The sad pile of cheap burgers, floppy white buns and the limp green salad from a plastic packet aren't very impressive for a summer barbecue. Traditional barbecue fare might taste okay but considering British barbecues are now a way of life in the summer, you may as well go all out and get something special ready for your friends and family. For the odd fusspot, who may go hungry otherwise, you can always keep a stash of value burgers in the freezer in case of an emergency.
Meat is the centrepiece of a barbecue usually, with pork and beef generally making the star appearance. Instead of buying your pork as sausages, you could go all out and buy a whole pig to roast on a spit, allowing about 0.5 kilograms of weight per person. An entire lamb or a haunch of venison also make impressive spitroast centrepieces of the party. If you like Mediterranean flavours, lamb mince spiced and formed into shashlik kebabs will cook well on the barbecue, or you can make kebabs from chunks of marinated pork or beef interspersed with vegetables on a skewer for a pretty, colourful dish that is easy to eat by hand.
Fish and seafood
Fish is simple to cook on barbecues, because you can wrap fillets or whole fish in tinfoil and let them sit without having to turn them. White fish like cod or sea bass can be flavoured by including a knob of butter, a few sprigs of fennel or, for the adventurous, some sliced chilli peppers and a few dashes of soy sauce. Meatier fish can hold dry spice well, so salmon coated in cajun spices or red snapper rolled in Jamaican "jerk" seasoning can be tasty when placed on a piece of foil and then directly onto the grill. Prawns also cook quickly on barbecues, and some squid portions, scored to prevent the flesh rolling up, go well with garlic butter.
Mini corn on the cobs grill nicely and you can stick toothpicks into either side so your guests can hold them. Flavoured polenta slices, precooked with cheese, spices, salt and pepper, look nice on a plate with their little grill marks. You can also make your own veggie burgers from ingredients like beans, carrot and potato, rolled in breadcrumbs to hold their shape. Another rapid veggie dish to make is a quesadilla, which is two tortillas sandwiched together with cheese and other ingredients like tomato or avocado. These only need heating on the grill before flipping over and then you can slice them into triangular portions.
Jamaican-style chicken makes a strong and spicy change to barbecue-flavoured chicken. You could also make skewers of chicken and satay sauce from peanut butter and coconut milk. Accompanied by plum sauce and cucumbers cut into fingers, a whole roast duck feeds several people as part of a Chinese pancake dish, and it also allows guests to eat with their fingers.