The weather over the past few weeks makes this column more aspirational than actual. Hopefully, by the time you read this, the skies will have settled and you'll feel inspired to dust off the barbecue and fire it up for a new season of outdoor dining.
A few years ago I gave up on the gas-fed hulk that had to be dragged from the garage to use, and replaced it with a smaller, charcoal barbecue. You do have to take the time to make a little fire in the base to get the coals glowing (and they do need to be glowing before you start cooking) but I much prefer the results. It's a gentler way of cooking and imparts a nice smoky flavour to the food.
Small as it is, I have used it to successfully cook a leg of lamb and whole chickens. It has proved more than adequate to feed a crowd.
Lime and ginger chicken
1 whole chicken
2 cm of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
2 limes zested and juiced
200g of butter
2 limes for garnish
1 In a food processor, blitz the butter, ginger, lime zest and juice.
2 With a solid knife or kitchen scissors, cut along the backbone of the chicken and pull each side up towards you to "butterfly" the bird.
3 Trim the wing tips and then cut down the other side of the backbone and remove it.
4 Gently ease the skin around the legs and breast with your finger to make a pocket between the flesh and the skin.
5 Fill these gaps with the butter mix.
6 Sit the chicken on the barbecue bone side down and grill.
The butter melts, marinates and flavours the flesh as it cooks. Once cooked, remove from the fire and allow to rest before serving.
To garnish, cut the limes in two and grill the flesh sides until slightly blacked. Squeeze the juice over the grilled chicken to season.
Many types of vegetables can be cooked on the barbecue. Toss in a little oil and season well before adding to the grill plate.
Think about cooking times. Solid veges such as eggplant, courgette and pumpkins will need to be sliced to about 1cm in thickness to be successful.
While grilling you could brush the slices with herb-flavoured oils or sit them on woody herbs such as thyme or rosemary. These will infuse the vegetables with their smoky essence as the herbs burn away.
Asparagus: Brush with oil and grill directly on the plate.
Corn: Soak the unhusked corn cob with water and grill whole. The corn steams in its own coat. Or take away the leaves and cut the cob into pieces, oil and season and grill on the plate, turning frequently.
Mushrooms: Use the big, flat types. Top with a mix of crumbled feta, chopped parsley and oil. Sit skin side down on the barbecue and loosely cover with tin foil. Cook to your desired doneness.
Here are other recipes to try: