*How to Host the Best Ever Barbecue

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So far it’s been a summer of Barbecues; the weather’s been so beautiful here in Wales (I mean who’d have thunk it?) that we’ve had or been to one practically every weekend.  I’m not complaining!  I LOVE a good barbecue, and over the weekend we hosted yet another one in our back garden, thanks to the lovely people at Marks and Spencer who recently sent me an email asking if I’d like to try some of their goodies for the grill.

So, having put a few successful barbecues under my belt this summer (literally, you should see my waist line…), here are my top ten tips for hosting the best ever barbecue. 🙂


1. Fire up the Grill at 3pm

There’s nothing better than banging barbecue weather, but standing next to the grill at midday – when the sun is blazing overhead – will have you melting faster than that slice of Monterey Jack crowning your burgers.  Spare a thought for your grill jockey and get the grill going at 3pm instead when it’s cooler and shadier.  It’ll also give you plenty of time in the morning to prepare the food and set up. 🙂

2. Keep your set up simple

The last thing you want to be doing when the whole neighbourhood is squeezed into your back garden is rushing around making sure everyone’s got plates, ketchup, napkins etc…  The best way to host a stress-free barbecue is to make sure people can help themselves to whatever they need, whenever they need it.  Create a “Pimp Your Hotdog” stand where all the sauces, buns and garnishes can be found, and set up another space for plates, forks (no one uses knives at barbecues!) and napkins.

When it comes to decorating, keep it simple!  Brightly-coloured streamers and pom poms will look great when there’s a breeze, while fairy or pontoon lights will keep the party going when the sun goes down.  Oh, and don’t forget a couple of citronella candles and wasp traps to keep those stinging party poopers at bay.

3. Serve Pitcher-friendly Drinks

Aside from bottled beers and cans shoved in a massive ice bucket, pitcher-friendly drinks are a great way to serve up some fancier drinks that everyone can help themselves to. Plus, they’re easy to prep and make up beforehand.  I served up these Peach, Apricot and Raspberry Floats over the weekend and they went down a treat!  Just smear some glasses with raspberry coulis and pop them in the fridge or freezer, then make up a jug of the Peach and Apricot Fizz.  Serve up with a hefty blob of frozen yoghurt and garnish with some raspberries and mint.  Yum!


4. Something to Keep Pets Entertained

Bungle is an absolute nightmare when he’s out in the garden.  He digs holes, chews on the plants and just generally likes to cause trouble.  So, when we’re having a barbecue making sure there’s plenty to keep him (and his friends!) entertained is a must.  First things first, make sure there’s fresh water handy and somewhere for furry guests to cool down – whether that’s a shady area or a massive paddling pool is up to you, but be warned, if you pick the paddling pool then you’re going to get showered with shake off!  Make sure there are plenty of toys out, as well as a few treats handy. I like to make Bungle his very own cup of frozen yoghurt with chopped up bits of cheese and sausage.  They’re super easy to make and he goes absolutely mad for them (…plus they keep him out of trouble for a good half hour…).


5. Serve up the *Best Ever Burgers

I mean, can you even call a barbecue a barbecue if you don’t serve up some show-stopping burgers?  Especially here in Wales; according to statistics we consumed 180,000 M&S burgers in the last 12 months – that’s enough to fill the Principality Stadium to capacity twice over!  You all know how much I love Marks and Spencer when it comes to barbecue food; their Posh Dogs make the best hot dogs (and you all know how fussy I am when it comes to Hot Dogs, right?).  Well, now they’ve taken the Grill Crown once again with their Best Ever Burgers.  Apparently, the M&S boeffins (see what I did there?) spent a whole year creating the recipe, playing around with different cuts until they came up with a juicy patty that’s got a little bit of added bone marrow for an extra hit of flavour.  (M&S is also the only national retailer in the UK that can trace every single bit of beef it sells in store, right down the exact cow that provided it.)  We served them up on the weekend with fresh salad, fried red onion rings, beef tomatoes, bacon (phwoar…), some Cheddar and Balsamic Burger Melts and a hefty smudge of Smoky Onion Relish and they were a huge hit.  Sunny grilled them to perfection on the BBQ and when he asked my brother and I how they were, we just nodded and mmmmm’d with warm juice drizzling down our wrists.  Oh yes.  We may have sneaked a few before everyone arrived… 👌


6. Something for the Veggies

But why should us rampant carnivores have all the fun, eh?  Veggies like my Mum love a barbecue too.  There are plenty of great vegetarian dishes you can cook up on the grill, from stuffed peppers and mushrooms, to these spicy halloumi kebabs drizzled with hot mango salsa.  Just remember to make extra because you can bet everyone else is going to want to have a couple too.  And remember, depending on how strict your veggies are, you might want to have a separate grill or disposable barbecue handy to prevent cross contamination.

