Ciara McDonnell has the recipe for success when it comes to entertaining in your garden.
A clean canvas is essential when it comes to readying your garden for entertaining this summer, says Michal Slawski of GroMór, the nationwide campaign encouraging us all to get growing and finding new uses for our garden spaces.
“It’s natural to have clutter around the garden, but it can take away from the tranquil atmosphere we are trying to create!” Slawski says that removing unnecessary items from the space will give peace of mind and enable you and your guests to focus on relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.
This summer, we need to allow for social distancing, so take this into account when planning your seating spaces.
Slawski suggests finding multiple opportunities for shade, if available.
“Maybe an umbrella at a garden table or place some seats underneath a tree. Remember to position your seats on firm ground too; you don’t want people sinking into the ground!"
Add a festive note to your gathering by strewing multicoloured lights in the branches of a tree or draping bunting along your garden wall.
Place votive candles in jars on tables to add instant atmosphere, and small vases of fresh flowers are a gorgeous touch.
Soft furnishings add instant comfort appeal to your outside space.
Add colour and warmth with cushions and tablecloths, and there are lots of hard-wearing outdoor rugs available now that are ideal for patios that have seen better days.
Michal Slawski says there is nothing better than cooking your own produce at home.
“Having homegrown vegetables will really mix things up, and leave you beaming with pride,” he states.
“Lettuce, tomatoes and carrots are all plantable in June and ready to eat by late barbecue season.
"Why not plant some herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and sage, to garnish the food and leave the barbecue aromatic and colourful.”
Rather than serving starters, put together sharing platters of cured meats, cheeses, olives and dips and encourage people to help themselves.
Make it easy on them by ensuring there are small plates and napkins on hand so they can eat without worrying about dropping food on their outfit.
Pizza ovens are popping up in gardens all over the country, and for good reason.
Once they heat up to a whopping 500 degrees, these ovens can cook a restaurant-grade pizza in minutes.
There are all kinds of models on the market, from bespoke, built-in ovens with wood-burning stoves and smaller more compact ovens like Roccbox from Gozney, a gas-powered portable pizza oven that is perfect for smaller spaces.
Former head chef at Cork’s Holy Smoke and Pitmaster at Jamie Oliver’s Barbacoa, John Relihan trained under world-famous Pitmaster Adam Perry Lang.
The key with cooking over smoke, he says, is to cook low and slow.
“You don’t have to spend a fortune on a fancy barbecue if you are going to be cooking with charcoal,” he says.
"The term barbecue is to cook low and slow, so you put your hot coals to one side of it and cook your meat on the other side.
"It is a method ideally suited to ribs and cuts of meat like brisket and pork shoulder.”
Choose one main dish and do it well, says Relihan.
“I love Beer Can Chicken for parties. It is such a crowd-pleaser, looks great and tastes even better.”
When it comes to sides, don’t overcomplicate yourself, advocates the chef.
“I cook barbecue food from all over the world, and the best way to plan your menu is to stick to the country of origin.
“So with Beer Can Chicken, for example, that would mean pairing it with sweet potatoes that had been seasoned, wrapped in tin foil and cooked over the charcoal and some barbecue baked beans cooked in a tray on the top chef of the grill.”
Remember to have fun, and your guests will too.
Plan well and prep as much ahead of time as possible and enjoy the process.
For more inspiration, check out John Lenihan’s YouTube channel The 3 Food Dudes, where he and two of his chef pals cook easily accessible food on their home barbecues every week.
For the whole chicken
1 whole chicken, approx. 1.3kg
1 can of beer
50g French’s mustard (American yellow mustard)
30g coriander, to garnish
For the chicken brine
1 litre water
1 can of Irish hop beer
50g flaked sea salt
1 lime, cut in half
20g fresh thyme
20g fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove smashed
1tsp coriander seeds
3tsp coriander stems
For the chicken rub
5 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp flaked sea salt
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp granulated garlic
2tsp dried oregano
1tsp cracked black pepper
1-2 bay leaves, smashed
Zest of 1 lime
For apricot and beer glaze
250g apricot jam
100ml craft hop beer
Place all the brine ingredients into a large container.
Place the whole chicken into the liquid, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours to introduce the flavour.
When ready to prepare the chicken, rub with French’s mustard, make up the dry rub by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Dry off the chicken and cover with the rub, including the bird’s cavity.
Making sure the can of beer is open and half full of beer place the beer can in the chicken.
This will heat up and steam the inside of the chicken, resulting in the most juicy chicken ever.
Heat your barbecue to 120C. Place the chicken on the grill, cover and cook on this low heat for three hours.
Every hour baste the chicken with the herb brush.
It is also advised to use a meat probe and ensure the chicken reaches a temperature of 75C.
About 15 minutes before the chicken is ready, make the glaze by mixing the ingredients together and reducing to half over a medium heat.
When the chicken is ready, smother in the glaze.
Let it sit to relax until you are ready to serve.