Ah, the Barbeque. It is in my opinion the epitome of social-dining. Think about it, for no other food centric party would you dare to say the words “Yeah sure, bring anyone you like!”. It is the perfect way to spend a glorious Sunday afternoon, surrounded by your friends, with a cool beer in hand and the sunshine beating down on your back…
“Wait, hold on. Sunshine?” I hear you say “It’s November, you know, November where it rains for six hours and day and is only light for five? This is not the time of year for big social gatherings! You must be out of your tree!”
And it is this response that got me thinking about how the weather affects how we spend our time. It seems to me that when the bad weather arrives, it brings with it a suitcase full of box set DVD’s, microwave meals for one and an intravenous drip of apathy.
Image taken from steamykitchen.com
But must this really be the way? Let us look at the BBQ, undoubtedly a traditionally summer venture, and naturally so, as the cooking takes place outside. However it is the other elements of this style of dining that I am interested in;
At the BBQ, there is one main chef who during the party handles (and happily burns) the meat, and all of the other dishes are pre-prepared and left to for guests to help themselves. The host will make a few staple dishes but most guests bring along a pasta salad or two to add to the pile. It involves a lot of people, fairly minimum effort and has a pretty high enjoyment factor. The perfect combination if you ask me, but why can this fabulous formula only exist in the garden?
Last time I checked my oven is just as big as my BBQ, it gets just as hot and actually it does not require the same supervision that the roguish BBQ does. My lounge is just as suitable for guests as my garden, if anything more so (two words – ‘deck – chair’) and my front door opens just as wide as the side gate.
I am pretty sure that by sticking to the formula of the BBQ and adjusting a few of the details, we need not be restricted to the back garden, or the summer.
So, this week I have provided a few alternative BBQ recipes that should make your next open gathering just as easy and enjoyable as if it were July!
Gammon, Brie and Cranberry Baguettes
This first alternative is the perfect seasonal replacement for the king of BBQ – The Burger. The juicy, salty gammon is filling, tasty and not on your average menu – BBQ or regular. Much like the BBQ burger it could not be simpler, just pop it under the grill and leave it to crisp up then cram it between some creamy brie and bread and you’re away.
Gammon Steaks (1 average steak will be enough meat for 2 portions)
Slices of Brie
Crusty white baguette
1) Put your steaks under the grill on a medium-high setting, and once crisped up on one side, turn over. It should take around 20 minutes in total.
2) Put your bread into the oven, under the grill to start warming. Just as the steaks are about to be ready, put your bread under the direct heat of the grill to crisp the outside a little.
3) Serve the gammon steaks in the warmed bread with a slice of brie, a handful of watercress and your cranberry sauce to sweeten.
I think these are perfect for an informal gathering in the colder seasons. Served warm with a little pot of Dijon Mustard, these parsnips are great for handing around to your guests while the main meal is cooking.
Parsnips (One parsnip would be enough for two people)
Salt and Pepper
Honey (1 table spoon per parsnip)
1) Peel, and slice your parsnips into wedges. Turn your oven on to a 180 degrees. Blanche the parsnips for 2-3minutes in boiling water.
2) Spread the wedges out on a baking tray and cover in olive oil with salt and pepper, making sure each parsnip is lightly coated in oil.
3) Place in the oven and leave to crisp up – do not be concerned if the thin ends appear to burn. Some people love crispy parsnips and the crunch makes this recipe all the more irresistible.
4) After approx 20mins your parsnips should have taken on a golden brown colour. Now take your honey and try to evenly dribble it over the baking tray of parsnips, shake the tray a little to get some good coverage. Return to the oven for a further few minutes.
5) Remove from the oven and serve straight away.
Roasted Winter Vegetable Couscous
This is the perfect winter alternative to the cold pasta salad. This can be made in advance and the woody flavour that comes from roasting is the perfect accompaniment to the mulled wine that should be bubbling away on your stove…
(For 6 people – adjust amounts according to your guest list.)
1 Large red pepper
1 Large red onion
1 Small courgette
4 Garlic cloves
250ml vegetable stock
1 lemon – juice and zest
- Chop the leeks, pepper, red onion, courgette into equal(ish) sized cubes, aim for 2cm – but do not worry this is a BBQ not haute cuisine. In a bowl, coat your chopped vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Lay out the vegetables on an oiled baking tray, in one layer. Put in the oven on 200 degrees for 15-minutes.
- To make the couscous, simply pour the vegetable stock over the couscous in a mixing bowl. Leave for a minute or two and then using a fork stir the mixture to separate the grains.
- Once cooked and soft, add the roasted vegetables to the couscous and mix together. Now add you lemon juice and zest, and handful of chopped coriander.
- Season, and serve in a large bowl.
So there you have it! A wonderful set of dishes to entice your guests, without freezing them!