, (cut into large cubes)
- 200g of stale bread (cubed)
- 6 rashers of bacon streaky bacon or pancetta, each cut into three pieces
- 1 garlic clove (crushed)
- 8 rosemary sprigs (or normal kebab skewers)
- Juice of 1-2 lemons
- Olive oil
If you don’t have any rosemary sprigs handy, just use dried rosemary and mix with the olive oil, garlic and lemon juice to create a marinade for the fish, and marinade for about an hour. Then toss the stale bread cubes gently with the fish. Thread the bread and fish and bacon alternately onto your rosemary sticks or skewers and grill, turning occasionally, for 5-8 minutes.
4. Stuffed Aubergines with Lamb (Serves 6)
This looks like a lot of ingredients but it’s still easy – and really tasty.
- 3 aubergines (sliced in half lengthways and scooped out leaving 1cm of flesh and the skin as a shell)
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion (sliced)
- 1 heaped tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 heaped tsp chilli powder
- 1 heaped tsp coriander powder
- 1 plump garlic clove (crushed)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 500g of minced lamb
- 1 large tomato (or use canned tomato)
- 1 medium green pepper and 1 medium orange pepper (roughly chopped)
Brush the aubergine cases with oil. Fry the onion until golden brown then stir in the ginger, spices, and garlic. Fry for 5 minutes before adding the lamb for 10 minutes. Add the peppers, mix well and spoon into the aubergine shells. Cook on a medium barbecue for approx. 15 minutes.
(Don’t waste the scooped aubergine. Toss in lemon to stop it discolouring and gently bake it with some oil and garlic and seasoning, mashing it up for a lovely dip).
5. Mackerel Kebabs (Serves 4)
- 4 medium mackerel (filleted)
- 2 small red onions (cut into wedges)
- 2 tbsp fresh marjoram
- 4tbsp white wine
- 4 tbsps olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
Thread the mackerel fillets onto a skewer and thread an onion wedge onto each end. Mix the marjoram, oil, wine and lime juice and drizzle over the kebabs, reserving some. Marinate for at least half an hour in the fridge. Cook on a hot barbecue for 10 minutes, basting with the extra marinade.
6. Jerk Chicken (Serves 6)
This is the mother of all barbecue dishes for me, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. The cooking involves an indirect heat method, so you’ll need a lid for your barbecue. Although there are a lot of ingredients in the rub and picking the thyme leaves is a bit fiddly, you won’t have to do it too often since you can increase the quantities to make a massive batch and it will keep sealed in the fridge for weeks, (or frozen for months!).
- 5-6 scotch bonnet chillies (this gives a fiercesome heat. Reduce quantity for a milder dish)
- 1 tbsp allspice berries
- 4 spring onions (use nearly all including the green)
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 6 whole chicken legs, skin-on
Crush and pound the allspice and peppercorns, then add to a blitzer with all the ingredients except the chicken, the salt, the sugar and the liquids. Whizz it up then add the remaining marinade ingredients. If it’s too thick, add more onion or liquid to taste but beware when tasting. It will be fiery! Massage the rub well into the chicken, trying to get it under the skin too. Make sure you wash your hands and scrub your nails well afterwards: the chilli can linger and give you a shock. Marinade the chicken for at least two hours, but preferably overnight in a fridge.
Seal the chicken over a medium barbecue, then move to the side so it’s not over the coals, put the lid on and cook for at least 25 minutes and until the chicken juices run clear. Don’t worry if the rub blackens on the chicken skin. This is normal – and tasty – but if you don’t like eating the skin, the flavours will still have permeated the meat.
7. Rice and Peas (Serves 6)
This is a great and traditional accompaniment for Jerk Chicken. The ‘peas’ are actually kidney beans.
- 2 cups of rice (washed)
- A can of coconut milk
- ½ stock cube (chicken or vegetable)
- 1-2 garlic cloves (bashed and left whole)
- 2-3 allspice berries
- 1-2 cans of kidney beans (drained)
- A bunch of spring onions
Bring the rice to the boil in the coconut milk with the crumbled stock cube, the berries and the garlic. Reduce the heat and let the rice absorb the liquid. This should take about 10 minutes. When nearly but not all the liquid has gone, add the beans and the spring onions and heat through. The consistency should be fluffy, not stodgy.
8. Pea and Burrata Salad (Serves 6)
This is so simple it’s almost embarrassing, but every time I serve it, my mates go wild.
- 1 kg bag frozen spring green vegetable mix (e.g. asparagus, peas, broad beans)
- 300g burrata.
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh mint (chopped)
Steam the frozen vegetables until soft but retaining some bite. Leave them to cool. Break up the burrata with your hands and scatter lovingly over the veg. Gently mix in the chopped mint. Make a dressing to taste with the lemon, oil and seasoning and, just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad and cheese.
9. Summer Pudding (Serve 6)
To non-Brits, this dessert is going to sound a bit weird, but I assure you, it’s really, really delicious. For the first time ever I have my own raspberry bushes this year. I can’t wait to make this.
- 850g mixed raspberries and other summer fruit including currants. A bag of frozen fruit is fine.
- 7-8 thick slices firm, good quality white bread (absolutely NOT sourdough or brown bread)
- 3 tbsps white sugar
- 3 tbsps water (as needed)
- cream to serve
Heat the fruit gently in a large saucepan and add the sugar to your own taste, remembering it needs to be a bit tart, not overly sweet. You want the sugar to dissolve and the fruit to release their juices without completely collapsing. The berries should still be shiny. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
Slice the bread thickly. Using a glass or a pastry cutter, cut a round of bread from one of the slices, big enough to line the bottom of a 1 litre pudding basin. Cut the other slices into 5cm wide strips. Gently dip all the bread pieces into the fruit juice, or brush the juice on, so the juice soaks into one side of the bread only, without making the bread fall apart. You can omit this step if you prefer a marble-effect pudding.
Place the strips around the edge of the basin vertically, juice side out, overlapping with the round at the bottom and with each other, so you create a ‘bread case’ in the basin.
Spoon the fruit and juices into the bread pudding case, then top with a final slice or two of bread, filling in any gaps to seal the pudding. Do not turn the pudding over. Put the pudding basin in a dish to catch any juices that overflow during the next stage. Place a small plate on top of the pudding (over what will become the bottom of the pudding) and a weight on top of it (e.g. a can of tomatoes). Put in the fridge or a cold place overnight.
The next day, just as you’re ready to eat, turn the pudding over and out onto a dished serving plate. (You might have to use a knife to help gently release it). You should have a pudding that is bright fuchsia or prettily marbled, filled with gorgeous summer fruit. Serve with cream.
10. Chocolate Mint Filo Parcels (Makes 18)
- 15ml finely chopped fresh mint
- 75g ground almonds
- 50g grated plain chocolate
- 115g crème fraiche or fromage frais
- 2 sweet apples grated
- Approx 9 sheets filo pastry
- 75g melted butter
- 15ml each icing sugar / cocoa powder
Mix the mint, almonds, chocolate, crème fraiche and apple in a large bowl. Cut the filo sheets into 7.5 cm squares and cover with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out while you’re working. Brush a filo square with butter, lay a second sheet over the top in a star shape and brush again. Place a dollop of filling in the middle of the top sheet and bring the corners up, twisting together to make a parcel. Repeat until you’ve made all your parcels.
Cook on a baking sheet on a medium barbecue for 10 minutes until the pastry is crisp. Leave to cool and dust with icing sugar and/cocoa powder.