A beach feast
These easy recipes are all prepared ahead of time in the comfort of your own kitchen and packed away in a cool box to keep fresh while you enjoy your day.
Once you’ve started cooking on the beach, people will miraculously start gathering round you, drawn in by the wafts of delicious food grilling and the promise of comforting warmth from the coals. And one final tip – always take a bag of marshmallows with you. In my experience, it matters not a jot how great the feast before was – there’s always room for a few toasted marshmallows afterwards.
Herby barbecued mackerel fillets
Mackerel are a brilliant oily fish for barbecuing, and for ease of eating on the beach, here I have used boneless fillets. If you are cooking in your garden and eating at a proper table, you may prefer to leave the fish whole, in which case stuff the thyme and lemon slices into the gut cavity, and cook for an extra 10 minutes or so. I’d recommend investing in a barbecue grilling cage – they stop more delicate foods sticking to the grill, and make a simple job of turning things like kebabs or fish over. They are easy to find in supermarkets in summer, or try cookware shops or online
8 fresh mackerel fillets
a bunch of thyme
a lemon, thinly sliced (remove the zest first if you are making the mayonnaise recipe)
salt and black pepper, to taste
8 cocktail sticks
1. Lay four fillets out on a board or tray. Divide the sprigs of thyme between them, and top with the lemon slices. Grind over a little black pepper then lay the other fillets on top to sandwich them together. Skewer a couple of cocktail sticks through each end of each fillet sandwich to secure them together and place in a food tub. Seal with a tight fitting lid, wrap in a bag or two to secure against accidental spills and pack into your cool box. If you prefer, you can prepare the mackerel the night before and store in the fridge.
2. When you are ready to cook, season the fish well on the skin side and lay into a grilling cage. Using disposable latex gloves is the easy way avoid getting fishy hands – very practical for beach cooking...
3. Cook the fish in the cage for about 10-15 minutes, turning over every now and then, until the skin is starting to crisp up and the fish is cooked through.
4. Serve with the potatoes, and top with a dollop of mayonnaise if you like. A simple salad of rocket and tomatoes, or perhaps just a few radishes, is all you need alongside.
Roast new potatoes
These easy roast potatoes take the longest to cook so be sure to start them off first.
Serves about 4
500g new potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, bruised
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cut the new potatoes into 5mm slices and toss in olive oil. Season well with black pepper and a little salt.
2. Tear off two generous sheets of foil and lay them one on top of the other in a cross shape. Pile the potatoes in the middle of the foil, spreading out into a layer of about 2cm-3cm thick and tuck in the bruised garlic cloves. Fold up the foil and seal tightly. Take another layer of foil and wrap it around the parcel.
3. When your barbecue is lit and the coals are white-hot, place the foil parcel onto the grill. Let the potatoes cook for about 30 minutes, turning the parcel over two or three times to make sure they cook evenly. Towards the end of cooking, poke a skewer through the foil to test if the potatoes are cooked.
Spicy chicken and grilled pepper subs
Grilled chicken rolls with a hint of spice are a surefire hit with kids and grownups alike. Romano peppers look like giant red chillies but they are not at all hot, just sweet. As they only have a few seeds, they are very easy to eat whole – simply munch up towards the stem and discard when you get near the top. I always use chicken thigh fillets for barbecuing as they are far tastier than breast and less likely to dry out.
900g chicken thigh fillets
2 tbsp cajun spice mix (ready-made or
blend your own, see below right)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 Romano peppers
6 sub rolls (or any other roll you fancy)
1. Add the chicken to a large food bag and drizzle in the olive oil. Sprinkle over the cajun spice and seal the bag up tight. Give the chicken a really good squidge around to mix it with the oil and spice, then pack into a second bag to be safe from accidental leaks. Stow in your cool box to keep chilled on the journey. You can marinate the chicken the night before and store in the fridge if you prefer.
2. For ease on the beach, split the rolls open at home, then re-bag and pack, along with the whole peppers.
3. Season chicken with a little salt and cook over the hot barbecue. At the same time, lay the whole peppers on the grill. Cook both for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally so they cook evenly. Before serving, cut open a chicken piece at the thickest part to check it is cooked through.
4. To serve, add a couple of pieces of chicken to each roll and top with a pepper. Add a dollop of the lemon and chive mayonnaise if you like, and tuck in while hot.
Lemon and chive mayonnaise
This simple sauce is great with all the other recipes
- 4 generous tbsp mayonnaise
- Finely grated zest of a lemon
- Small bunch of chives, finely chopped
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowel and spoon into a tub with a tight fitting lid.
2. Pack away in your cool box to keep it chilled. Make the night before and store in the fridge if you prefer.
A good old bucket-and-spade day out on the beach is perhaps the classic British family ‘outing’, but if you extend the day into the evening with a barbecue, it may just turn out to be the very best thing you do all summer.
Cooking and eating outside creates memories to treasure for years. Besides, it’s a well-known fact that food tastes better eaten in the fresh air. The sense of freedom and the break from routine makes eating al fresco feel exciting and energising for children and grown-ups alike.
Always check the safety rules before lighting a fire, as each beach will have different regulations, but generally if the fire is contained and raised off the ground, it is more likely to be allowed. On the subject of safety, obviously never leave a lit fire unattended – and if I were cooking with young children around, I would use rocks or driftwood logs to create a generous circle around the fire that they would be warned not to cross.
Be considerate of your beachside neighbours and try to light your fire downwind to prevent the inevitable smoke from being too irritating.
About 30 minutes before I want to start cooking, I start a small fire in the base of my fire pit with a fire lighter and a few little pieces of kindling, to which I add charcoal to provide a good heat to cook on. Once the fire is burning well, I might add a few logs. Sending the children off to gather bits of driftwood is a good way of occupying them, but be aware that foraged wood may contain more water than ideal, so just add a stick or two at a time. As with a barbecue in the garden, you are ready to cook when the flames have died down and the coals are glowing white with heat.
Genevieve Taylor is the author of How to Eat Outside: Fabulous Al Fresco Food for BBQs, Bonfires, Camping and More
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