THE FRUGAL FOODIE: Barbecue that will be steeped in flavour

Marinated chicken thighs (griddled) with a marinated and griddled mushroom, rice, pickled beetroot and salad.
Marinated chicken thighs (griddled) with a marinated and griddled mushroom, rice, pickled beetroot and salad.

Now that June is here and we are all praying for barbecue weather, I thought you might like me to share some frugal ideas for a summer BBQ that prevents you buying every item of pre-shaped/ marinated meat on offer.

I know it may be the easy option buying marinated meat and pre-prepared kebabs but where is the fun in that? I love marinating and coming up with lots of different flavour combinations. These are my favourite marinades that I always use during barbecue season (and beyond).

For pork: Mix 2 tbsps olive oil, 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tsp dried oregano, salt and pepper. Leave the pork to marinate for as long as possible but as little as 15 minutes.

For chicken: Mix lots of crushed garlic with olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp mixed herbs and as much crushed chilli as you can handle. Smother the chicken in the marinade and leave in the fridge for as long as possible before cooking.

For lamb: Combine crushed coriander seeds, chopped fresh coriander, a little freshly-squeezed lemon juice, a little oil, lots of garlic, thick, natural yoghurt, salt and pepper. Coat the lamb and leave for an hour. Save some of the marinade for a sauce to serve with the cooked lamb.

For beef: If I’m cooking steaks, I prefer them simply seasoned with a little oil and salt and pepper and then topped with a knob of garlic-and-herb butter. I use the wild garlic butter while I still have some left.

For large mushrooms: Mix extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar (if you’ve got time, make a balsamic reduction or use balsamic syrup), dried thyme and lemon juice.

For peppers, aubergines and courgettes: Mix olive oil, garlic, oregano and chilli flakes. Coat all the vegetables and leave for 15 minutes.

You don’t need to serve everything at your BBQ. You could simply choose one inexpensive cut of meat and serve with some rice, salad from the garden, homemade pickled beetroot and some marinated vegetables. Large mushrooms are great as an addition as they are meaty and can take the place of meat. Try them marinated in lots of garlic oil, barbecued and in a roll instead of a burger with melted cheese and lots of fresh salad.

I like to use chicken thighs or legs as my BBQ meat of choice. It’s so cheap and packed with flavour. Pile on the marinade of choice and cook, skin side down, on the barbecue or on a griddle pan.

Let the skin get really crispy and charred before turning over and cooking until the meat is cooked all the way through. You can speed this up by making an incision in the meat, alongside the bone and butterflying it.

Spice up rice and couscous with lots of herbs, zest and spices to serve as filling and tasty sides that will have people wanting more and will enable you to serve less meat!

In the picture, I’ve served marinated chicken thighs (griddled) with a marinated and griddled mushroom, rice, pickled beetroot and salad.

Our BBQ get togethers are usually spur-of-the-moment affairs so we generally eat whatever I can find in the fridge, freezer, garden and cupboards.

It’s a great feeling when you serve lots of people tasty food that you already have and haven’t spent a fortune on. Next time you have people round, see if you can manage with what you’ve got. Bet you can!


Homemade burger

Heat a little oil and butter in a frying pan over a low heat and fry a diced onion with a crushed clove of garlic. Cook it until the onion’s soft and sweet. Leave to cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine 500g beef mince with an egg, a good handful of dried breadcrumbs (whizz up any stale bread and cook the crumbs in the oven on a low heat until they’re all crisp. You can now jar them up and use them as and when you need them), a teaspoon of flour, a handful of chopped fresh parsley and coriander (or use dried herbs), a teaspoon of mustard, a squirt of tomato ketchup and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix it all well and add the onions.

When it’s all combined, roll into about 6 balls and flatten into burger shapes.

Put them on a tray in the fridge to firm up for about half an hour or as long as necessary.

These can be cooked on the BBQ, on the hob or in the oven.

Serve in a floury roll with a little cheese, salad, mayonnaise and ketchup. Yum!