7. Pick Simple Sides

No one wants to faff around cooking up fancy sides in the middle of a barbecue, so pick a handful of recipes that you can make ahead of time.  Plenty of salad, grilled sweet corn and chips are always easy to make up and go down well.  I like making these baked new potato wedges with my Chilli and Red Pepper Jam and chopped chives.

8. Don’t forget to serve up something sweet!

But make sure it’s not going to sweat in the heat!  Ice lollies and ice cream are great if you’ve got somewhere to store them where guests can come and go as they please, but there are lots of other options too.  Why not whip up a very messy Eaton Mess, or serve up some cake with plenty of fresh berries and ice cold cream? 🙂

9. Evening Games

I went to a barbecue recently where we played musical chairs, no kidding!  We’d all had a bit to drink by that point, and what started off as a game to entertain the kids turned into an adults only duel to the death.  It was hilarious!  Once everyone’s had their fill of food, it’s great to have some after dinner games to entertain everyone while the grill cools and the sun goes down.

10. Make the Cleanup a Doddle

“Let’s host a barbecue, it’ll be great!”  And it is, until everyone goes home and you’re left to scrub grease off the grill and clear up all those bottles (and the mud and grass that the dog’s trodden in through the kitchen…).  Make life easier for yourself and clean up as you go along or consider serving food up on paper plates to cut down on the late night washing up.  Also close doors to rooms indoors that you want to keep clean and tidy; that way guests won’t get lost and leave you with extra spots to scrub up at the end of the day.

How many Barbecues have you had or been to this summer?  I think we’re up to about ten and honestly, I could easy go for at least ten more 😉  Massive thanks to Marks and Spencer for all the glorious food! 🍔

Piña Colada Pavlova

It was my Mum’s birthday over the weekend and since we’re still in the middle of a heatwave I decided to do something a little bit different instead of baking the ol’ tried and true sponge cake.  If there’s one thing I remember about dinners in my house as a kid, it was the prepacked meringue nests my Mum used to buy from Sainsbury’s to make impromptu pavlova for afters (sorry, Mum, I know… I meant “pudding”).  So I thought I’d give it a go from scratch and make a pina colada flavoured one complete with pineapple curd, coconut cream and a healthy splash of rum.

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Pina Colada Pavlova

Ingredients

For the Curd:

  • 80g butter
  • 80ml pineapple juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks (keep the whites, you’ll need those later!)
  • 2 tsp cornflour

For the Meringue Layers:

  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

For the Cream:

  • 300ml Double Cream
  • 100ml coconut syrup
  • 100ml rum
  1. To make the curd, whisk together your eggs, sugar and cornflour in a pot and then transfer onto the hob.  Warm everything up on a low heat, adding your pineapple juice and butter.  Make sure you stir slowly but constantly to prevent it sticking or scrambling.  After 10 minutes the mixture will thicken and look a little bit like custard.  Take it off the heat and leave it to cool.
  2. To make your meringue layers, whisk together your 4 egg whites, gradually adding the caster sugar and cornflour.  Once you’ve got nice stiff peaks, whisk in the vinegar – that’s going to give you a nice crispy meringue on the outside whilst keeping it nice and gooey in the middle.
  3. Spread them out on a lined baking tray, smoothing them into disks and then bake in the oven for an hour at 120°.  Leave to cool.
  4. Once you’re ready to assemble (and eat; meringue’s hate moisture and as soon as you pile them with cream they’re going to crack and then go soggy), whip up your double cream with the coconut syrup and rum and then sandwich it in between the meringue layers with the pineapple curd.  Top with chopped pistachios if you want to be fancy 😉

Tada!  I decided to give Instagram TV a go the other day, so you can catch a video of me making this recipe over there.  It was my first attempt at making a video with a voiceover, so let me know what you think! 🙂

 

French Toast Four Ways

I’m a sucker for a bit of French Toast on a Saturday Morning.  Simple and satisfying, it’s something I tend to whip up when I fancy eating something a bit special on the weekend, but can’t be bothered to put in the arm work.  I like to use brioche bread when I make mine, whisk some cinnamon into the mix and egg mix before I dunk, and then sprinkle with plenty of powdered sugar.  Buuuuuut, the classic cinnamon and powdered sugar combo can get a boring after a while.  So, if you fancy trying something a bit different, here are four ways to mix things up and make your French Toast a lil’ bit extra.

1. Go Savoury

French Toast doesn’t HAVE to be a sweet thang.  Instead of the cinnamon and powdered sugar, mix it up with some paprika, chopped chives and hot sauce instead.  There are plenty of toppings you could try with this one; add some bacon, mushrooms, cheese, roasted tomatos… the possibilities are endless.

