Giving your summer garden the wow factor
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Giving your summer garden the wow factor

We all know that, with the summer on the way, we need to get out into the garden and begin to trim, prune and prepare those outdoor spaces after months of neglect over the winter. It might seem like a thankless job, however when the warm weather arrives and the barbecue season kicks off, you’ll be glad to have a spot in which you can relax and entertain. If you’re wanting to go that extra mile this year and truly make your garden a haven for entertaining guests, here are some of our favourite creative additions.

Keeping warm

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We all know that, even on the warmest of summer days, once the sun sets the inevitable chill will hit. If you want to keep your outdoor party going long into the night, why not make a statement, rather than opt for the standard garden parasol? A fire pit can become the centre piece of your garden, whilst also being functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Creative furniture

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Speaking of garden centrepieces, we’d like to think that over the coming month, the outdoor table will see plenty of use (although given the UK’s weather, who knows?) What better way to impress guests than to get inventive with your outdoor furniture?

Garden structures

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Feel like your garden is just a bit drab? Nothing to get excited about and no area in particular is perfect for relaxing? Just one small addition of a garden structure, such as a pergola can make a huge impact and add a real point of interest to your space.

Outdoor cooking

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We all love cooking up a storm on the barbecue, and nothing quite makes us feel like summer has arrived like the smell of grilled burgers and sausages wafting through the air. Rather than having to endure the embarrassment of bringing out a tiny disposable barbecue, invest in an area to cook that will really add to your garden, and stand the test of time.

Then relax…

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What’s the real purpose of your garden when the warm weather hits? It’s a place to lounge in, relax and just soak up the limited warm weather we have. Create a zone in which you can truly unwind, and finally enjoy your summer.

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Best barbecue recipes
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Best barbecue recipes

Summer is just around the corner, and in many of our heads, this means glorious sun drenched weekends out in the garden, barbecuing up delicious foods and enjoying our favourite refreshing beverages. Following on from our barbecue buying guide posted last week, we’re here to provide you with some great barbecue recipes if you want to stray slightly from the traditional burger and hot dog.

Flame cooked Cajun fish

Main ingredients

4 x 200 g white fish fillets, such as seabass, snapper, bream or pollock (approx. 2cm thick), skin on, scaled and pinboned, one lemon

For the rub you’ll need:

Ten sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked, four sprigs of fresh oregano, two cloves of garlic, two level teaspoons of smoked paprika, one teaspoon of cayenne pepper, one teaspoon of sea salt, one level teaspoon of finely ground black pepper, two tablespoons olive oil, one lemon.

Cooking instructions

  • To make the rub, you need to combine a few of your ingredients. If you have a pestle and mortar, mash up your fresh herbs and garlic in it until you’ve got a nice coarse paste (if not, use a blender or any other means to mix them).
  • Add the spices, salt, pepper and olive oil to your mixture, and then proceed to squeeze in the juice of half your lemon. Squeeze the lemon through your fingers, to prevent any pips getting into the mix.
  • Next, grab your fish and, using a sharp knife, lightly score the skin of your fish.
  • Now, it might get a bit messy – rub your mix into both sides of your fish using your fingers.
  • Massage the mixture thoroughly all over the fish, and push firmly into the scores to allow the rub to infiltrate the fish.
  • Place the fish into a non-stick pan and cook on a medium-high heat, skin side down, for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Once you’ve initially sealed the fish all over, make sure that you turn the heat down to low, then, very carefully, flip your fish over. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes on the second side, and check that the fish is cooked through before removing from the heat.

 

 

Spiced chicken kebabs

Main ingredients

500 g chicken breasts. Assorted vegetables, such as courgettes, mixed peppers. mushrooms and onions. 6-8 skewers

For the marinade you’ll need:

A handful of fresh coriander, a handful of fresh mint, 3 cloves of garlic, 6 spring onions, one red chilli, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a splash of olive oil.

