Your arms feel a few inches longer and there are still some random boxes to unpack but you’ve done it: you’ve moved, the keys to your new home jangling in your pocket. All that hard work and nail-biting surely deserves a celebration. It’s summer, so why not host a housewarming BBQ?
Friends of mine recently moved, using a company that just loves food and talked housewarming all the way. They asked my advice, and this is what I told them. Voilà! My tips for how to create a great housewarming barbecue-fest.
If you already know the area, chances are you know where to go for good barbecue fodder. If not, this is a great opportunity to find out. Get on the internet and search for good butchers in your postcode. Perhaps invite your new neighbours so you can get to know each other. At the same time, you could ask about where they shop locally, and perhaps find your barbecue meat through their recommendation.
One piece of advice: you don’t want to do loads of dishes at the end of the night, so purchase plastic. It doesn’t need to be all white and boring; there are some very smart disposable designs out there. Foil platters are a good idea for laying out the sausages, burgers, kebabs and/or steaks before you stoke up the flames. Buy a couple of extras for the meat, once it’s cooked. Remember, a housewarming should be fun! Forget the breakables and lose the washing up.
Kebabs of chicken chunks with chorizo
Next up: the meal plan. Make a list of your guests and how much you think they’ll eat. Is Jack a six-sausage man with a burger chaser? Jill is vegetarian, so you’ll need a few non-meat options for her. Will everyone bring their kids? Yes? Then make sure you get extra chipolatas. They’re always popular with small people. (Counting sausages is why they make us take maths at school.) Or will this be a grown-ups-only evening, in which case it might be time to dig out that cocktail shaker and delegate a couple of guests to help make the drinks.
My vege skewers with halloumi
The most important thing on your shopping list should be fuel. Don’t get to the day of the housewarming, only to find out that the gas canister is empty and the local supply has run out. Yes, I speak from experience. It wasn’t our housewarming, but we did have a houseful of guests at the time. Embarrassing, to say the least. Once the final flames had spluttered out we had to finish everything in the oven. Please do learn from our mistake.
Next, shop for meats. On top of the usual sausages and steaks, many butchers also sell pre-prepared skewers in marinade, so buying a stash of those will save some time on the day. If you buy ahead of time and freeze your meats, do allow for enough time to defrost them safely. Put them in the fridge the night before and on the day leave them to sit a good few hours (depending on the density of the meat. For meat skewers or small sausages, this will take far less time than a thick steak), covered, in the shade, at room temperature before everyone starts to arrive.
Bread is another one for the list. If you’re doing burgers, don’t forget the buns. If it’s bratwurst and you’re making hot dogs, don’t forget the rolls. Or the sauces! It’s too easy to forget the obvious things. Kitchen towel and paper napkins are also good to have on hand, preferably in abundance. No stain removal or washing required.
For the meat averse, and to keep the carnivores’ diets balanced, you might want to add the following:
A giant green salad. Keep some extra in the fridge for when it runs low. Leave the dressing on the side. Some love it; others will calorie count it.
Potato salad – everyone has a favourite recipe for this. Mine has lots of crème fraîche and whole grain mustard tossed through the spuds.
A cold pasta dish always goes down well. Lemon juice and zest with cream, parmesan and parsley work well to make a lovely, summery combination.
Vege kebabs with halloumi – alternate chunks of capsicum with quarters of large-ish mushrooms, wedges of onion and squares of cheese. Everyone I know enjoys this, even the most red-blooded of the meat-eating gang. If you try this one, don’t forget to stock up on skewers. Wood works well, but the metal ones are better over heat and can be used repeatedly.
Time for something sweet? Let’s keep the end of the evening simple, as well. Fill a large bowl with berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, whatever you can get your hands on. A generous splash of rum and a couple of teaspoons of sugar give this an edge; just don’t leave it anywhere near the under-eighteens. Make sure they have their own berry bowl, without the rum. Serve with vanilla ice cream. It’s not the most original end to an evening, but you can’t beat a summer classic, unless one of your guests is allergic to strawberries. Give them extra ice cream to ease that pain.
Drinks-wise, beer, wine and soft drinks are usually the thing. Perhaps a couple of jugs of Pimm’s to get the party started? Or my Courvoisier punch. See below for the recipe.
250ml Courvoisier cognac
20 dashes of Angostura bitters
slices of fruit (oranges or lemons work best)
combine all in punch bowl.
Your fridge and freezer may well be overflowing by this point so buy in bags of ice at the last minute, and do the old trick of filling a bin with ice and transferring bottles into it to free up space in the fridge to chill more. It’s far easier to buy the bags than it is to make a freezer’s-worth of ice cube trays when the space could be better used, for instance, for fast chilling of luke-warm white wine or fizz.
If you do decide to use the freezer to chill drinks, just make sure you set a timer to make sure you don’t overdo it and find yourself with exploding bottles and a mess to clean up.
So, that’s it! If you’d like me to post any of the above-mentioned recipes or recommendations for butchers in London SW4 and SW11, just leave a comment and I’ll get the info on the site asap.
Now, go forth, make the invites and get ready to toast your new home. Bon appétit!
Please do click here to visit a great blog about moving, in all its hardships and joys. It’s not all about removal services, although they do impart a lot of very sound advice, just in case you’re about to find yourself elbow-deep in packing crates.