Let’s Take It Outside: Alfresco Dining Guide
Summer is fast approaching and with the longer evenings and warmer weather looming into view, many of you will be thinking ahead to blissful evenings spent barbecuing, drinking wine and socialising outdoors with friends and family. If that sounds like you but you’re a tad worried about successfully pulling off the perfect barbecue or outside dining soiree, read on as we’ve some handy alfresco dining tips right here for you.
Tonight, we dine…IN THE GARDEN!
It’s very tempting just to buy a load of sausages, burgers, and a whopping great bag of charcoal, then head out into the garden and crack on with preparing a meaty feast for your guests. Before you don that novelty apron though, it’s important to do a bit of preparation, not least in relation to the food. Before you start planning any alfresco get-together, you should ensure that the area hosting the shindig is fit for purpose.
It’s likely that your patio, decking or lawn has endured the cold, wet winter and is looking a tad forlorn. Bringing them back to life and transforming them into fitting settings for eating, drinking and socialising isn’t a massive task however – just follow the advice on patio cleaning and lawn care from our pals over at Stretch Hose a few weeks ahead of your barbecue or garden party and your designated party area will be in pristine condition.
Setting the scene
Once you’ve got your garden or patio up to scratch you should start to think about making your guests comfortable. Given the unpredictable nature of the British weather, we recommend setting up a gazebo. They’re relatively inexpensive for the level of use you’ll get out of them and not only do they provide cover if it does rain, but can also be easily decorated with fairy lights to create a relaxed atmosphere.
Wood-burners are a canny investment too – they’ll keep your guests comfortable long after the sun has gone down and the charcoal embers have been extinguished. To top things off, a few scatter cushions and cosy blankets will add to the relaxed atmosphere and some tea-lights filled with citronella oil and dotted around the table will keep midges, gnats and mosquitos away.
Thought for food
We’ve all heard the stories of undercooked sausages and chicken drumsticks causing explosive tummies, but despite it being such a common occurrence, many folks still struggle with cooking food thoroughly enough to prevent food poisoning. Poor barbecuing practice is one of the main reasons people contract food-borne illnesses, with sin number one being cross contamination. Transferring bacteria from one place (usually meat), to another such as utensils or hands is a surefire way of getting ill when dining alfresco.
To combat this you should always wash your hands with antibacterial soap before touching different food groups, even if it means trekking back to the house! You should also ensure that raw meat is NEVER placed on the same prep area as raw vegetables and that the same utensils are not used on each. Finally, when barbecuing meat, make sure meat is thoroughly cooked before tucking in.
When is a barbecue not a barbecue? When it’s a Cerastone Grill!
Tower’s Cerastone range of cookware has been expanded to include electrical items, bringing the unrivalled non-stick performance and impressive aesthetics to a line-up spanning grills, health grills, and raclettes. The Tower Cerastone 46cm Teppanyaki Grill makes it easy to enjoy the full, barbecue experience without the hassle of naked flames and smokey fuels. Featuring a large, Cerastone non-stick grillplate and easy to operate cook settings, users are able to host summertime feasts without worrying about lengthy clean-ups and can serve straight from the grill.
If kebabs and slow-roasted meats are more your thing then the Tower Vertical Rotisserie Grill will be right up your street. Featuring 360° grilling action and powerful 1500W motor this appliance is great for authentic, spit-roasted chicken, fish and other traditionally roasted foods. Those looking to put an alternative spin on the traditional Sunday roast (or who have an aversion to setting up the barbecue) will do well to check this one out as it’s and is so versatile and fuss free. Just run an extension from the power socket, load up your food of choice and literally watch it turn into something delicious.
Similarly, the Tower Cerastone Ceramic Raclette is a multi-purpose grill that makes group cooking a fun and inclusive experience. Featuring fully removable natural stone and ceramic grillplates, and 8 non-stick pans with cool-touch handles, this appliance is great for holiday homeowners or those with patios and verandas, as it makes cooking of all manner of food types quick and simple!
*electrical items listed are not intended for outdoor use
As we mentioned at the top of this article, getting food prep right is imperative. Having the right tools to hand helps a lot and prevents mishaps caused by improvising. A good set of barbecue tongues is a must have, as is a knife set for every eventuality. We recommend the Tower 8 Piece Professional Knife Set as not only comes in a professional-style roll-up carry case for easy transportation, but includes a handy carving fork and sharpening steel too.
Elsewhere, a decent set of utensils for use when preparing salads etc. is a godsend. Hygiene is important so you’ll want a set of tools that are easy to clean and dishwasher safe, as well as being light and easily storable. Thankfully, the Tower Cerasafe Utensil Set & Carousel ticks all those boxes and has a piece for most outdoor cooking tasks. Their high-grade plastic construction means they’re incredibly durable but even so, you still shouldn’t use them on the barbecue itself!
It’s easy to fall into the trap of serving up ‘standard’ starters when hosting a barbecue or going on a picnic. Lifeless salads, dull quiches, and boring dips are easy to make, so they get made and trotted out again and again. However, with just a little forethought your entrée line-up can sparkle! Replace stodgy potato salads with roast potato salad simply by roasting some jersey potatoes in a bit of salt, olive oil, rosemary, and garlic, and then mix with dijon mustard and endive for a fresh take on a tired dish. The Tower VitaBlend is an excellent tool for blending ingredients for dips thanks to its 250W motor and selection of blades.
Similarly, you can ditch the dips and carrot sticks for stuffed, roasted peppers by lightly frying chopped pancetta and adding to a hollowed out, chargrilled pepper, topping up with melted mozzarella. Lastly, swap the quiche for simple homemade quesadillas packed full of cheese, pepper, red onion – whatever you like really!
Grill your way to greatness
Burgers, sausages, chicken and kebabs are all barbecue staples for a reason – everybody loves them! But, did you know that you can jazz up these alfresco favourites with very little effort? Add a splash of Guinness, soy sauce, black pepper, garlic and chilli powder to the ground beef when making patties for a rich, flavoursome burger. Alternatively, combine chorizo, chopped jalapenos and adobo seasoning to the patties and serve topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese and nachos for some South American spice!
Chicken can be used in all sorts of ways but if you’re looking to bring a bit of pizzazz to your alfresco dining experience, we urge you to try Thai drumsticks. Mix some chili sauce with orange zest, garlic, and curry paste together with 2 tablespoons of orange juice and a pinch of salt, coat your chicken legs and roast in foil on the barbecue for half an hour et voila! If you’re bored with chicken kebabs, switch things up by using pork, prawns or steak – you can even combine seafood with meat for an authentic ‘surf ‘n’ turf’ dish, adding marinades and seasonings as you see fit.
Trifles, cheesecakes, fruit salads are all well-established family favourites and all somehow taste a bit better when enjoyed in the open air. But, if you’re looking for a quick and easy, yet ultra-tasty alternative, chocolate-dipped strawberries are the way to go.
Simply melt some chocolate, cut a punnet’s worth of strawberries in half, then dip them in the chocolate. Place the halves on wax paper to cool and when the chocolate hardens, drizzle over some melted white chocolate and let the whole lot cool again. Serve in waxed cups, eat with your fingers, and store the ones that are yet to be devoured in an ice-filled coolbox.
We think we’ve covered pretty much everything when it comes to alfresco cooking and dining but if you’ve got any top tips or recipe ideas you want to share, hit us up on Twitter @TowerHousewares or via our Facebook channel and we’ll do our best to share them with our followers. Oh, and be sure to come back in the not too distant future when we’ll be brining your our Top Barbecue Recipes!