independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Rozanne Stevens: Planning the perfect BBQ

Friends, food and fun: Take a page out of America's book with a Fourth of July BBQ

The Fourth of July obviously has tremendous historical and cultural significance for America. The massive celebrations surrounding this day have also turned it into one of the biggest dates on the BBQ cooking calendar.

Why not look stateside for some fantastic BBQ entertaining tips? I spoke to Brendan O'Connor from BBQ Joe's, who does BBQ catering for parties and weddings.

With the right preparation and planning, you are set for a fantastic event.

BBQs are the perfect way to feed a crowd, adults and kids alike. You can cook a large quantity of piping hot food efficiently and the BBQ buffet can roll on for hours.

It is far more relaxed than a formal sit-down meal, hence the colloquial phrase 'grill 'n chill'.

Typically, the traditional favourites for a Fourth of July BBQ include potato salad, fresh lemonade, pasta salad, watermelon, hot dogs, potato chips, hamburgers, baked beans, BBQ chicken and a red, white and blue cake for dessert.

This varies from family to family and depends on cultural heritage. For instance, Italian families love proper Italian sausages with peppers and onions. Porterhouse steaks and corn on the cob are other favourites. In the South, the slow-cooked, smoked brisket and pulled pork are legendary.

With so many delicious ideas to choose from, you won't be stuck! These are some top tips for how to plan, prep and host a great Fourth of July BBQ, the American way.

I see a BBQ as a rolling buffet. It should be relaxed and casual and carry on for several hours. But obviously, everyone gets hungry waiting for the meat, which takes much longer to cook, so plan a few quick appetisers.

In South Africa, we BBQ toasted sandwiches of well-buttered, white sliced pan filled with tomato and thinly-sliced onion. You can vary this and use pita pockets or make quesadillas with tortilla wraps.

Hot dogs are an obvious choice, but please try some good local butchers' sausages, not 'mystery meat'.

My other favourites include corn on the cob and wedges of watermelon and pineapple.

You can get creative with crudites of vegetables and fruit served with a dip.

Keep it simple, though, as the host should still enjoy the party and not have to run around like a headless chicken.

Choose easy to grill mains. You can accompany these with sensational sides and salads, but the meat takes the longest to grill and it needs lots of attention. Make your life easier by selecting manageable recipes.

Skewers are a great option for large crowds. They can be assembled ahead of time, are easy to cook and handy to hold and eat. You can choose from a huge range of cuisines and recipes: satay or sticky chicken, harissa lamb, Argentinian beef or spicy tuna skewers.

Vegetarian options – now don't roll your eyes, all you carnivores! It's important to offer a tasty, satisfying vegetarian main.

You can buy good bean or lentil burgers or make your own. I'm also a huge fan of grilled halloumi cheese, which is a Greek cheese that you grill until golden on the outside and melting in the middle.

Be aware that you may need to provide gluten and dairy-free options, too.

For liquid refreshments, the obvious choice is beer, but that is a whole column on its own!

One of my pet projects is creating non-alcoholic coolers. Homemade lemonade is fantastic, as are cordials like elderflower and berry that you mix with sparkling water.

My cooler of choice is iced tea, which is an American favourite, too. In my book, 'Relish BBQ', I have 10 iced tea recipes using different varieties of teas, fruit juices, herbs like mint and lemongrass and frozen berries as ice blocks.

Iced teas look great in large pitchers served in tall glasses with plenty of ice. These are also very thirst-quenching, lower in sugar and free from nasty additives.

For DIY deserts, the Americans have it nailed with s'mores. A toasted marshmallow sandwiched between two biscuits (cookies) with a block of chocolate that melts with the heat of the gooey marshmallow – delish!

Another idea is to create a sundae bar: a selection of ice creams, toppings, fresh fruit, cream, candies and sauces where everyone can create their own ice cream sundae.

For really large parties, you can hire an ice cream van to dole out ice cream cones.

Whatever the occasion, I hope you discover BBQ as a relaxing way to hang out with family and friends, eat good food and enjoy each other.

Useful Contacts:

* brendan@bbqjoes.ie Twitter: @bbq_joes www.facebook.com/bbqjoes

* Recipes are from 'Relish BBQ' by Rozanne Stevens which is available online at www.rozannestevens.com or in most book shops.

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