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A Perfect Beach Winter Barbecue

Winter Beach Barbeque at Ullswater Lake District
Written by Kirstie

Recipe for a Perfect Winter Barbecue on the Beach

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This weekend we had a barbecue. On the beach. In the middle of winter. No we are not mad. And no we have not moved to Australia. Our rather unusual BBQ was part of the Aldi Challenge – a January invitation to do more, taste more, live more. And so we set out to embrace winter in all its glory. And as the sun set over the snowy peaks of The Lake District and Ullswater blushed pink, I reflected on the ingredients for the perfect winter barbecue…

It’s the darkest time of the year. The time we all want to book a holiday, detox the life out of ourselves and hibernate until the spring creeps in. But hey, there is another way. Have a barbie. Yes really. Contrary to urban myth you will not turn into a snowman. Because (and here’s the surprise twist) you have a fire! And if you choose the right spot and take everything with you that you really need, you may even find it more delicious than a summer feast.

Kirstie and Hannah high five at Haweswater

Do you fancy a barbie? I’ve got my firepit on my back!

More than a food fest

Let’s face it, BBQ food might not always be gourmet. Especially cooked over an open fire. While it looks romantic in films, my reality is more often a plate of charred sausages, and burgers that remain frozen inside while everything else is spat on with hot fat. But if you choose to barbie in winter, the food is only one part of an unexpectedly exciting plot. The real fun is in sparking up before your fingers freeze off, in finding a dry twig to act as a marshmallow skewer, in watching the sun drain away over a lake washed in stillness and solitude, or a tide that’s pushed in from a dark fairytale. The payback is watching the sky and the edge of the mountains burn brighter than the flame you are gently encouraging. Or watching the rest of the world drive past on its way to somewhere else, headlights dipping and diving on the mountain roads, while you get the place to yourself. A place that would be heaving in summer.

A winter BBQ, as we discovered, is a magical thing where the chemistry of the ingredients come together to make more than a meal. But you do have to put the work in. And most of your day. And I’d be lying if I said our experience was completely straightforward.

Buying firewood at Aldi Carnforth

Buying kindling at Aldi. Do you dare to have a winter barbie?

Stocking up

Firelighting Tip No. 1: Cotton wool is a great firestarter.
Our winter barbie experience started well, with a trip to the shops. Our #AldiChallenge to go and do something fun in the outdoors was part of a national campaign by the supermarket chain. So where else would we buy our food? This part was easy, even if we did have to substitute the cotton wool on our list for a pack of make-up removers, and the Aldi shelves could only offer us teeny weeny marshmallows instead of the huge flump pillows the kids like. Soon our trolley was full with food, kindling and logs.

Rocking up

It was in our choice of location that it all went a bit pear shaped. We wanted a mix of ice and fire for our BBQ, but the snow was mostly in the high fells and it was late in the day already; no time to stomp up Ingleborough or Catbells. So we headed out to one of the quieter part of The Lakes; to Haweswater Reservoir, where we had a great sledging experience two years ago.

Firelighting Tip No. 2: Take a flint & steel to start your fire: more Bear Grylls than matches.
After pulling up into a space at the end of a reservoir at the end of the world, it took us about ten minutes to get the rucksacks packed with fuel and food. By that time our fingers were utterly frozen. It took us another ten minutes fighting the wind and skating across icy patches in the car park to reach to the gate where the path started to head upwards into the bulk of the snow. By that time our souls had turned to ice. The wind was blowing straight over the mountains and funnelling down into the valley. It was relentless and the wind chill was hard to cope with, even kitted out in ski jackets and gloves.

Haweswater Forest Sign No Barbeques or Fires

At the head of the Haweswater reservoir it wasn’t just the arctic conditions that forced us to turn back.

Heading back

Firelighting Tip No. 3: Make sure your tinder is dry. Build into a pyramid to let air circulate.
And then the final straw. The gate had a sign prohibiting lighting of fire. Any kind of fire. We couldn’t break the law just for the sake of a sausage supper. So we turned back, in all honesty our hearts full of gladness to be walking in the direction of a warm car. It was a beautiful spot but not the place for a barbecue unless you are used to living in the ice age.

It took us another half an hour to get to Ullswater. On the way we had an impromptu stop at Pooley Bridge for a photo. If we’d forgotten our matches we could have lit our fire from the sky.

