Everyone loves a barbecue. As soon as there’s a hint of blue sky during our summer months, you’ll be sure to notice the whiff of charcoal in the air. Long, lingering evenings socialising with friends and family become the norm as we get outside to enjoy the good old British summer.
But it’s the Australians who are famed for being Kings of the Barbecue. They know about the feel-good factor that good food, good company and good music can bring. Australia has some very popular events that ingeniously combine the fun of the barbecue with cool tunes – often live – from their favourite blues bands. This originally Caribbean tradition has been adopted across many other countries too, including the USA and more recently
Music, friends and great food are a powerful combination so next time you light up the barbecue, why not spice it up with a spot of blues, Aussie style, in the comfort of your own back yard?
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying sumptuous yet healthy barbecues to the rhythm of relaxing blues vibes:
You might have noticed that barbecue foods aren’t always quite the same as they were in your youth. Gone are the days of heavily processed burgers and sausages with salty marinades, salad dressings dripping in mayonnaise and buttery garlic bread. In fact, barbecue food doesn’t have to be bad for you anymore. There’s plenty to please your taste buds and your blood pressure too.
Beyond the burger, there’s so much to love in terms of healthy barbecue treats. Start by choosing the leanest cut for the job. This doesn’t mean you have to compromise on flavour. Using low fat cuts can significantly reduce your intake of saturated fat so buy pork loin instead of ribs or lean steak instead of fattier cuts – and don’t forget to remove the skin from the chicken.
You might find you need to spend a little more for leaner cuts but there’s no need to cook big slabs of meat anymore. Instead, marinade and cube it before threading it onto skewers, adding vegetables like onions, courgettes, mushrooms and peppers for a healthy yet succulent kebab.
When cooking, don’t be tempted to add extra oil because the meat is lean. Stop meat from sticking to the grill by making sure you turn it often. And don’t burn it! Studies have shown that charring food could create carcinogens, or cancer-triggering chemicals.
It’s true that fat-marbled meat can help it to remain moist when cooked, but fat isn’t the only way to keep it tender. Marinating tenderises the meat in a healthier way: the acids in vinegar and lemon juice break down the potential toughness of lean cuts of meat making them just as succulent and tasty as more traditionally used cuts.
Marinades – Shop-bought rubs and marinades might boast being low in fat but they can be high in salt, so check the nutritional information carefully. The same applies to buying meat which is ready-dressed in sauce or a marinade. It’s easy to add your own flavours in a healthier way. Even the simplest of marinades made from lemon, garlic and rosemary with a touch of oil are quick and simple to prepare. Leave the marinade and meat to soak in overnight or even for a couple of hours to enjoy a tender and tasty feast.
Bangers and burgers – These are bound to creep into your barbecue so make sure you make the healthiest choices. Check the nutritional information to keep the salt and saturated fat content down – you’ll notice that there is a wide variation between different options within the same category. As a rule of thumb, try to buy pork sausages with a minimum of 42 per cent pork content, bearing in mind that their definition of “meat” includes up to 30 per cent fat, tissue and gristle.
Premium sausages are likely to have a shorter list of ingredients and a higher meat content than budget options. While a chunky sausage with ‘natural’ skin casing is likely to be the tastiest option, don’t be fooled into thinking this means it will be healthier. A recent survey found that both premium and economy sausages contained very similar amounts of salt, making it all the more important to check the label for nutritional information and claims of quality.
Vegetables and salads
Ever tried grilling slices of Mediterranean-style vegetables, like peppers, aubergines, red onions or courgettes? These will avoid you losing the balance of your barbecued meals and add a great touch of texture and flavour. Serve straight off the grill or add a little vinaigrette dressing and herbs, or Greek tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber and garlic) on the side.
Think carefully about the dressings that you splash on salads. Shop bought salad dressings can be laden with salt and fat, particularly potato salad and coleslaw which are often dripping in mayonnaise. Making them at home is not difficult – even for the non-cooks amongst us – and gives you the chance to control the levels of unhealthy ingredients in your salad bowl. When it’s hot, you might find it tastier to eat salads like coleslaw crunchier, served with a little less dressing than you have been used to. Mix some low-fat yoghurt into the mayonnaise to lighten it up while maintaining a creamy texture.
It can be easy to overdo it on the alcohol, especially if you’re at home adding a few extra-strong ingredients to your party punch and not sticking to strict measures. Bear in mind that the recommended alcohol limit for women does not exceed 2-3 units of alcohol a day and men should not drink more than 3-4 units per day. To put this into context, a bottle of wine could add up to nearly 10 units.
If you love a glass of wine or beer with your barbecue, you might consider alternating your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones. Alternatively, try diluting them by making wine into a spritzer or having a shandy instead of pure beer or lager. There are also plenty of tasty alcohol-free alternatives on the market which, while not the healthiest of options, will keep your alcohol levels at bay.
Soft drinks can be more refreshing than alcoholic ones, especially on a hot day. Water or sugar-free fizzy drinks are obvious choices, but you could give your drinks a special twist by adding elderflower cordial or a slice of fresh lime, orange or lemon juice to sparkling water. Mixing combinations of pure fruit juice with water and plenty of ice can also make a refreshing drink.
“For me there is something primitively soothing about this music, and it went straight to my nervous system, making me feel ten feet tall.” Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton knows all about the therapeutic qualities of blues music. When the food is good, the conversation’s flowing and you’re feeling the relaxation gradually kicking in, why not chill out further with some tunes from your favourite blues masters?
From B.B. King, Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker or Howlin’ Wolf, it won’t take long for the moody blues to fill your soul. If you have the space, you might even decide to get a local band to serenade you all.
If you’d prefer to go out for your blues and barbecue, look out for food festivals or other music and food outdoor events taking place in your area.