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Yorkshire's foremost foodie and broadcaster (and Farmison's new guest blogger), Annie Stirk, gives her five rules for gorgeous gourmet grilling this summer
This blooming lovely weather has meant one thing for our family: Sizzling food enjoyed alfresco, and, although we never need much of an excuse for a get-together, and that my house becomes barbecue HQ when the weather warms!
But coming from a large family (of seven), barbies could easily be a bane if it wasn't for some serious organisation. Here's my well-honed tips and tricks, whatever the size of your party, for failsafe beautiful bbqs…
1. Fuel for your fire
Gas is great but I prefer hot coals for authentic flavour. Choose British charcoal in bags that have the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark. That way you know it's sustainable, and go smoke-free as it is less likely to annoy the neighbours.
2. Feel the heat
When is the right time to slap on your steaks? You should be able to get your charcoal white hot in around 20-30 minutes - white coals equals cooking coals - and they should burn for more than an hour, so there'll be plenty of time for a second course! I like to throw on some wood chips (try apple, hickory or maple) for extra smoking-hot flavour.
3. Meat of the issue
Whether it's rare breed steaks, chops or speciality sausages, get the meat to room temperature first and let the bigger cuts rest after cooking to tenderize, though be sure to keep them covered and away from curious pets, (our Labrador Sammy loves a juicy steak!) Give the grill a good rub down with oil before you start to create a non-stick surface and cook over heat rather than flames: flames singe while heat cooks.
4. Rub a dub dub
Let meat mingle in a marinade or revel in a rub and your barbecue food will turn from drab to fab in a few hours. I avoid strongly acidic, citrus marinades if I'm planning to steep my steaks (fish or meat) overnight as this hardens the meat and breaks down fish flesh: You want to tenderise not toughen. I love a 'Jamaican jerk' with crushed garlic, sugar, thyme and a mix of nutmeg, ground cinnamon and cayenne, or a marinade of Greek yoghurt, chopped coriander and mint, crushed garlic and chopped fresh chillies. However, my all-time favourite has to be a fantastic Salsa Verde (which literally means green sauce), whipped up in minutes with an array of fresh herbs which are simply superb at the moment. It's great served with BBQ'd or roasted meat or fish.
5. Sensational shoots and roots
It doesn't have to be all about the meat; make the main event barbecued veg or fruit and you'll not only have a healthier barbecue but veggie friends will love you for it. I like to cut tofu and haloumi into bite-sized blocks and thread them onto a skewer with mixed veg (peppers, courgette, mushrooms etc) in a marinade of coconut milk, sesame oil, sugar, lime and coriander. Or, scoop out beef tomatoes and stuff with lemony cous cous pitted with raisins and pine nuts, wrapped in foil to cook. Grilled peaches, pears and pineapple slices or chunks, doused in melted butter and brown sugar are a hit with all the kids - but you can add a shot of Grand Marnier to this too for a decadent adults-only dessert!