2. Stuff it/Sandwich it

Instead of just dunking one slice of bread or brioche, why not dunk two at a time with something tasty sandwiched between?  Again, the possibilities are endless with this one; I like making a bit of Bakewell Tart flavoured one by sandwiching jam and almond butter together and topping it off with some flaked almonds and dried cherries.  You could sandwich them with peanut butter, nutella, or you could even go savoury with cheese.  Yum!

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3. Batter it

This is genius.  Once you’ve dunked your french toast into the milk and egg mix, add a crunchy coating by dunking it in a bowl full of crushed cereal.  The result is essentially battered French Toast – how awesome is that? I like to use Frosties, but you could literally use any cereal you fancy.  Coco Pops?  Go for it.  Cheerios?  Why the hell not?!

4. Top it

Another really easy way to play around with your French Toast is to top it off with something special.  You could use strawberries, or smashed avocado on savoury ones, but personally I love me some grilled peaches, praline and a hefty blob of whipped cream.

What’s your favourite French Toast recipe?  Let me know in the comments!  Have a fab weekend you guys! 🙂

Lavender Cream Cookies

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Whenever I see lavender flavoured things I get Kimmy Schmidt in my head protesting that “Lavender isn’t a flavour, it’s a smell!!!”  And that’s true, you’re more likely to find lavender in my face cream than in my kitchen.  But you know what?  I kind of like it.  It’s not a strong taste – it’s pretty subtle – but it’s there, and pairs really well with vanilla and lemon.  A few weeks ago I made a honey cake for my Dad’s birthday and finished it off with a layer of lavender icing, which, I’ve gotta admit, was probably the best bit (icing’s always the best bit 🙂 ).  Anyway, I had some leftover, so I thought I’d sandwich it between two vanilla, oatmeal cookies.

Lavender Creams

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 100g Butter
  • 100g Dark Brown Sugar
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100g Porridge Oats
  • 200g Plain Flour

For the cream:

  • 300g Icing Sugar
  • 150g Salted Butter
  • Dash of Vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Lavender Flavouring (Make sure you buy edible lavender flavouring, you can’t just squirt in some lavender oil!)
  • A couple of drops of purple food colouring.
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 and line a clean baking tray.
  2. Cream together your butter, brown sugar and caster sugar until it’s nice and creamy, then beat in the eggs – adding them one at a time.
  3. Throw in all the dry ingredients and stir together until well combined.  Spoon the mixture in blobs onto the baking tray (try and make sure you’ve got an even number) and bake for about 10 minutes until the edges turn golden brown.  Leave to cool.
  4. While the cookies are cooking, make up your lavender filling by creaming together your icing sugar, butter and flavourings.
  5. Once the cookies are out of the oven, pair them up and then sandwich together with the lavender cream in the middle. 🙂

Have a lovely week everyone! X

“I haven’t got time for breakfast” Breakfast Burritos

Hey there Monday, here we go again!  So come on then, hands up; who hit the snooze button a few too many times this morning?  Did you have that sudden panic roll out of bed when you realised how late it was?  Did you fog your hair with dry shampoo because you didn’t have time for a shower?  Did you leave a cold cup of tea on the kitchen counter and decide to skip breakfast?

We’ve all had one of those mornings.  So, here’s something to keep in the bottom drawer of your freezer for next time!  I love making these Breakfast Burritos when I’ve got a bit of time on the weekend.  You can put whatever you like inside them, then just wrap them in foil and freeze them for the next time you need breakfast on the go!  Just take off the wrapping and whack them in the microwave for five minutes with a cup of water (nifty trick to keep the tortilla nice and soft 😉 ).  Boom.

Veggie Breakfast Burritos (with Halloumi)

Ingredients

  • 6 Large Tortilla Wraps
  • 1 Large diced Baking Potato
  • 1 Diced Red Romano Pepper
  • 150g Mexican Beans Mix
  • 1 Tin of Chopped Tomatos
  • 1 Block of Halloumi, diced
  • 50g Chopped Coriander
  • 50g Smoked Paprika
  • 4 Eggs
  • 100ml Milk
  • Your favourite grated cheese
  • Butter to grease
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Boil up the potatoes in salted water until they’re just on the cusp of softening (about 15 minutes), then drain.
  2. Add the potatoes, pepper, tomatoes, beans and halloumi into a large saucepan.  Fry on a medium heat with paprika and a little butter for about half an hour until all the flavours have combined, then stir in the chopped coriander and remove from the heat.
  3. In a separate pan, whisk together the milk and eggs with a little butter, then scramble!  Stir into the cooked burrito mix, along with the grated cheese and then share equally between your six tortillas.
  4. I like to wrap them in foil and then freeze or refrigerate them until I’m ready to eat them.  You can heat them up in the oven in around 30 minutes if you’ve got time, or remove the foil and blitz in the microwave.

Can you believe it’s June already?  Yikes!  Have a great week, whatever you’re up to! 🙂