Barbecue season (be it long or short) is a great summer garden staple. There is something extra fun about cooking outside and, done safely, it can be a great opportunity to engage children in preparing healthy, tasty food.
When barbecuing with children, the first thing to do is establish safety rules. Ask them to prepare a sand or water bucket and set it by the barbecue. Practise the stop, drop and roll technique to make sure everyone knows what to do in the unlikely event that the fire catches an item of clothing – be sure to exaggerate your actions, both to keep the drill fun, and help the procedure stick in young minds. Engage older children by giving them the responsibility to teach safety drills to those younger than them. For some children it may also be useful to set up a safety line with chalk around the barbecue and charge them with watching the line so that no one, except the designated barbecue chef, strays too close. Finally, when the barbecue gets going, make sure attending children each have something to do and are ready to brush up on their cooking master skills!
There is a job for all ages in barbecue food preparation. Whether mixing their own special barbecue sauce, wrapping a sweet or white potato in aluminium foil ready to bake, or making a vegetable or meat burger patty a whole range of skills and ingredients can be explored. For instance, a vegetable kebab is a great way to encourage young people to experiment with vegetables. Provide whole or pre-cut vegetables, depending on the skill level of the children and time available, then challenge them to make different combinations: perhaps creating a traffic-light, team-colours, or rainbow kebab, or simply producing the most colourful combinations of vegetables possible. A great way to tempt fussy eaters to try something new.
Kids can also help out by preparing barbecue side dishes. A potato salad is a classic with many different variations – try out a new recipe together, or offer the potatoes and mayonnaise with a selection of classic ingredients for children to (in ice cream counter style!) create their own recipe. Dips also offer a good opportunity for children to be involved safely away from any flames. Try out some guacamole as a vegan kebab dip. Even very young children will be able to help by mashing an avocado and then (with extra support as required) mixing in some chopped tomato, diced onion, lime juice and chilli flakes.
Remember that variety is not only the spice of life, but also a key component of a healthy diet. In addition to mixing your vegetables, explore some new barbecue recipes and ingredients such as fish – perhaps with a salmon kebab? – halloumi or a couscous stuffed pepper.
Barbecued bananas (wrapped in foil and placed on the grill or embers) are a classic, but other fruits can also be added into the barbecue repertoire. Finish off your meal with a grilled fruit salad – brush pineapple and peach slices with a dash of oil and place on the grill to cook for about 8 minutes (turning once). Serve with a Greek yoghurt, honey and mint dressing. Delicious!