Aaah the magnificent Australian Summer!
Sunscreen, salty air, beaches, the smell of welcome rain when it finally comes; and the great Aussie barbie. The institution that is the great Aussie barbecue is amazing! It gives us a chance to relax, catch up and share a story or two in a casual environment. No fancy hors d'oeuvres required, just good food, salty snacks and a few drinks on ice.
So what are the keys to hosting a great gluten free barbecue? Well, pretty much the same as every other barbecue, with just a few tweaks. Here’s our top tips for a safe and fun gluten free barbie this summer.
- Pre-planning. Firstly check the long range forecast a week in advance. If you live in Melbourne like us, it may be predicting a 40 degree day or a cold rainy one. Somewhere in between would be nice. If you live up North you might need to watch for storms, and sadly if you live near some of our fire ravaged areas, you might need to check for air quality. Wherever you are, check local fire ban information and ensure your barbecue is safe. If the weather report is dodgy, then prepare plan B, which could be an inside eating plan or some sort of outdoor covers for your guests.
If you are at home, check your barbecue. It needs to be in good working order with sufficient gas? Nothing ruins the start of a barbie like a quick trip to the servo to grab a new bottle. If you are using a shared barbecue in a park or down by the beach, you might want to put aside something to give the top a thorough wash down, and take a barbecue liner or baking paper. GF Pantry recommends the liner to prevent cross contamination.
- Set the scene. Grab your best backyard chairs, clean the sun umbrella, stock up on citronella candles and bug spray, fill the esky with ice and if it’s Australia Day, put Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown on the radio. The whole point of an Aussie barbecue is to catch up with family and friends, so make sure you have plenty of the little things like seating, and sunscreen to make everyone comfortable. Necessities such as serviettes, plates, glasses, and cutlery can follow a theme, but if it is an Aussie day barbecue, grab the themed decorations in advance, or all you will be left with is toothpick flags and a blow up kangaroo. Keep it functional and simple. To be environmentally friendly, there are plenty of reusable outdoor table setting supplies that might get you through a few years’ worth of events.
- Nibbles. You can’t have a social barbie without the nibbles – nothing fancy is required, just plain old salty snacks that are gluten free. Think pretzels, chips, crackers and dips and if you want something healthy, then a plate of vegies with a nice dip is welcome too.
- Meats. There are so many choices, succulent lamb, well-cooked marinated chicken wings, fresh lemon and herb fish in a foil pouch, juicy burgers or a good quality snag. Whatever you choose, everything needs to be checked for gluten. Before marinating, rubbing or crumbing, check that rubs, marinades, seasonings, herbs and crumbs are all gluten free. There are so many delicious products to both add flavour and tenderise your meat, you just need to choose the right ones. Gf Pantry has plenty of choices if you are needing help. Most are simple and just need to be mixed in a bowl or rubbed or brushed onto food. Most can be made up in advance to save you time on the day. Burgers and sausages are often gluten free; just check before buying.
- Condiment bar. When you want to add some pizzazz to good food, why not add it with condiments. Check to be sure they are gluten free then slather on French mustard or pop some pickles on the side. A spoonful of good relish on a fresh burger is divine. If you are having traditional breads or rolls, use full squeeze bottles for sauces to help avoid cross contamination and you might even need separate relish/mustard jars.
- Bread. Although a totally gluten free barbie sounds good to me, and GF Pantry does sell lots of great breads, not everyone is going to want to eat gluten free bread. If you do decide to offer both, make sure you keep wheat buns away from the grill, away from the gluten free buns and away from the rest of the food in general. Separate gluten and gluten free butters/butter knives will also of course be required with their respective bakery goods.
- Dietary Requirements. The perfect barbecue caters to everyone's tastes and needs. Check with guests for special dietary requirements beforehand. It’s easy to cater for everyone, but preparation is important. How about vegetable kebabs, hot baked potatoes or corn on the cob for vegetarians, cooked of course before the meat touches the grill? Remember to soak wooden skewers in cold water before threading to help stop burning, and if you are baking the potatoes or corn, let your guests choose to add their own butter and salt.
- Salads. Not everyone wants a plate of meat, so offering salads is important. Nothing fancy; just fresh, and keep the bacon off the top if non porcine eaters are coming. A simple green salad with a coleslaw, potato salad or quinoa salad is great; and so is a crunchy Asian salad using Chang’s gluten free fried noodles. Have all your salad ingredients washed and ready in the fridge in advance; then combine and dress them at the last minute so they stay crisp. GF Pantry now also sells a range of gluten free dressings and mayonnaise.
If a well-meaning friend brings a salad and it contains gluten, just make sure it has its own serving utensils and is kept down the end with the gluten rolls. It’s up to you whether you’d feel comfortable having a “NON GF sign” down that end of the table.
- Desserts. You can whip up anything you like but sometimes the traditional works best. Bowls of fruit, passionfruit halves with teaspoons, cherries or strawberries are always popular, along with a classic cheesecake made from gluten free arrowroot or tea biscuits. Tiramisu made with gluten free sponge finger biscuits needs no cooking on a hot day, or a good Aussie pavlova can be decorated with gluten free choc mint biscuits. Delish! Once again, keep it simple; no one needs 6 desserts.
- Drinks. If your barbie isn’t the traditional BYO, then check out our blog on gluten free alcohol for serving ideas. There's huge list of gluten free beers on the market these days, and wine is always gluten free unless something fancy has been added. Offer non-alcoholic drinks for kids and guests who don't wish to drink alcohol, and of course always offer plenty of water on a hot day. A fruit punch is a little bit fancy, or a mojito or summer rum cocktail is fun.
- Entertainment. Socialising is the reason for your barbecue. Although we tend to focus on food, the barbecue really should just be a tool to get us together. Activities can be great to get everyone mingling; organise backyard cricket, throw a Frisbee, or get everyone smiling with a game of Twister. Keep the kids and kids at heart, entertained with an old fashioned deck of cards or a funny board game, and have a ripper play list with all your favourite music booming out across the garden.
- Clean up. Have some bin bags handy so that cleaning up isn’t too onerous. If bags are around friends will often clear as they go. Depending on your council regulations you may even have the recycling wheelie bin in the corner of the garden; guests can chuck their empties straight in!
- And lastly for number 13 in the gluten free baker’s dozen; enjoy yourself. Everyone loves a relaxed happy host, so don’t forget to enjoy your own barbecue. Good Luck!