Ullswater from Pooley Bridge, Lake District

The sun setting on Ullswater as we arrive at Pooley Bridge, Lake District

A rethink and new location

By the time we found a beach with easy access to Ullswater the sun was going down. The beach was deserted, the elements at peace with themselves. We set up the new fire pit that Father Christmas brought in December. With our dry kindling and torn up cotton wool pads, it took one spark of the flint and steel to get the fire going. Much quicker than the dry friction method

Firelighting Tip No. 4: Have water to hand to put fire out and in case of emergency.
With burgers on the grate, we went searching for dry twigs to use as skewers for our marshmallows. We toasted the mallows on a newborn flame and held them high; mini mountains, mirroring the powdered giants behind. We put the burgers in the buns. We ate while watching the ripples on the lake turn into waves of darkness descending. The final snow capped mountain faded as the last marshmallows melted on our tongues. It was one of the best barbecues we had ever had.

So, after our BBQ on what was officially the coldest night of the year, I bring you my recipe for a successful winter beach barbie. What do you really need? Well, clearly a beach. And a fire pit if you want to make things easier and protect the environment. And some food. And a way of lighting a fire. That’s it, basically. It’s not rocket science, unless someone brings an astronaut. Why not try clearing some space in the afternoon next weekend, heading for a beach with a patch of ice or snow nearby and firing up with your family…

Winter Sunset over Ullswater Lake District

Winter sunset over Ullswater, The Lake District

Ingredients

  • Fire pit or barbecue if required
  • Fuel- if it is dry you should be able to gather this on the beach, otherwise buy a bag of kindling and a bag of logs
  • Flint and steel or matches
  • Cotton wool
  • Snow capped mountain backdrop if possible
  • Beach
  • Some friends or family
  • Quality Prime Angus Beef burgers
  • Sausages
  • Buns
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate
  • Biscuits
  • Twigs gathered from the beach to make skewers
  • A sunset
  • A torch
  • A bin bag to wrap your fire pit in later
  • A small camping kettle
  • A sachet or two of hot chocolate
  • A mug
  • A penknife to cut your buns, turn your burgers and stir your hot chocolate
Family looking out over Ullswter at Sunset in Winter

Looking out over Ullswter at sunset, before we light the fire

Don’t bring the kitchen sink

That’s it. No coolbag. No Mary Berry salad dressing. In fact no salad at all. You won’t want to be messing around trying to peel avocados – believe me. No tinnies of warm lager or bottle of Chardonnay, although you could bring a hipflask of something warming if you’re not having an alcohol free January .

Firelighting Tip No. 5: Light fires only where permitted. And ensure you leave no trace.
You’ll find that keeping it simple keeps your fingers warm, stops it all being an uphill battle, and gives you time to look at the view. If you value the view then make sure you choose a place where fires are permitted, ensure you put your fire out responsibly before you leave, take all your litter with you and ensure you leave no trace.

And miracle of miracles, on the coldest night of the year, the kids asked if they could bivvy out. Our job here was done.

Winter Beach Barbeque at Ullswater Lake District

Winter Beach Barbeque at Ullswater Lake District

Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you thanks to support from Aldi who invited us to take part in their January #AldiChallenge. While the food may be from Aldi, the idea, experience, cooking, eating and opinions are all, as ever, entirely our own.

About the author

Kirstie

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

3 Comments

  • What a beautiful family, everyone is helping with the barbeque. The place you chose in the end is breathetaking. This kind of authentic experience really makes the bonding stronger.
    Adina from Familyvacation

  • Kirstie how cool is that? Or how warm lol? Loving the barbie during the winter thing as I smelled one in the distance during a recent walk here…..and we’re having a blizzard as we speak. Doing things a bit differently makes for an intriguing life. This I’ve learned after circling the globe for the past 46 months after becoming a professional, full-time blogger.

    The thing is, you had the amazing experience because you left the herd. Bravo to you, both for the wonderful day and for sharing those safety tips to take care of nature and to take care of your family. I know the local wildlife appreciate it for sure. Good tips on salads and stuff; no need to get sloppy with avocados in freezing temperatures 😉

    Keep on inspiring Kirstie!

    Ryan

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