Well it's properly summer now and even though the weather has been a tad unreliable, I'm embracing barbecue season - we are well known for our indoor/outdoor BBQ's in this part of the world and never do we allow a bit of rain to change our plans!
We are all comfortable with throwing meat and fish on the barbecue but I'm always being asked for ideas about sides to serve that are just a bit more interesting (and filling) than a green salad and some coleslaw. What's great about a barbecue is that it encourages everyone to eat more in the way of salads... thereby cancelling out all the unhealthiness of sausages (and prosecco). Everyone's plate is a riot of colour - the rainbow of nutrition we're supposed to eat every day...is it any wonder we usually feel so much more healthy and full of energy during the summer months?
So before I tell you my favourite dessert to serve at a barbecue, here are some of my sides recipes that the whole family will enjoy. Oh and the best bit is that they can all be prepared in advance and kept in lunch boxes to use for a couple of days afterwards too...
Puy Lentils & Roast Veg Salad
First up, a long time favourite of ours is this lentil salad. The balsamic and garlic in the dressing makes it so delicious... definitely a great way to get more pulses into your diet.
1 x bag of pre-cooked puy lentils (or you can cook from scratch also)
2 x peppers (any colour)
1 x red onion
3 x garlic cloves with skin on
Balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil
Sprig of Thyme
Simply roast off the onions, garlic and peppers in a large tin for 40 minutes at about 180 C (tossed in the olive oil with the thyme sprigs thrown in too).
Take out the thyme stalks and discard. Squeeze the soft garlic from inside the cloves into a bowl, discarding the papery skin. Mash this garlic with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and add it and the roast onions/peppers to the lentils and mix.
Simple Thai Noodle Salad
Half a pack of vermicelli rice noodles (about 150g) - cooked to the instructions, drained and cooled
1 x garlic clove, crushed
4 x spring onions, chopped
2 x red chilli's, chopped
1 x handful of chopped fresh coriander
3 x tablespoons of Thai Fish Sauce
1 x tablespoon of Sesame Oil
Put everything into a bowl and mix well... and that's it!
Cous Cous Salad
This is one that the kids will eat so even though I'm not the biggest fan of cous-cous, I make it regularly
200ml vegetable stock
2 spring onions
1 red pepper
50g feta cheese, cubed (optional...I usually leave this on the side as the kids don't like it)
2 tbsp pesto
2 tbsp toasted pine nut
Pour the boiling stock over the cous-cous and leave it to soak for a few minutes, covered but off the heat. Add the other ingredients chopped up however you like them.
But what about the kids I hear you ask? I know it's a real struggle to get them to all eat salads like these.
I find I have more success with kids if I serve up 'help yourself' bowls of individual items like pickled beetroot, hard boiled eggs, sliced cucumber, carrot sticks etc. It's sometimes the mix of items all on one dish that puts kids off. Another tip is to insist that they're only allowed to have a sausage/burger if they chose at least 1 salad item....this has worked for me with my very fussy son who (very) reluctantly eats cucumber at a barbecue now.
Pesto Pasta Salad
One salad (I use the term loosely) that I do find all kids eat for me (not just mine), is a pesto salad so I always make up some of the prettier pasta pieces (bows or twists) with some fresh pesto - Lidl make the BEST fresh one - and a sprinkle of parmesan and chopped fresh basil.
Sticky Chocolate Bananas
My final attempt to get one of the 5 a day into the kids at a barbecue comes in the form of dessert. Obviously at this time of the year, summer fruits are more affordable and the kids will generally devour them but if you've a few bananas that have gone over-ripe in the fruit bowl, this next one is sure to go down a treat.
1 x over-ripe banana
1 x chocolate Flake bar - crushed
1 x shot of a orange liqueur (adults only!)
Pop the banana onto a rectangle of foil and turn up the edges to make a parcel - you can peel or leave the skin on...either way works. Cut a slit down the length of the banana and with chocolate. For the adults, pour in a shot of cointreau and for the kids, sprinkle on some marshmallows.
Seal up the top of your banana foil parcel and put it on a low/medium heat barbecue until the banana has cooked and the chocolate is melted. Ice cream is optional!
Happy barbecuing and fingers crossed for a fabulous summer 2016!