Barbecues, Celebrations And Holidays, Fire Pits, Gary, Outdoor Living, Recipe

There is more to putting on a great barbeque  than just a fancy grill and some burgers. A truly great garden party that even the host can enjoy is made in the preparation. Make the process a lot easier with these top tips. 

 

Consider a theme 

Organising your party around a theme is a surefire way to get your ideas flowing. It’ll make it more memorable for your guests whilst also making it much easier to plan. Some ideas could include:

  • Tropical holiday
  • Street party
  • Staycation

 

Decorate 

Whether you have a theme or not, decorating the garden will help you set the atmosphere you want. When decorating consider the following: 

Accessories –  just like with your living room, it’s the small touches that make the biggest difference. Cushionsoutdoor rugs and small decorative features will go a long way to completing the look and feel you want

Lighting – if your family and friends like to gather and natter for a long time then some well-chosen lighting will help give your evening a more relaxed atmosphere or help you keep celebrating for longer. There are plenty of options available.

Heating – in the summer, it’s easy to be in the garden for most of the evening, but if you want to use your social space year-round then you might need to invest in some outdoor heating for when the evenings get chilly. There are plenty of options for heating your garden from upright patio heaters to parasol or wall-mounted heaters. If you want to add some atmosphere, consider a fire pit or chiminea.

 

Seating

Do you have enough space for everyone? It’s not ideal to have people perched all over the place when you are trying to have a good time, it always ends up with dropped food and people scattered everywhere. If you entertain a lot then it might be worth getting yourself a full set, but if it’s less regular then a few stacking or folding chairs you can store in the shed are a great option. 

Never Underestimate a Paddling Pool

They are much more useful than for just splashing about in. If put in a shaded area they become a great way for keeping all your drinks cool.

Do you have everything you need? 

If you have your grill, coals or gas and some buns ready, then you might think you have all you need to get barbequing, not quite. Your household utensils might not be good enough for the job. Buying a set of dedicated BBQ tools is a good idea, as is making sure you have everything else, like bottle openers and plates/cups ready too.

Plan A Menu 

 You don’t want to run out of food halfway through your party and end up with half burgers in a bun. Before you start, write a list of exactly how much food you might need, and stick to it. If you plan long enough in advance you will have time to marinade all your meats and get your prep down as well as plan what you’re going to cook when. If you want some menu inspiration why not check out our blog post  on how to cook the perfect barbeque menu

Don’t Forget Sides & Sauces

 Avoid last-minute rushes by planning your sides beforehand and getting them on your shopping list. Stuck for ideas? Here’s our basic breakdown of the ideal garden party and barbeque 

 

Barbecues, Celebrations And Holidays, Charlie, Events

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

The 5th of November occupies a special place in the cultural memory of England. While it might superficially seem like a fun and innocent occasion where children toast marshmallows and fireworks displays are put on both in public and private to numerous oohs and ahhs, this actually belies the fact that the tradition is rooted in deep sectarian divisions that run through modern British history and that persist even to this day.


Unlike many other festivals, the celebration of Bonfire Night, or “Gunpowder Treason Day”, as it was originally known, is not rooted in any ancient tradition – but firmly in the bitter religious conflicts of the Early Modern Period between those who were loyal to the new Church of England with the Crown at its head and those who remain faithful to the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Church on the continent. Specifically the failed coup of 1605, led by Robert Catesby which famously employed Guy Fawkes, an experienced military specialist, to blow up the houses of Parliament while they were in session.

The plan was forged after the Catholic nobility in England felt badly let down by James I as they had hoped for at least a softening of the stringent anti-catholic position of his predecessor, Elizabeth I, and that he would rule England as he had ruled Scotland – with (for the time) a remarkable amount of religious toleration. In fact, very little changed with James I’s ascension to the throne. It was at this point that Catesby and his co-conspirators decided to take action. The aim was not only to kill king James I but also most of his Privy Council and thus in the same fell swoop to destroy most of the noble and clerical opposition to Catholic rule. The plan was then to kidnap and install the king’s eldest daughter, who was nine years old at the time, as the titular catholic monarch with support from a popular rebellion in the midlands, where the old faith still had many adherents, as well as presumed support from the Catholic powers on the continent.

Of course this plan failed, when Guy Fawkes was discovered and eventually gave up details of the plot after several days of torture. Soon evolved a day of thanksgiving for the protection of king, realm and church, with effigies of, not guy fawkes, but the pope being burned on bonfires, such was the virulent anti-papist sentiment that surrounded the celebration. The burning of Guy Fawkes in place of the pope is in fact a far more modern twist on the event, starting in the latter 18th or early 19th century, when traditional English bigotry against Roman Catholics fell into decline. In fact, much like our national anthem, the original rhyme commemorating the event is now often shortened to remove the sectarian elements:

   Remember, remember!

