AS WE MOVE THROUGH THE SEASON, HERE'S HOW IT MOVES US...

#odetowinter   #moveslikeyou

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 flavour. 

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 leveller. 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 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 flavoured with honey or horseradish, or a warm whisky may persuade them of the joy of eating out. 

Fancy foraging for your cookout? Find out more in Get into the wild 

GREAT for OUTDOOR WINTER ACTIVITIES

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And on the winter barbecue menu? Here are 5 ideas to get you thinking

S’mores

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.

SAUSAGE ROAST

The simplest winter barbecue main
dish: sausages on a sharpened stick,
stuck into a roaring fire. What could
be cosier or bring you back so quickly
to childhood camping trips? Pre-cooking
sausages in the oven before finishing
on the grill is a safe way to
avoid undercooking.

Fish Tacos

Whether you’ve fished them yourself
from the ice, or selected them from
a fishmonger or supermarket, filleted trout
packed in foil with lemon, garlic and
herbs is delicious. Pop packets on the
grill for about 20 minutes – until it flakes.
Add fish to soft taco shells with the
fixings... and plenty of spicy sauce
to fight the chill.

ROASTED APPLES

A healthier seasonal dessert:
wrap cored apples in heavy-duty foil
and immerse in the bottom of the fire,
right next to the coals, for 10-15 minutes.
They are delicious unadulterated,
but you can also stuff them with
trimmings of your choosing:
brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins is
one delicious combination.

Wood-Fired mulled wine

A communal, cast iron pot of mulled
wine, heated over the fire, is a perfect
warming drink for an outdoor barbecue.
Heat bottle(s) of red wine, cinnamon sticks,
orange slices, star anise, in a pot over
the flames. When the mulled mix is
warmed through, add sugar to taste
and return to the wood fire for a further
15 minutes. Remove and stir in a slug
of sloe or damson gin. Serve in
heatproof glasses or mugs, sit back
and enjoy the fire.

By Jean Hannah Edelstein, Author 

For more winter stories and ideas, go to Tracking nature’s oldest paths, Watch the wonders of our winter skies and Notes on night walking