AS WE MOVE THROUGH THE SEASON, HERE'S HOW IT MOVES US...
With the global spread of hygge and pleasure of cosseting ourselves and keeping warm in all weathers, we're all for celebrating the hot trend of winter barbecuing.
Frost Fairs on frozen rivers and bonfire baking on dark nights have always been part of the joy of getting outdoors in winter. But with dining indoors restricted for the last two years because of Covid-19, cooking outside and having a drink around an open fire became a way for us to socialise with family and friends. And many of us fell in love with it.
The ability to create and control fire is one of the keys to our evolution. Fire enabled us to move into cold areas of the world and, critically, using fire for cooking meant foods like starchy tubers and meats were softened or made less toxic and easier to digest. Cooking was revolutionary - it made more of foods’ calories available and reduced the work required to digest it. This freed up so much time and energy, that our ancestors could develop large brains, language, culture and, eventually, all kinds of new cooking technologies.
So, no mystery then that we are totally at home being fireside. Many people describe an inherent feeling of connection sitting around an open fire: conversations are deeper and more revealing in the dark and magical atmosphere.
The evocative scent of woodsmoke, plates full of piping-hot grilled food sending steam out into the wintry air, the magical glow of the fire against the backdrop of darkness… With the right preparation and kit, winter could be the superior barbecue season.
HERE AT ECCO, WE’VE BEEN MASTERING THE ART OF WINTER BARBECUING, AND THESE ARE OUR TOP TIPS
Converting your back garden or patio into a space fit for a winter barbecue is easy, provided you have a fire pit or an outdoor grill. Prepare with more fuel than usual: the cold temperatures mean that you will burn through it more rapidly than you would in warmer weather. You can never have enough firelighters.
Wood or coal? Cooking with wood fire is going back to the roots of cooking. Use kiln-dried wood for less smoke and a quicker burn. There are several different kinds of charcoal, including some that can be lit directly with just a match or lighter. You could use them simultaneously: charcoal for ease, wood for flavor.
Great lightweight and portable fire pits are now available if you want to barbecue further afield, but make sure you respect local safety guidelines and restrictions.
The need for refrigeration is moot: there’s no risk keeping it outside with you if the air is the temperature of a fridge and wild animals are kept at bay.
Adequate (and flameproof) winter wear is also key. Even if you are cooking next to a hot fire, you are still likely to need a heavy coat and gloves to protect yourself from the elements. Layering up so you can then dress down is essential.
It is likely to be, or become, dark while you feast. Hang up some string lights to add atmosphere along with the light from the fire. Candles are lovely, too – just make sure they are safely placed away from blankets or bulky jackets.
A basket of blankets for your guests is always a smart idea; wrapping up in blankets is a great leveler. And seating. If your outdoor furniture is mostly hard surfaces, it might be a bit chilly to sit on. Bring out extra cushions, but keep them warm indoors until your guests arrive.
Thinking ahead about how your food will be consumed is also critical. There’s a real charm to enjoying food outside in the cold, especially under bright winter sunshine, but you might want to set a table inside or under shelter for those who really feel the cold. Mulled wine, a cheeky shot of vodka warmed over the fire and flavored with honey or horseradish, or a warm whisky may persuade them of the joy of eating out.
And on the winter barbecue menu? Here are 5 ideas to get you thinking
The staple dessert at every American campfire and barbecue has three essential components: chocolate, marshmallow and biscuit. Within this framework, however, there’s plenty of room for experimentation: think white chocolate and marshmallow with ginger nuts, or a fruit-and-nut bar with coconut marshmallows and rich tea. Toast the marshmallow at the end of a stick, add chocolate, sandwich between two biscuits, devour.