   The fifth of November,

   The Gunpowder treason and plot;

   I know of no reason

   Why the Gunpowder treason

   Should ever be forgot!

   Guy Fawkes and his companions

   Did the scheme contrive,

   To blow the King and Parliament

   All up alive.

   Threescore barrels, laid below,

   To prove old England’s overthrow.

   But, by God’s providence, him they catch,

   With a dark lantern, lighting a match!

   A stick and a stake

   For King James’s sake!

   If you won’t give me one,

   I’ll take two,

   The better for me,

   And the worse for you.

   A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,

   A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,

   A pint of beer to wash it down,

   And a jolly good fire to burn him.

   Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!

   Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!

   Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!


It must be remembered that throughout much of the early modern period in England, there was a continual threat of invasion from the Catholic powers on the continent who were keen, at the pope’s behest, to re-establish the old faith in England, often supported by loyalists to the Church of Rome in England itself. Central to these fears was the existence of the Jesuit missionaries to England who risked life and limb to minister to those in England still loyal to the old faith. The Jesuits were singled out for special abhorrence because of their loyalty to the Pope, even to this day Jesuits must swear a special oath of loyalty to the Roman Pontiff along with their regular vows, and indeed the coup of 1605 was sometimes known as the “Jesuit Treason”, owing to Jesuit priests being confessors to many of the conspirators – though historians question how actively they were involved with the plot itself.

Gunpowder Treason Day was formally celebrated by the state almost immediately with the passing of the observance of the 5th of November Act of 1605. Throughout various periods in English history the celebrations took on differing tones, but always with a strong anti-papist sentiment throughout, as the act itself set out “many malignant and devilish Papists, Jesuits, and Seminary Priests, much envying and fearing, conspired most horribly…” thus cementing a strong anti-catholic current in English culture. It was one of the few national celebrations to survive the Republican period of Oliver Cromwell, whose virulent puritanism famously led him to cancel Christmas, but festivities around Bonfire Night were still permitted due to the strong anti-Catholic message it sent out.


Another important historical event in the history of Bonfire Night was the Glorious Revolution. Some 80 years on from the 1605 coup attempt, William of Orange in conjunction with Parliament successfully staged a coup to remove James II from the throne – after he had not only secretly converted to Roman Catholicism, but also produced a male heir. James II also attempted to ban bonfires and fireworks on the 5th November, ostensibly because of the fire risk, but many felt it was because of his objection to the burning of the Pope’s effigy. This ban was largely ignored and indeed his conversion ignited ever more anti-papist fervour amoung much of the population. William of Orange landed on English soil to become William III of England, coincidentally, on the 5th of November 1688. His birthday was also on the 4th November and he decreed a “double celebration” for his happy arrival and the “Deliverance of the Church and Nation” and so the celebrations around the 5th November become even stronger.

William of Orange

As time progressed, the celebration of the 5th November became ever more a cultural celebration for the lower classes – an opportunity for mischief and to pit disorder against order. The famous bonfire of Lewes was reported to be an excuse for annual rioting and much of the original meaning was lost. While the restoration by the Pope of the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales, following on from Catholic Emancipation, saw a resurgence of anti-papist sentiments surrounding the day, with the new Catholic Bishops and the Pope being burned in effigy in Southwark, by this time effigies of the Pope had largely been replaced by effigies of Guy Fawkes and the term “Guy Fawkes Day” rather than “Gunpowder Treason Day” had begun to stick. Finally in 1859, the Observance of the 5th November act was repealed, and the anti-papist thanksgiving prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was removed.

However many of the sentiments of Bonfire Night live on to this day and throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many popular hate figures were burned in effigy as part of celebrations: The Tsar of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II, women’s suffragists and, more recently, David Cameron and Theresa May were burned as part of the famous Lewes Bonfire. In a twist on the cultural memory of the event, Guy Fawkes has counter-intuitively become a cult anti-establishment hero, with the popular Graphic Novel and film “V for Vendetta”, and many don his mask to protest against the excesses of Capitalism and Government. Whilst at the same time, marketing campaigns by fireworks manufacturers have largely been successful in getting the 5th November to be called fireworks night, and indeed fireworks are now often the main draw of the event.

