Monday, 15 July 2013

One sizzling hot day: The Charcoal Challenge

We are bang in the middle of a real summer now. What do you do during these hot days? Are you enjoying the meals outdoors? Having picnics and BBQs?

summer meals

I have applied to take part in the Charcoal challenge sponsored by, even if we don't have a BBQ in the garden. Or at least one in a good working order, we have a couple of ancient stands left by the previous owner of the house, and I use them to burn the leaves and twigs in the autumn and early spring. Thankfully, our friends Jay and Annette came to the rescue and arrived to our house with their own BBQ, so that we didn't have to spend any money on the disposable one and could just splash on food and drinks (all applicants were given £50 to host a BBQ party).

For me the BBQ is not just about meat, but also about eating lots of vegetable dishes. One of my favourite aubergine dishes can be used as a super accompaniment to the meat, or eaten on its own. I love it on a chunk of nice bread, cold from a jar in the fridge. But it's lovely piping hot as well.

That's the way my Mum taught me to cook them, a cooking tradition from the south of Russia: you need to slice the aubergines, and put them under the heavy lid for a couple of hours with a sprinkle of salt. Cook them in the deep pan with plenty of oil until brown and soft. Chop the tomatoes and garlic and give them a quick fry, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Layer the aubergines in a deep dish, add the tomato sauce, then aubergines and tomatoes again. If you have fresh parsley chop it and add on top.

summer meals
Aubergines  à la Russe worked well with the BBQed meat

Jay was in charge of the BBQ and it was he who did all the lovely marinades for the chicken wings (with sesame oil) and the pork ribs. They were smokey and juicy, and utterly delicious to eat sitting on the lawn in the shade of the apple trees and rose bushes. He also BBQed big shallots, which turned rather sweet and sweaty under their skins. And we had sausages and burgers too. All the meat came from the local butcher and cost about £20 for the whole lot.

We were sitting in the garden and enjoying the evening, as it was getting cooler. It is amazing how quiet and peaceful it is in the garden among the big trees. You don't hear the cars, and the world seems to stand still (that is apart from our kids).

I prepared two simple salads: a tomato, cucumber & feta salad with the coriander, and a warm potato salad with the plain yogurt and fresh mint. Jay and Annette brought a very fancy green papaya salad (it was a type of a coleslaw, thinly shredded and well seasoned). I have never had a green papaya salad before, it definitely added an exotic touch to our table.

summer meals, BBQ side dishes

Kids were munching on the crudites with houmous and beet dip. We had juice and lemonade, and a jug of Pimms with strawberries, mint and orange for the adults.

By the end of the evening, when we felt absolutely stuffed, we were chatting and watching the little robin dipping in the water in the bird bath.

We were so full that I don't think anyone fancied a dessert (well, kids did have lollies at the start of the evening), so made a jug of mango lassi (2 cubed mangoes, yogurt, milk and a bit of vanilla ice cream).

All in all, it was a lovely evening. It was so nice to sit with the friends in the garden, enjoying the company and great food. And we couldn't have chosen a better evening for the BBQ.

Want to read what the other bloggers served for their Charcoal Challenge?
Visit Madhouse Family Reviews
and Over 40 and a Mum to One.


  1. At BBQs I always love the salad with the feta cheese in it. So yours will do perfectly fine. I don't have any kind of BBQ thingy, but already last year I was planning on building my own with some old kitchen items. Maybe I will have a go this year.

  2. Ooh love the sound of the salads :) Thanks for the mention xx

  3. Chris, building your own BBQ is a super idea! I remember years ago watching Ainsley Harriott making BBQs from all kinds of buckets and containers, it was such fun.

    Cheryl, we should get together one day, for a BBQ or a meal indoors

  4. I was popping over to see what you did with those aubergines - I love them, but never manage to cook them as well as I'd like, looks lovely, as all your cooking always does - I'm so basic with mine!

    Thank you so much for your comment and for mentioning me in your post, very kind x

  5. Thank you, Mary! I enjoyed reading about your BBQ. And your rocket looks so good, ours for some reason hasn't been thriving at all

  6. I love bbq's and eating outside in the summer, we always have lots of salads and new potatoes, yum!

  7. That looks wonderful. I haven't been to a BBQ this year :(

  8. Very inspirational - fingers crossed for the weather!