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 

 

Fire Pits, Gary, How To, Outdoor Living, Recipe

We always look at our gardens as a place to relax and entertain, but when it comes to cooking we always limit ourselves to burgers, sausages and meat on a stick. The barbeque and firepit are essentially an entire kitchen in one place if you use them right so, why not truly bring you life outside with these top tips on cooking great food outdoors no matter the size of your space.  

 

Note: If you have a small balcony or window ledge you can use a disposable barbeque for most of these tips, but please make sure you follow any instructions that come with it carefully and make sure it is properly secured. 

Get Prepared for Cooking Outdoors 

Organisation is the key to successful cooking, and even more so when you are using a Barbeque. So, every time you cook outdoors make sure you follow these steps. 

  1. Remove any old ash 
  2. Clean grill racks or grates 
  3. Oil and preheat your grill grates
  4. Light your charcoal and wait for them to go white 

Once you’re prepared then it’s time to get cooking

Cook with more than Charcoal

Cooking outdoors is remarkably versatile, one way to make your food taste better is to cook over different woods. Not only does this add flavour, but you can cook directly on some woods for a really intense boost. Try grilling halloumi over applewood or a steak over oak and see what results you get. There are plenty of different woods to use, and experimenting with flavour combinations is always fun, and there are some classics you can’t ignore.  Make sure you always use wood you have bought online as it is food safe, and won’t contain any nasty surprises. 

Get the right temperature 

 Just like with your oven, you need to control the heat coming off of your BBQ. The heat you cook over is the defining factor on how a lot of food turns out – too high and your food will become dry or won’t cook through before the outside burns, too low and it might never cook and you won’t get that classic Barbeque char.  Hold your hand about 12cm (5inches) above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably 

6 seconds = low heat – perfect for low and slow cooking,  or keeping things warm. 

4 seconds = medium heat – the ideal temperature for most foods. 

2 seconds = High heat – too hot to cook on

You also need to control the temperature across the grill, this is really easy on a gas barbeque as you just need to turn the temperature down, but a charcoal grill is a bit more difficult, but you have a few options 

 The half and half method –  here,  you put all the coals to one side of your grill, so you have a  hot side and one with no direct heat. Then all you have to do is put food closer to or further away from the coals to control the temperature. 

Move your grill racks  – simply moving your grill closer to or further away from the coals is a simple way of controlling heat if your barbeque allows you to. 

Adjust your airflow – most barbeques come with air vents that allow you to control the airflow over your coals. This will allow you to adjust the heat of your flames. As a general rule of thumb: More air = higher heat. 

Slow cook

The barbeque is a surprisingly versatile piece of kit once you know how to use it, and slow cooking is one of the best cooking methods if you want tender, flavourful food that is hassle-free.  When you slow cook on the barbeque, it doesn’t interrupt your outdoor time and you still get some delicious food. Lots of people slow cook in their daily lives so they don’t have to cook after a long day at work, so why not apply the same to your time in the garden, just place an oven friendly dish into your barbeque away from direct heat and just leave it for a few hours until you’re hungry. You can slow cook anything you usually would or you can just close the lid and make some amazing ribs

Go Meat-Free 

The barbeque is just for meat right? You wouldn’t be saying that if you’ve ever tried halloumi and watermelon skewers. The smoky flavours and quick cooking you get from cooking over a barbeque are great companions for a host of vegetables. Here are some top meat-free recipes to try cooking outdoors.  

Make the most of Marinades

Cooking is all about enhancing the flavours what already exists, and this is done by seasoning your food well. When it comes to the barbeque this is mostly done with a good marinade (a flavoured liquid you soak your food in). The longer you can prepare the marinade and have the food resting in it before you cook the better. Here are a few basic ones for your toolbox. 