In conclusion, whilst this celebration may be steeped in old sectarian divisions, it has largely lost its original meaning – though there are notably parts of the United Kingdom where Guy Fawkes day still resonates with the old sectarian conflicts. The festival itself has also been overshadowed by the modern celebration of halloween, with its similar excuse for riotous disorder. Many suggest that there are are also superficial similarities between it and other festivals that occur at the same time of year, such as the Hindu festival of Diwali – the festival of lights, which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Largely it is now a good excuse for gathering round the bonfire or firepit, toasting some marshmallows and enjoying the burning of whatever national hate figure has irked you for that particular year.

Some of the Primrose Staff Enjoying a Bonfire

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

See all of Charlie’s posts.

 

Barbecues, Fire Pits, Gary, How To, Recipe

Cooking on firepits

It’s been a long hot summer, and we’ve been rushing to rescue our barbecues from the depths of the shed. With the heatwave finally on its way out, but a warm autumn predicted we have a few more weeks of pink sausages and overcooked burgers to look forward to. But does the barbeque risk becoming a bit – samey? Is it time for a new way of cooking outdoors? Perhaps one that has been sitting there unnoticed all along – the humble fire pit.

The Pit vs the BBQ

The BBQ is as synonymous with a British summer as ice pops and Wimbledon. So, why would we want to change this staple of our year ?

It all comes down to adaptability- the pit is not only a way of cooking, it’s a social experience. You might just want to bask in its glow with a bottle of wine. On some nights, You might want to invite the family round and cook over the open fire – on the best nights you’ll do both. Cooking over an open fire is an inherently social and primal experience that lends itself perfectly to a party where everyone sits, talks and cooks their own food.

The versatility of food you can cook on a firepit is impressive. Anything that can be cooked over a grill can be cooked on a firepit and if your pit comes with a lid you open up the world of roasting. You can also sear steak, hot dogs, and burgers over the fire as well as throwing a pan over the flames to fry seafood, vegetables and more. Some fancier pits will come with a rotisserie bar which allows you to cook whole poultry and game-birds and if your pit is big enough – suckling pig and lamb.

Sausages
by NPS Photo / Mackenzie Reed

The Basics

Cooking on a fire pit is probably alien to a lot of people. It’s not something we are used to doing, and it can be daunting to consider learning a whole new way of cooking and everything that comes with it. If you are willing to give it a go you are in for a culinary treat, but as with all forms of cooking there are a few rules that need to be followed:

Keep Water Nearby – This one may seem obvious, but it always worth reiterating. Open flames can be very dangerous and unpredictable, you may have pets and children to consider and some wood has a habit of spitting. Make sure that you always keep a bucket of water within easy reach of the pit just in case of accidents.

Prepare the Fire Correctly – The instinct may be to begin cooking as soon as you see flames, don’t do this. The ideal fire for cooking over will be mainly made up of hot coals and a few logs of burning wood. Light the fire and wait for 30-40 mins for the fire to burn down and the coals to start glowing – this is when it’s ideal to cook on.

Use the Right Fuel – The best fuel for fire pit cooking is a combination of coal and wood. The coals will be your main heat producer and can be bought from specialist retailers. Your choice of wood will decide flavour: If possible, use shop-bought almond, cherry, hickory or mesquite wood for the best burn time and flavour. If you can’t find these near you charcoal can be used as a substitute. Do not use artificial firestarters or logs.

Use the Right Equipment – Your new outdoor kitchen will need some equipment before you get started. If you are planning on a more traditional selection of food then this toolset is a fun place to start. However, if you want to be a bit more adventurous then this Dutch oven cooking set is ideal.

The Cooking

So, both you and the fire are prepared; the beer is cold and the family are nattering – it’s time to cook. As soon as the coals are red hot you’re ready to go. But how do we actually go about cooking on the pit?

Grilling

Grilling

The firepit can still be used to cook our garden party faves, this familiar way of cooking is the best place to start since you already know the basic timings and method. Some fire pits will come with a grill, but you can buy grill racks to fit over the top of your pit. Another option is to lay out the raw ingredients and let your guests cook their own food in a grill basket – it frees you up to host and provides a bit of theatre and socialisation to the evening.

Skewering

We ’ve all seen it in the films – people toasting marshmallows on a stick over a fire. This quintessential camping practice is a great way to end an evening and get the conversation flowing. But smores are not the only thing you can cook with a skewer. Sausages are a given but small chunks of meat and veg are also great when cooked like this. This method of cooking is simple, you need nothing but the skewer – just make sure it’s metal.

Roasting Marshmallows
By cyrusbulsara from Flickr under CCBY2.0

Pot Cooking

This kind of cooking requires the most equipment, but really expands the repertoire of what can be made. With the right recipe, you can be cooking a variety of foods that would not be possible on a barbecue. This method is best utilised with one-pot dishes like stews or curries and is a homely way of serving pre-made dishes whilst keeping them warm.

