Notwithstanding the vagaries of the British weather, July and August are the warmest months of the year, with the most sunshine, and the best time to hold a barbecue party. However, before you don your apron and fire up the coals, give some thought to who you’ll invite, what you’ll serve them and how you’ll decorate your garden or patio.
A traditional barbecue inevitably involves meat and high quality cuts of meat, cooked on a low heat, will produce the best results. Marks and Spencer, for example, offer an excellent selection of barbecue food, including thick cut ribeye and sirloin steaks, brisket, ribs, burgers and sausages, not to mention coleslaw, crudités, dips and prepared salads. Waitrose, too, have some inspired barbecue meat offerings, such as the so-called tomahawk steak, a British beef steak taken from the rib, but left on the bone, or long ribs, which are left longer than traditional short ribs for dramatic effect. These cuts are best prepared by cooking in the oven first and finishing on the barbecue.
Of course, not everybody eats meat, so make sure you find out dietary requirements, including food allergies, from your guests well ahead of time and incorporate them in your plans. Thankfully, nowadays, a plethora of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options – including the ubiquitous veggie burger – are available, so there’s no need to hold back on food for non meat-eaters in your party.
You’ll also need a selection of cold drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, so that you cater for designated drivers and teetotallers, as well as party animals. Beer is an essential ingredient and a summer punch – such as Pimm’s fruit cup, lemonade, chopped cucumber, oranges, strawberries and mint leaves – may also prove popular. If you want to create a celebratory feel nothing does it better than the sweet taste of champagne. If your afraid of breaking the bank you can find offers on champagne online at reasonable prices or just go for cheaper alternatives such as prosecco and cava. A simple champagne cocktail great for summer events can be made by placing a sugar cube in a chilled champagne flute, then add a few dashes of bitters such as Angostura and then fill the glass up with champagne (or prosecco or cava) finished off with a squeeze of lemon. A portable ice chest, or cool box, can be useful for keeping bottled and canned drinks cold and within easy reach, not to mention dissuading your guests from traipsing back and forth to your refrigerator.
As far as decoration for your barbecue is concerned, you should try to create a casual, cosy feel, perhaps with a hint of whimsy or romance. Adorning your garden or patio with fabric party banners, buntings and garlands can go a long way to creating the atmosphere, while brightly coloured, fresh flowers are inexpensive, but effective, table decorations. A menu chalkboard can also be a stylish and functional addition. If your barbecue party continues after dark, you’ll need extra lighting, but you can choose from outdoor candles, lamps, lanterns and torches – or even solar powered, coloured paper orbs – to create the desired ambience. You might also like to think about an outdoor heater to keep your guests warm when the last glowing embers of your barbecue have burnt out. Online retailers and shopping websites, such aseBay, are a good source of decorative barbecue items, as are High Street home improvement specialists Homebase.