Recipe for a Perfect Winter Barbecue on the Beach
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
- 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
- Some friends or family
- Quality Prime Angus Beef burgers
- 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
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 .
And miracle of miracles, on the coldest night of the year, the kids asked if they could bivvy out. Our job here was done.
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.