Cooking in the pot can be done in a few ways:

For keeping food warm or slow cooking. Hanging your pot from a tripod is the best option – You keep the heat constant and serving is easy (this is a great way of making and serving mulled wine). Or, if your fire is cool enough you can put the pot directly on the coals.

Pot over fire
by Roland Balik, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

For frying – Put a pan or pot on the grill and cook as normal.

For faster cooking dishes – Rake the coals and wood to one side of the firepit, and put your pot in the empty space. This is a good method for dishes that require boiling.

You can really let your imagination be free with this one. If you have a Firepit Table or a spare pan, why not have fondue for afters, or bake bread on a quiet weekend.

Spit Roasting

This way of cooking has been around for over 8,000 years and strips cookery back to its core – fire and meat. Yes, it can be time-consuming, but as soon as you take the first bite of tender, slightly smoked chicken you’ll never want to go back to the oven. Spit roasting can be a complex way of cooking but guides can be found online.

Glazed Duck
Image source

Most firepits won’t be big enough to do a full hog roast, but some get close. You will get your best results from poultry and game birds to start off with, but as your confidence and skills grow you can attempt small suckling pigs and larger birds like turkey. Just remember to turn the spit regularly and adhere to standard roasting times and you’ll be fine.

Cooking on the firepit needn’t be something to fear or shy away from, and this is just a very basic guide on how to start. Once you gain confidence you will keep finding new ways to push your skills. Cooking on a pit is great but they are also great ways to just relax in your garden. For whatever reason a firepit may appeal to you Primrose has you covered.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

Barbecues, Garden Furniture, Guest Posts, How To

A beautiful garden is something every outdoor lover should have. And while spring is approaching, it is the perfect time to start getting your garden ready for entertaining. If you want to enjoy your garden comfortably and be a host your guests will remember, check out these tips.

entertaining in garden

1. What Is the Occasion?

Are you planning an intimate dinner with your closest friends and family, or perhaps you are inviting your coworkers to discuss business strategies on a Sunday afternoon?

The occasion determines the type of guests that are coming, and you should make plans according to them; after all, you want to impress and entertain them. Once you think about the occasion and the people that are arriving, you can move on to other things.

2. Determine the Style

Before you decide on seating and decor, you should probably determine the style of your garden even if you never set one before. Rozzane & Friends suggest the following styles: Japanese, modern, Mediterranean, eco-friendly and so forth. This choice can be based on your personal style, occasion and budget. Regardless what your choice is, make sure that you can arrange everything, and if this is your first time doing it, perhaps going with something simple is the best choice.

4. Seating

Now that you took care of the “abstract” things it’s time to become practical and decide on accommodation; after all, your guests will probably want to sit somewhere, especially after they have a couple of drinks. Homify suggests a patio because it usually comes with a table, four to six chairs (depending on your choice) and a parasol.

Furthermore, make sure that the seating is aligned with the style (if you decided on one). If you do not have a particular style in mind, then make sure that everything fits in the overall environment of the garden.

garden decor

5. Decor

Your guests have the food, the drinks and are in their seats; now you want to focus on the atmosphere. Believe it or not, a single rock can change the way you perceive a place, so you can start decorating by adding some stones in your garden.

Again you have to think about the style. Do you want to create a calm or rustic atmosphere? Will your garden be a place of peace (which gardens usually are) or you want to breathe more life into it by adding colourful figurines or decorative lights? If it is a party, you should try to create a cheerful and friendly atmosphere.

6. Music

Speaking of atmosphere, you will probably want music. As Martha Stewart said, “music can make or break the party.” You do not have to complicate things too much, but you can if you know what you are doing.

Perhaps opting for live music is preferable if you are trying to impress someone. Then again, if you are throwing a casual party for your friends, just play the music of your choice. The benefit of playing your music on your device is that everyone else can pitch in and play the song they want.

7. Activities

What do you have in mind for your guest when it comes to activities? If it is a formal dinner, than conversing and sipping wine is probably all you need to have a pleasant evening.

However, if it is informal, then you can come up with something fun, something. Simple activities dancing or playing Pictionary, can bring things to another level. Again, it all depends on the type of guests that are arriving at your home.

garden activities

8. Enjoy Yourself!

If you do not enjoy the party, then others will not enjoy it. All that planning can tire you so much that you forget to relax and enjoy yourself. If you have problems with planning your party, you can always ask your friends and family to pitch in.

Someone might bring a bottle of sweet wine, while others might bring a dessert with them. The whole purpose of organizing the event is that everyone enjoys it, and that includes you.

Abby DrexlerAbby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for Jackson’s Home & Garden. She regularly produces content for a variety of lifestyle and home blogs.