The English Summer can be a test of my spontaneity. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. SUN! Last minute plans ensue for beachside barbecues and garden grilling, often with my eyes bigger than my stomach and cooking apparatuses grossly overestimated. A sunny Friday results in an apocalyptic supermarket experience, with any ingredient resembling a sausage or a bread roll snapped up in bulk before I’ve had a chance to consider alternative menu options. A burger can be eaten out of a tortilla wrap, right?
I have learnt to save myself from the fate of breadsticks and hummus when the charcoal runs out, or having to pretend to actually like meat burnt to a cinder. I’ve adapted to be Mediterranean about things – a selection of antipasti on the beach is blissful, Greek salad tastes best eaten outside, and both take seconds to prepare and travel well.
Cooking once settled on the shoreline, nestling bums, bags and baskets into the pebbles, is another matter. Getting smoked out, eyes streaming, whilst squatting over an aluminium barbecue tray is no one’s idea of a pleasurable evening, so I like to consider my options well in advance. Camp stoves are an affordable alternative, granted they don’t offer the same soulful, charred flavours of a barbecue and lack a certain sense of adventure. There are portable, non-disposable barbecue options out there, but they can be a little try-hard. Without hesitation, a good ol’ grill-grate-over-a-fire-in-a-hole is the best bet. With a barbecue grill (rust optional), small spade, some kindling, a log or two, some charcoal and matches in the back of the car, I’m ready for anything. All it takes is a hole dug to about 15” deep, then I use the kindling and dry wood (or forage for driftwood) to light a fire in the hole and spread the charcoal over the lot. Topped with the grill, I feel quite the professional. If there’s the time, access and the propensity, catching our own fish catapults the experience. Gutted, seasoned and grilled over the fire, there really isn’t any comparison to mackerel on an August evening. Paired with a simple salad eaten out of a plastic container, and summer is served – it is an experience that is so seasonally unique, and makes the panic of savouring the sun all the worthwhile.
We heave a sigh at the sunset before taking our sandy selves home, a little chilly, but full of wholesome summer air and a sense of immense satisfaction.