The MUNCHIES Guide to Throwing a British Summer Barbecue

British summertime eating doesn’t have to mean sausages burnt to charcoal by someone’s novelty apron-wearing dad. We asked our favourite chefs for their go-to barbecue dishes.

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May 28 2017, 9:00am

You've set a date for a barbecue with your mates. The raspberry pop—sorry, cider—is in and you've got jumpers at the ready for the inevitable 3 PM cold snap.

But instead of subjecting your guests to three-for-a-tenner beef burgers or semi-cooked hot dogs squashed between claggy bread, this year, why not up your barbecue game with dishes from some of MUNCHIES' favourite chefs?

First things first: meat.

British summertime eating doesn't have to mean sausages burnt to charcoal by someone's dad wearing a novelty apron. Take a trip to Greece via your disposable-barbecue-in-the-park with a herby lamb souvlaki from Elias Mamalakis, chef at Greek restaurant Suvlaki in London's Soho. These juicy lamb patties are piled high with herb sauce, lettuce, tomato, and whatever-the-hell-else-you-want, all nestled within a pillowy pita.

RECIPE: Lamb Souvlaki Wrap

Mamalakis says: "The smell of souvlaki grilling over hot coals takes us back to being at home, cooking for friends and family in Greece. They're the perfect summer barbecue food as everyone can customise their own with different marinades and sauces."

Next up, a winner-winner-barbecue-chicken-dinner from Brett Redman, co-owner of Jidori, a Japanese chicken joint in East London.

Tenderly rub koji, ginger, sake, and sansho pepper all over a chook before grilling. Redman explains that the koji "seasons the meat while also keeping it tender and moist, and adds a slightly tangy, nutty, umami flavour—quite unique, which will switch-up the usual chicken on the barbecue."

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Find yourself with a goat shoulder and a lazy summer afternoon on your hands? Smoke that meat, Thai-style says Ben Chapman of the aptly named Soho Thai restaurant, Smoking Goat.

Baste and smoke the kid low and slow in fish sauce, kecap manis, shrimp paste, cumin, and fennel seeds before dressing in chili, lemongrass, garlic, coriander, and mint. Chapman admits it's a bit of a "bastardisation of Thai cooking," taking "a little from the cumin heavy northern Thai offal laabs which I love, some pungent fermented shrimp, and Western 'slow and low' barbecue."

His advice: "Keep it spicy, pungent, and earthy." We're digging it.

Of course, barbecues aren't all about the carnivores. Josh Katz makes space on the grill for cauliflower shawarma from his London Middle Eastern mezze restaurant Berber & Q.

RECIPE: Barbecue Cauliflower Shawarma, Pomegranate, Tahini, and Pine Nuts

The brassica beauty is smothered in shawarma-spiced butter and tahina sauce, then topped with pomegranate seeds, molasses, pine nuts, dried rose petals, and parsley.

Katz says that his cauli is a dish best served whole: "There's an element of theatre to it when brought to the table from the barbecue, especially when burnt on the edges and emanating the smell of smoke from the fire."

You had us at burnt edges. Everyone knows they're the best bits.

You may have your meat (or meat substitute) sorted, but barbecue sides have got to be as on-point as the main event. Like Kelly and Michelle were to Beyoncé, or Calvin Harris, Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal et al ever were to Taylor, every star needs a great supporting act.

RECIPE: Creamy Coleslaw

You can't go wrong with a classic coleslaw and London-based American chef Brad McDonald's recipe adds a kick of paprika and cayenne pepper to the buttermilk and mayo-smothered veg. McDonald might be famed for meaty, low and slow Southern cooking, but he knows the value of a good side. He says: "When you're eating rich, smoky meats, a creamy coleslaw acts as a refresher for your palate so you can keep going back for more. It's the ultimate palate cleanser."

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Now for the salad. And not just any old salad—this is one that nose-to-tail legend Fergus Henderson of London's St. John restaurant claims saved his life. The recipe, which appears in his The Complete Nose to Tail cookbook doesn't involve any offal but is still awfully good.

Henderson explains: "Some 20 years ago, I went to visit my sister in Barcelona and we had to have five lunches in one day. Much of the city shuts over the weekend, so we had to take in every restaurant that she wanted to show me—all on the Friday of my arrival. Unfortunately the pace continued, fueled by the icy cold, rough version of marc [a type of brandy] that they serve in those parts. So on Saturday morning, I truly thought I was dying."

RECIPE: Anchovy, Little Gem, and Tomato Salad

It was then that Henderson encountered this roasted tomato, parsley, anchovy, and lettuce salad in an ancient Barcelona restaurant. He says: "I am alive thanks to this salad. And what better way to celebrate life than having a barbecue?"

We'll eat to that.

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The feast isn't over yet, though. Because everyone knows dessert goes into a totally separate stomach to the main course, there is still ample space for Lily Jones of Lily Vanilli bakery's boozy summer trifle.

Layer up vanilla sponge, custard, summer berry coulis, crumble, flaked almonds, fresh berries, and lashings of sweet sherry before the rain starts to pelt down, leaving a trail of soggy barbecue debris in its wake.

Jones advises: "Don't feel bound to the exact quantities of each element but tweak it to suit you."

READ MORE: Lily Vanilli's Easy Boozy Summer Trifle

In other words, no one will judge you for taking a leaf out of Aunt May's book and slipping in a couple more glugs of sherry.

So, with this summer recipe arsenal, stock up on tin foil cornershop barbies, stoke the coals, and try not to smoke out the flat upstairs. Because it might not rain this year …

Illustrations by Nilina Mason-Campbell.

This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in June 2016.