You have your go-marinade for chicken and your favourite brand of sausages, but it's the accompaniments that make a barbecue truly great.
With the weather set to improve, many of us will be eyeing up our barbecues when it comes to making weekend plans. And while you probably have some favourite recipes that you turn to over and over - a spicy marinade for chicken or a homemade burger, it's easy for the accompaniments to become an afterthought.
In my opinion, it's the dips, salads and sides that are the low-key stars of any barbecue. They're there to get snacking on while you wait for the main dishes to be ready (which, let's be honest, is always longer than promised). They can also provide such a range of flavours and textures, and provide a nice contrast to the often meat-heavy grilled offerings.
Here are some great recipes to get you started.
Greek yogurt with with sizzled scallions and chilli
A dip might not seem that important at a barbecue, but a good one will have everyone hovering around the bowl. This delicious one is really easy to make, with no food processor required, and is good with everything from chunks of bread to raw veg. You'll even find yourself drizzling it over your grilled chicken.
Fine the recipe here.
Spicy lightly pickled cucumbers
Cucumbers are a common summer vegetable, but they are rarely at their best when left to languish in a leafy salad for a few hours at room temperature. Instead, use them in this recipe to add some spice and zing to your table. Yes, they're delicious on a burger, but they're hard to resist straight from the bowl.
It might sound tricky to make your own pickled veg, but this takes just five minutes' prep. Find the recipe here.
Avoca's Asian sesame and peanut noodle salad
It's good to have at least one substantial salad on offer, like a potato or pasta option, and this noodle one from Avoca is packed full of flavour.
300 grams egg noodles, cook to packet instructions, cool down & set aside
¼ a small red cabbage, shredded finely
2 spring onions, sliced finely
1 red chilli, finely chopped
½ red pepper, sliced thinly
½ yellow pepper, sliced thinly
Small bunch coriander, chopped
Small bunch mint, chopped
10 grams sesame seeds, toasted
100 grams, salted peanuts, roasted
50 ml soy sauce
10 ml sesame oil
10 ml Sriracha sauce, more if you like it really spicy
1 lime, juiced
Sea salt & black pepper
Simply add all ingredients into a large bowl and toss lightly to combine. Check the seasoning and adjust to your preference.
Donal Skehan's griddled baby gem salad with toasted hazelnuts and Pecorino
If it were up to me, vegetables would be given 90 per cent of the space on any barbecue grill. There's something about the combination of high heat and smoke that turns even the most ordinary into something spectacular.
This lettuce salad is the perfect example, where normally mild-mannered baby gem is suddenly the charred, smoky star of the show. This method is also delicious with wedges of cabbage. Find the recipe here.
Ballymaloe summer green salad with edible flowers
A leafy salad is one of those things that's usually at a barbecue somewhere, but is rarely drawing much attention. To elevate it a little, this recipe adds edible flowers to the mix. Their tip to add herbs as well as leaves is also a great way to inject flavour, while the honey and mustard dressing is a classic crowd-pleaser. Find the recipe here.
Nigella Lawson's watermelon, feta and black olive salad
If it seems weird to have fruit in a savoury salad, just trust that the queen of cooking Nigella would never mislead you. The slight sweetness contrasts with the tangy feta, bite of the onion and salty olives beautifully, while overall being a very refreshing dish. Find the recipe here.
I know I've already made the case for grilled vegetables, but asparagus is one of my favourites. It needs nothing else but oil and salt, but if you want to go a little fancier, it's also amazing with some Parmesan grated on top, or garlic butter. Find the recipe here.
Jamie Oliver's mega stuffed sweet potatoes
If you've never cooked sweet potatoes on the barbecue, it's time to try. Their skin gets deliciously crispy, while the interior caramelises and takes on an even sweeter flavour. They're good like this, but if you want to take it up a notch, Jamie Oliver shows you how to create an incredible cheesy filling for your potatoes. Find the recipe here.
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