Living in a new-build property has lots of advantages and, generally, I wouldn’t change it for the world. But it has its disadvantages too. Like on those three days a couple of weeks ago when we had that burst of decent weather, and all those energy efficient materials basically turned my little house into a greenhouse.
It was 27 degrees Celcius.
At 10 o’clock at night.
So there we were, Jehane and I, on a Friday night, and the thought of staying indoors to watch telly and eat food was completely unbearable. Poor Stringer had decamped to the living room to work, his iMac balanced precariously on a dining table chair, because heat rises after all. So we decided: why not have a barbecue? Sure, we don’t have a barbecue (I do technically own a state-of-the-art gas-fired one, but it currently lives in my dad’s garden shed since my back garden is basically a driveway) but Tesco sell those wee disposable ones, right? What could possibly go wrong?
In the spirit of sharing, I present to you Last Year’s Girl’s top tips for an impromptu al fresco dining experience. Keep them handy, because they may just come in useful during the next two-day window of nice weather.
1. Raid your local supermarket
Didn’t think to marinade meat overnight (because it was pouring with rain yesterday)? No problem! We were delighted to discover that the big Tesco across the way had an exciting range of meat products clearly aimed at the “casual dining” market, and so into our basket along with the usual burgers and sausages went chorizo and chicken kebabs and the tastiest-looking salt and chilli pork belly slices. Sure, you’re paying a premium for it, but at 6 o’clock on a Friday night you’ll be feeling well proud of yourself.
2. Make a no-frills salad
Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I don’t do coleslaw, potato salads or indeed many of your typical side dishes. What I do love, however, is a simple, fresh salad. Take one punnet of cherry tomatoes, one cucumber, a bell pepper and half a red onion, chop the whole lot into cubes and toss with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, tasty and any leftovers will keep in your fridge for a good couple of days, if you can leave it that long.
3. Discover that all the fancy meat you bought requires oven cooking before you pop it on the barbecue for a final five minutes “for a chargrilled barbecue effect”
You’ll probably discover this only when you think to check the instruction label, after the sausage you put on to ‘test’ your disposable grill shows only signs of light bruising after half an hour. But that tower of flame when the charcoals first caught was so impressive!
4. Pop fancy meat in oven for 25 minutes. Realise that your mini barbecue is as good as out by the time you’re done
What were you actually expecting for £2.50? Bonus points for making your stifling hot house even hotter by putting the oven on though. Well done. Have a drink.
5. Keep a few chilled, summery drinks in the fridge, giving you one less thing to worry about when the sun comes out
Still, if you manage to keep your fridge sufficiently stocked at least that drink will be a cold one.
Cranes cranberry cider* comes in bottles big enough to share, and in three different fruity flavours: cranberry and lime; blueberry and apple; and raspberry and pomegranate. The brewed cranberries create a drink that is naturally sweet without being full of sugar, meaning that Cranes drinks come in at about 30% fewer calories than the brand leaders.
The brand’s founders, twins Ben and Dan Ritsema, are pretty health-conscious and into fitness, and the idea of a cranberry-based cider came to them when they were at university and looking for a pub drink that wasn’t full of sugar. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t drink wine or beer, so this is a bit of a concern for me too since most of my favourite mixers are packed full of the white stuff (I have Strong Feelings about diet drinks, none of them any good).
We were dispensing the drinks into pink unicorn paper cups because obviously, so we noticed right away that they were pretty foamy – in much the same way as, say, a Diet Coke is (there’s scientific basis for this, as I discovered when researching this post). So if you’re planning on splitting a bottle between two, I’d recommend you opt for a larger glass. The cranberry is definitely the overwhelming flavour here while the added fruits are a bit more subtle, so if you’re not a fan of the slightly dry, tangy taste of cranberries you might want to give these a miss. That wasn’t an issue here though, and the raspberry and pomegranate and zesty cranberry and lime varieties went down an absolute treat.
6. Have fun!
So, after all that, will I be planning any more summer barbecues?
Hell to the YES.
(Quick, put the meat on the barbecue and I’ll tell everyone that’s how we cooked it!)
Our night may not have gone entirely as planned, but find me a better Friday night than sitting on the grass outdoors sharing some cold, tasty drinks with my favourite people in the world and I frankly won’t believe you. At least now we know that disposable barbecues are mostly for decoration only – and, who knows, perhaps I’ll invest in one of those wee kettle barbecues for next time around.
Takeaway menus on standby, obviously.
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.