Barbeque sauce – Heat: 5 tablespoons tomato ketchup | 2 tablespoons clear honey | 3 tablespoons soy sauce | 3 tablespoons wine vinegar | 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato purée |1 teaspoon salt | 300ml beef stock over medium heat until thickened. Cool and use to marinate your meat 

Honey mustard – whisk together 4 Tbsp  honey   | 4 Tbsp  mayonnaise | 4 Tbsp dijon/ wholegrain  mustard | 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar | 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and use for chicken and pork 

Chinese style –  grate one piece of  fresh ginger and combine with | 4 Tbsp dark soy sauce | 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar | 1 Tbsp rice wine | 1 pinch superfine sugar | 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped | 2 Tbsp honey | 1 tsp five-spice powder

Rest up 

Resting food after you’ve cooked it makes a big difference, especially in meat. It allows flavours to settle and makes the food more tender. When you are cooking on the BBQ you should rest all the meat and veg for at least a minute so any hot spots cool down and to improve the taste. You will quickly find that even your burgers are tasting better. 

Dessert 

People know to cook burgers or kebabs over the grill, but why go back inside when it’s time for pudding. There are plenty of desserts you can cook outdoors on the Barbeque, and the sweet/smokey flavour combination is one that is often overlooked. Here are a few of the best

Roasted Pineapple – Put some sliced pineapple in a tray with 50g butter | 100g brown sugar and cover with tin foil. Put the tray into a medium-hot part of the barbeque for 30 minutes and serve with a cream made of 2 tbsp white rum | 160g coconut cream

Chocolate baked Bananas – cut a slit down one side of the Banana. Put chocolate buttons and marshmallows into the slit and wrap securely in tin foil. Put the package on the embers of the fire for 20 mins.

Barbecued peaches – halve and remove the stones of 4 peaches. Brush with a small amount of vegetable oil and place face down on the grill and cook for 5 minutes or until the surface has char marks. Fill with soft cheese and drizzle with honey and return to the grill until the mixture has warmed through

 

These tips are just scratching the surface of the things you can do when cooking outdoors you can do in your garden, but once you get started it’s difficult to keep the cooking indoors. Once you have the basics done you can start looking into more specialised equipment or even inventing your own recipes – the sky is limitless. For more advice see outpost on cooking on a firepit 

 

We’d love to see what you are cooking in your garden this summer. Let us know on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook

 

 

Gary at PrimroseGary 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.

Gardening Year, Gary, Grow Your Own, How To, Recipe

Humans have been foraging for food since we lived in caves, and the practice was common until the convenience food boom of the mid 1950s. Whilst it can often seem like the days of picking your own produce are consigned to the past, for many of our grandparents it was a necessity in relieving the strain of rationing. With only 50% of Britain’s food now being produced domestically and supermarkets considering discontinuing the sale of many home grown favourites we risk losing some key flavours of our cultural history.

foraging in autumn
Photo by Hedgerow Harvest

The benefits of foraging

It’s a sad fact that in today’s world we have largely lost our connection to nature, but in severing that connection we do harm to ourselves. The rise in obesity rates and in the numbers of those suffering from mental health issues can both be traced to the societal changes of the post-war period. Is foraging the answer to all these problems? No. But being outside has measurable benefits to both physical and mental health and through foraging you can diversify your diet for free.

Foraging correctly

Successful foraging has two basic steps: Identify and pick. These steps are the key to the whole thing and cover your bases in all situations. Identifying things in the wild can be made much easier with guides like Food For Free or Harrap’s Wildflowers, but even then things like mushrooms are best entirely avoided by beginners. The general rule of thumb is: When in doubt, leave it out.

How much to take

It is key to remember that it’s not just you who is after wild food. Always be respectful of local wildlife and try and stick to the 30% rule and only take a third of what’s on offer.

Where to forage

In general, foraging is completely legal in the UK as long as you are doing it on private or common land for personal consumption. You may begin hitting restrictions when it comes to foraging on public land. In general Royal Parks will not allow you to forage in order to protect local biodiversity, and it is best to always check the policy of a public park beforehand just in case. It is likely that you will be foraging for personal consumption so try to avoid picking foods close to busy roads or in farmed land to avoid pesticides and other pollutants.

