Saturday 20 December 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
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.

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.

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