What to make and what to buy for your summer party

By
Eve O'Sullivan
Added
03 August, 2016

We spoke to Nicola Swift, Grill Product Developer at M&S, about the best shop-bought shortcuts for summer parties.




What's the most underrated cut of meat to put on the barbecue?

People can be scared about cooking something large on the BBQ but a marinated butterflied leg of lamb is completely stunning and really quite easy to cook. Also underrated? Baby gem lettuce – just oil, salt and grill, then squeeze with lemon before serving. Delicious.


What side dish would you always suggest buying?

I personally love making slaw however the chopping can seriously eat into your prep time, so definitely one to buy if you don’t want the faff. We’ve got a lovely light version this year if the traditional creamy recipe is a bit too rich – our Carnival Slaw is packed with fresh and fruity flavours which go brilliantly with grilled meat and fish.


It can be hard to judge quantities when entertaining outdoors; for example, too many salads and sausages, then one fish dish that goes in a flash. Do you have any tips for how to make the right amount of everything?

People tend to over-cater sides and salads, so try not to go mad on those – most people will only eat a spoonful or two of each. Lovely, smoky barbecued meat or fish will be slowly devoured over the course of the evening if you’ve cooked too much, whereas salad will just sit there and wilt.


What's the best ratio of shop bought ingredients versus homemade?

The best ratio is whatever you feel comfortable with – barbecues and parties are about fun, and that should also include the host. My biggest tip is to be prepared – get out serving bowls, plates, cutlery and napkins the day before – so you’re not rushing around looking for stuff when you should be grilling a sausage or enjoying a glass of wine.


What M&S dish do you use to make a bigger dish to call your own?

I love, love, love making tacos from our Smokehouse Pork Shoulder and our new soft flour tortillas. Once cooked, sprinkle M&S taco seasoning over the pork shoulder, shred, pile on top of warm tortillas with salsa, soured cream, coriander, jalapenos and spring onions and dig in!


When it comes to drinks, what are the big trends this year?

Our drinks developer, Jenny, has created something for everyone, whether you like a fruity cocktail inspired by zingy South American flavours or an American-style craft beer. We’ve really been getting into American hops with our breweries – my favourite is the American Pale, a stubby can bursting with hoppy peach and citrus notes.


And what do you think is the best dessert for a garden party?

Our new ice lollies are fab for a garden party, and loved by adults and kids alike – the Pineapple, Coconut and Lime is just the right tropical combo of creamy, zingy and refreshing.


What's the best way to cater for both adults and kids?

Stick to simple seasonings and marinades for meats, fish and veg, and create a separate ‘topping table’ for people to ‘pimp’ their plate with all the flavours they like – sauces, spicy dressings, herbs, chillies, onions, pickles, cheeses and mayos are all great.


Lastly, tell us what to do when the weather turns against us...

If disaster – or thunder and lightning – strikes, get the quick cooking stuff in the oven or grill first so that guests don’t wait too long. A speedy fix is to stick a big tray of sausages in the oven, and when they’re nearly cooked add a glaze of honey mixed with barbecue or chilli sauce – quick, easy, deliciously sticky, and no one will care that they’re inside.


Find out more about the M&S Spirit of Summer range here


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