When to forage & what to bring

Autumn is the best season to be out collecting, you can go out anytime of the day and fields remain stable for most of the season, only declining when the frost start to set in. Just try and avoid foraging immediately after rainfall since the extra moisture can cause rot and mildew in fruit. The basic foragers toolkit is simply: Guide book, wellies, basket (or carrier bag) scissors and gloves, if you begin collecting mushrooms it may be beneficial to get a mushroom knife but beyond that you can kit yourself out with items found around the home.

What to forage

Now for the fun bit, here is a short list of some of the best things to forage this autumn and some ideas of what to do with the bounty you collect.

Damson

The damson is a type of plum with a dark blue flesh and yellow-green flesh. It can be identified by the slightly pointed fruit. The flavour of a damson will vary by variety, but a good guidebook should be able to help you there. You can usually find damsons growing in hedgerows and border hedges, to pick just gently twist them off the stem. Damson can be used to make a wonderfully tart jam or thick wine.

Damsons
Jonathan Billinger/Prunus insititia/CC BY-SA 2.0

Rosehips

A key ingredient in herbal teas, the rosehip is an accessory fruit of the rose plant. They can be found on a rosebush and are best harvested in the late autumn, just after the first frost. To pick them, make sure you wear gloves, grab an entire clump at once and gently pull from the stem. A ripe rosehip will come free easily. Fresh rose hips make a wonderfully tangy tea, and are they key ingredient in Nyponsoppa, a Swedish soup.

rose hips
Max Pixels/Rosehips/CC0 1.0

Crab apples

Common to hedgerows across the country, the crab apple is a sharper tasting version of the apples we are used to and is best used as a cooking apple. Crab apple trees are a common sight and are best harvested in late summer/early autumn. They are as easy to pick as just pulling from the tree. Because of their high pectin levels they are ideal for making refreshing jellies or as a setting agent in items made with low pectin fruit.

Crab Apple
Mike Price / Crab Apples on Clyro Common / CC BY-SA 2.0

Acorns

Oak trees are the most common woodland tree in the UK, and are a common fixture of British folklore. The oak tree produces acorns in the early autumn at a high rate. The acorn is a great source of protein, starch and fats. Acorns are best harvested once they have naturally fallen from the tree, just before to check them before collecting to make sure they are OK. Before cooking with or eating acorns they must be leached in order to remove tannins and other bitter flavours.

Acorn
Chris Radcliff/Acorn/CC BY-SA 2.0

Hazelnut

The nut of the hazel tree is a favourite of many with a sweet tooth, the key ingredient in both praline and many chocolate spreads. The hazel tree is relatively easy to identify and the nut itself is ready to pick as soon the outer husks have yellowed (usually mid-autumn). They are best picked directly from the tree or shook off onto a sheet. The nut itself is very versatile and can be cooked in many ways.

Hazelnut
Simon A. Eugster/Ripe Hazelnut/CC BY-SA 3.0

Elderberries

The elderberry is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world, often cited as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms. These small black berries are ready to pick around early September, as soon as the cluster starts to droop due to the weight of the fruit. To pick, gently remove from the stem. You MUST cook these berries before eating. The elderberry is quite often used in home brewery and can be used to make port, wine or beer and is a versatile ingredient to cook with.

Elderberries
Stephen McKay / Elderberries / CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a small and basic list of things for the beginner to look at foraging for in the next few months. It is best, when starting to collect wild food, that you start slowly and get comfortable with your skill in identifying and harvesting before moving on to other items. With a good guidebook and a few months experience it won’t be long until you are picking a wide variety of foods for free.

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, Fire Pits, Gary, How To, Recipe

Cooking on firepits

It’s been a long hot summer, and we’ve been rushing to rescue our barbeques 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 too. 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 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 barbeque. 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 a 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.