The secret to a successful barbecue? It’s all about preparation
Getting ahead, and having something for everyone, will keep hosts and guests happy
Sweet sesame and sherry drumsticks
I love barbecue season, though if I’m honest, it is mainly for the leftovers that I like it. Who doesn’t love a cold chicken drumstick?
I would consider myself to be something of an experienced barbecue queen. Even so, the thought of our Galway gang coming around to my house for a barbecue can still freak me out.
Here is my advice, because I really think I’ve nailed it now. Preparation is the key, after years of myself and my husband David asking each other through gritted teeth, “Have you chilled the Chardonnay like you were supposed to do?”. Or “Where’s the bloody rosé, David?” Or even, “We’ve no spuds and not half enough butter”, all the while glaring daggers at each other. This way, on the day of the barbecue you have time to enjoy the company of your mates, have a glass of punch and live the dream of marital bliss.
So, to save us from the divorce courts, when we are hosting a barbecue we make all the salads in advance, and David trawls the internet for 1970s-style punch recipes. Not many people make punch anymore, but I love the fact that it is just basically a big boozy floating fruit salad, ideally garnished with chunks of pineapple.
We marinate all the meat the day before, but you can do this up to three days beforehand, once it is stored in the fridge. It’s always going to taste better the longer you leave it.
The most important thing for me when I am barbecuing is the quality of the meat. I love the Castlemine lamb chops that I get from the Galway Market, along with a few Friendly Farmer drumsticks that always come with a side order of banter.
All the spice mixes included in the recipes here can go on anything really – other meats, fish, or even vegetables, from courgettes to aubergine – with a bit of fresh crumbly feta and a few sprigs of mint.
If made in bulk, the North African spice mix (minus the ginger which you can add later) will happily sit in the condiment section in the fridge for the summer season, waiting to be massaged on to anything that comes to hand.
Later, as your grill coals cool down, you can get the kids, young and old, to make their own dessert, campfire-style, under supervision of course.
There’s something for everyone this week, and that’s the real secret of a successful barbecue.
NORTH AFRICAN SPICED LAMB CHOPS
3 tsp sweet or smokey paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
Half a tsp ground cloves
1 tsp dried cardamom
1 tsp fresh ginger
Salt to season
Good glug of olive oil
8 lamb loin chops
Combine all the spices in a bowl and massage this into your lamb chops.
Set the meat aside for eight to 24 hours in the fridge.
Grill the chops over a medium heat on the barbecue for seven minutes each side. It is important when barbecuing to make sure you divide the coals to get a high, medium and low heats. These chops can also be cooked in a frying pan if the weather is not co-operating.
SWEET SESAME AND SHERRY DRUMSTICKS
200ml sherry (a cheap one will do)
20g muscovado sugar
35ml apple cider vinegar
20g black or white sesame seeds
Salt and black pepper to season
12 chicken drumsticks
Place all the above ingredients, except the chicken, in a large bowl and whisk until well combined.
Add the drumsticks and marinate for 24 to 36 hours.
Either grill on a very low heat on the barbecue or oven cook for 35 minutes at 170 degrees, until the drumsticks are golden brown and sticky. Any leftovers are handy for a lunch box snack or salads the next day.
S’MORES BISCUIT MELTS
1 packet marshmallows
200g jar of Nutella
12 wooden barbecue skewers, or sprigs of rosemary
Soak the skewers or the rosemary springs in water and thread the marshmallows on to them. Spread one side of each biscuit with a little Nutella.
Grill the marshmallows until they get really gooey and then sandwich between the cookies. This is the simplest camp fire dessert, but always a firm favourite.