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Friday Night Rituals: Autumn BBQs

Jo Whiley tells us how she spends her Friday night getting ready for an autumn BBQ with her family. This is our Friday Night Rituals series…

A family BBQ with Jo Whiley

A BBQ is about the friends who are turning up to share your food and company and ambience is always key.

I can’t be the only one living in hope of an Indian summer. I love those balmy days and less than toasty nights spent on patios, in gardens and parks, wrapped in extra layers to stave off the evening chill. Or, even better, all gathered round the BBQ for extra heat and sustenance. Debate rages about the best way to BBQ and everyone thinks their way is best.

Gas always feels odd to me, a bit like taking your oven onto the patio and although I’m sure it makes life easier, taking the stress out of the process, it also lacks authenticity. I quite like all the sweating and swearing and the jeopardy of the flames! My husband’s nickname is ‘Safety Officer Steve’ because of his fear of all things remotely hazardous. This means you are never further than two rooms away from a fire extinguisher in our house. You can imagine how traumatic he finds BBQs. This means I am by no means an expert but an enthusiast and here’s what I have come to know about the art of the great British BBQ…


Buy environmentally friendly fire starters and use British lumpwood charcoal for your fire – this is relatively easy to buy at large homeware stores.

Always marinade your meats and veg in advance – it saves time, enhances the flavour of what you eat and tenderises the meat.

Try and buy your meat and fish from sustainable sources and make it organic if you can. Supporting your local butcher is ideal and may prove to be cheaper. Likewise if you have a local farm shop you should be able to get some great vegetables to fashion into beautiful Instagrammable kebabs.

When it comes to aesthetics, you can really be creative. A brilliant tip I read recently read suggested using old china plates and crockery from charity shops to dress your table which I love the idea of. A mismatch of patterns and coloured glass lit by nightlights in jam jars and solar powered fairy lights will look beautiful especially if you have a few fragrant flower pots on your patio or in your garden.

More than anything, a BBQ is about the friends who are turning up to share your food and company and ambience is always key. The ultimate easy-peasy pudding for summer nights and minimal effort is Eton Mess which is a dream to make and devour. Simply smash up some shop bought meringues in a bowl, pile on some whipped double cream and throw in handfuls of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and sprinkle of pomegranate seeds for a jewel-like finish. You don’t even have to use bowls if you’re feeding close friends and family – just hand out long colourful spoons so everyone can tuck in.

Finally, kids will always want marshmallows to melt/burn on the embers and s’mores have become a big deal over the past couple of years. It’s basically a marshmallow sandwich: take two rich tea/digestive biscuits and put some chocolate pieces on them. When you’re ready, pierce your marshmallow with a skewer and toast it in the barbecue until it’s hot and squidgy, then place it between the two biscuits and enjoy!


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