Take your Christmas outdoors...
Mild December days are made for the outdoor life! If you want to make the most of the sun when it appears, or have a favourite beach that's an amazing location no matter what time of year it is, a winter barbecue could be the perfect al fresco dining solution. Whether you want to stage a truly unforgettable Christmas lunch, add some much-needed fresh air to Boxing Day or simply want a pleasant afternoon down on the beach, these six tips will ensure your barbecue is a seasonal success.
Use local, seasonal produce - one of the best things about the West Country is the enormous variety of produce that's available, even in the depths of winter. From roasting up a few chestnuts through to barbecued mushrooms and vegetable kebabs made up of root vegetables (par-boil potatoes, swede and celariac to ensure they cook through over the coals), there is an enormous variety of vegetables on offer.
For carnivores, Devon is a haven of grass-fed beef and ethically reared poultry. If you fancy something a little different game meat is also a seasonal favourite (partridge, rabbit, hare and pheasant all make for good eating with a suitable marinade).
- Have you considered fish? Fish is a local staple that never goes out of style. Sea Bass or sardines both work well on the barbecue. Rub Sea Bass with oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a bay leaf for a light, fresh flavour. A similar marinade can work well with sardines, substituting the bay leaf for paprika and adding some freshly chopped chilli for heat.
- When the thermometer plummets, a hot drink, redolent with spices and citrus, is an absolute essential! We recommend hot chocolate infused with chilli (simply cut a red chilli lengthways, remove the seeds, then heat with the milk, removing before adding the hot chocolate and serving).
- Alternatively, why not opt for mulled juice or a fruit punch? Our favourite is mulled cider, using one of the dozens of delicious local ciders. Just heat the cider along with a generous dash of demerara sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves citrus slices (oranges and lemons) and star anise (optional).
- Provide heat! A patio heater or chimara is ideal if you are entertaining at home. On the beach, a traditional drift wood fire could be just the thing to keep the chills away!
- Don't forget dessert: barbecued bananas (leave the skin on) or slices of pineapple served with a warm fudge sauce, Christmas Pudding ice cream, chopped nuts or diced ginger-in-syrup can provide a yummy finish to any barbecue. Marshmallow s’mores (toasted marshmallows squished between chocolate biscuits (chocolate-covered surfaces facing inwards) are also a popular sweet treat.
- Entertainment options: nothing says a sing-song quite like a fire, which is why a beach barbecue is the ideal opportunity for everyone present to showcase their talent! Remind your guests beforehand to come prepared for a musical extravaganza, then let those good times roll! Alternative activities which are suitable for all ages include: beach combing; sand sculptures or beach sculptures; winter volleyball; kite flying; tug ‘o’ war; bubble blowing; or a treasure hunt.
- Lighting adds atmosphere: A few lanterns or tealights in jam jars not only gives a delightful ambiance, they can also offer useful illumination on the darker winter days. Try a few strings of outdoor fairy lights or similar for the perfect decorative touch.
A barbecue is a fantastic opportunity not only to provide your guests with an unforgettable occasion, but also to showcase some of the local food and drink for which the West Country ins noted. Treat your guests to edibles sourced from nearby farms, helping to support our local businesses at the same time as benefiting from foodstuffs which are big on taste and quality.