Many school going households have already started the new term and at best it is only a few days away for the rest.
For those without such confining deadlines you may still see September as a good time to reinstate proper routines. My family falls into the former category and so the last few weeks have been busy with preparations.
A small stationery shop was emptied of its pens, pencils, pencil cases, rubbers and the like in order to supply my offspring with the tools necessary for learning. The smell of new school bags fills the hallway where they are filled and perched, ready for the off, almost the same size as each child. Both children and bags are brimming with that new term potential.
Add the new uniforms; crisp crested jumpers, fresh shirts, spotless track suits and my little rabble are transformed into a little army of scholars.
Of course it will only be a matter of weeks before this veneer of newness wears off and the true drudgery of it all emerges. However, even though they are back at school, I think we can still keep some semblance of the summer freedom going, for a week or two anyway.
Don’t move indoors just yet, why not cook on the barbeque each evening and enjoy the back garden or pack a picnic and a few sweat shirts and head for a late afternoon, early evening on the beach or in the countryside. The blackberries are out already and an hour of lazy outdoor evening berry picking is the perfect end to a timetabled, rigid indoor school day.
BARBECUE INTO SEPTEMBER
I like to barbecue as far into September as I can. It’s easy, it’s fun and there’s always less cleaning and washing up to do. There’s still plenty of pre prepared meat perfect for barbecuing and grilling available at most good butchers or just do it yourself. Steer away from the expected burger and sausage. Think new and fresh tastes, different dressings and maybe even try cooking something outdoors that you’ve never done before, like a vegetable or a dessert.
Corn on the cob is one of my favourites. The preparation is minimal and the result is fantastic. To cook corn on the cob on your barbecue half the entire corn on the cob lengthways down the middle. I usually make up a little herb and spice butter. Take some soft butter and chop in some fresh coriander and garlic and, if you like a little heat, some finely chopped and de-seeded red chillies and a little lime zest. Mix it all together and spread lightly over the halved corn on the cobs. Wrap each piece in tin foil and throw them onto a medium hot, covered barbecue for about 30 minutes. You can also do them in the oven for about the same time at roughly 180°C. The herby butter is really a matter of taste; just use your favourite herbs.
Chicken is another great family favourite. Drumsticks are easy for small hands. There are several things you can do to make a chicken drumstick sing. Honey and mustard is simple and you probably have all the ingredients to hand. You’ll need some honey, Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard, white wine vinegar, sunflower oil and some salt and pepper. I tend to do it by eye but it’s roughly 4 tablespoons of honey, 4 tablespoons each of the mustards and the vinegar, about two tablespoons of the oil and some salt and pepper, all mixed together to form a glaze. Make a diagonal slash in each of the drumsticks and place them in a large glass bowl. Pour the glaze over the chicken making sure everything is well coated. Cover the dish with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.
Cook the drumsticks, turning frequently and basting often with the marinade. Depending on the size they should take about 30 minutes on a medium hot grill.
For something a little more sophisticated try mixing the zest and juice of one orange, a crushed clove or two of garlic, some fresh thyme and about 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Again pour over the drumsticks, cover with cling film and pop into the fridge for at least an hour. Cook the same way as the honey and mustard version, making sure they are cooked through before serving.
HOW ABOUT SKEWERS?
How about skewers? When it comes to the barbecue you can literally put a meal on a stick. I appreciate there can be a bit of chopping and preparation, but once they are assembled all the mess is gone and they provide a fun eating experience for everyone.
Indeed skewers can be prepared the night before or in the morning and come teatime, fire up the barbecue and you’ll have a fantastic meal in no time. You can use any meat from chicken and turkey to lamb, beef and even sausages or prawns. Cherry tomatoes, courgettes and small onions all make great skewer partners.
Once the skewers are assembled marinate them in a sauce of choice for at least an hour and they are ready to go whenever you are.
Tinfoil parcels of goodness are another way to prepare ahead for a school evening outdoor feast. From simple jacket potatoes to stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes or garlic bread; wrap them up in shiny parcels and let the hot coals do the work to create the taste.
We may be on the cusp of a seasonal change but let’s not wave goodbye to summer just yet. The school year shouldn’t be any longer than it really needs to be. I welcome your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org