  • Firstly, take your chicken breast, cut them into one inch cubes and place in a bowl.
  • Next, blanch the courgette strips in salted boiling water for 30 seconds before  then draining and allowing to cool.
  • Blitz all the remaining marinade ingredients (except the olive oil) together and then add olive oil whilst stirring, until you’re left with a loose paste.
  • Add the marinade to the prepared chicken pieces and together until all chicken is covered evenly.
  • Cover the bowl with foil or cling film, and store in the fridge for around an hour, allowing the chicken to marinade and the taste to develop.
  • Next, take your skewers and add the chicken and chopped assorted vegetables.
  • When ready, grill for around 5 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked.

Photo Credit: Mimolalen via Compfight cc

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Barbecue buying guide
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Barbecue buying guide

With the warm summer finally within touching distance, we’re all guilty of starting to dream of lazy weekends in the garden, over indulging in food and drink as we enjoy a well deserved break from work. Cooking up burgers, sausages and other meats over the open flame of a barbecue has become almost synonymous with the warm weather of summer, however if you’ve only recently moved into your new home, the chances are you’ll need to invest in a new barbecue before you can begin to plan your summer get-togethers. From solid structures to portable gas options, we’ve got you covered with our guide to buying a new barbecue.

Charcoal

Charcoal barbecue grills are the traditional option when it comes to cooking your meats outdoors. They have a number of advantages over the competition, and when utilised correctly, they are a great option for your garden. In terms of cooking the food, generally the burning charcoal means that meats can be cooked at a hotter temperature, and the flame grilled cooking style means the meats taste authentically barbecued to the palate.  Of course, when comparing to competitors, there are always going to be drawbacks, and the messy nature of cooking over burning coals is one downfall. If you’re cooking for a vast amount, you may need to restock on charcoal, as the initial heat soon dies away when cooking, and as the device is dangerously hot, the barbecue and surrounding area will need your full attention to avoid accidents.

Gas

Gas barbecues are a more convenient option when it comes to cooking, and the simple push-button starting mechanism provides an instant flame, on which you can begin cooking in around 10 minutes. Above the burners are flavouriser bars, which heat up and play the role that charcoal would on a traditional barbie. With the gas grill you get burner controls similar to a cooker, meaning you can quickly and easily manipulate temperatures to give you immediate desired results.  Contrary to what many people believe, there’s actually very little to no difference in taste when compared to a charcoal barbecue. The adjustability of gas means that it’s easier to cook food more evenly, with less risk of burning. After use, there’s no charcoal ash to dispose of, meaning that the process is far less messy, and easier to clean.

Charcoal options

You have many options available when opting for a charcoal barbecue. If you want to make a garden feature of your grill area, one great option is to build the supporting brickwork yourself. This means that the structure will constantly be on show in your garden. Once the building work is done, all you’ll ever need for your barbecue is the grill section, which can be picked up from Argos for as little as £30

For something more portable, our top option when it comes to a stand alone barbecues is this Weber model, which has a great design and is truly built to last. The round design means heat gets focused and the multiple vents allow you to control the temperatures with ease. With smoking capabilities, the large grilling area gives you plenty of space for direct and indirect grilling and even  comes with an optional rotisserie kit.

Gas options

Typically quite pricey options, there are plenty of designs out there to suit every need when it comes to gas barbecuing. Make sure you do thorough research into models before jumping in with a purchase, but here are a couple of our favourites for you to consider.

Make sure you set your budget before beginning to look at grills, as prices can easily head into the thousands. In our eyes, the king of the reasonably priced gas barbecue is this Broil King, which has three stainless steel Dual-tube main burners and allows you to cook and heat a variety of foods at the same time.

If you’re looking for something more modest in price, stores like B&Q have a range of options that are reliable, hard wearing and well priced, like this Bondi model. The grill and warming rack combination means you can cook items and then keep them heated until you’re ready to serve.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Brooks via Compfight cc

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