Tag Archives: barbecue

How Will You Celebrate Australia Day?

How grouse is Australia Day?  Summer’s in full swing and the birds are chirping; I reckon they know it’s a public holiday.

Australia Day is about relaxed entertaining.  Leave the fine china in the cupboard and forget what they taught you at finishing school.  This is singlet weather.  There’s time for formality when we’re all back in sleeves.  In the meantime, fire up the barbie.  It’s time to kick back with friends and family, contemplate a cooling beverage, and have a yarn.

Aussie Tucker


For most of us, Australia Day means taking the day off and letting  your hair down.  When you get right down to it, the most true blue Aussie thing you could do for a feed is to eat whatever you feel like.  If what you feel like is something uniquely antipodean then have a crack at some national icons like lamingtons, pavlova, macadamia nuts, kangaroo steaks, or ANZAC biscuits.  Or if you really want to go the extra mile, build a fire and cook some beer damper.  It’s probably gonna be a hot day though, so take a look at the fire bans before you collect any kindling.

The most iconic Australia Day beverage is beer.  Here at Outdoor Living Direct, we rather like beer.  But I’m gonna bet you don’t need beer explained.  Other iconic Aussie beverages include Milo, Bundaberg Rum and Schweppes and Kirk’s soft drinks.  If you’re making damper, pair it with billy tea.

Fire in the Hole!

For many of us, Australia Day means barbecue.  And for many of us, barbecueing means firing up a good old gas burner barbecue and cooking on the grill.  But that’s not the only way!

Cooking on the grill of a gas barbecue is popular for a reason: you get a ripper feed.  But if you’re keen to give something different a go then why not try digging a firepit?  Pit cooking is often looked at as an American import, but in many ways it’s the most fair dinkum Australian way to barbecue: the First Australians were cooking their meat in a firepit long before any other form of barbecue made its way to our shores.

The grill of a gas burner barbecue works by applying direct heat; this is great for steaks n snags.  Pit cooking uses indirect heat, so you can roast larger bits of meat.  “Low N Slow” is the name of the game here: dinner’s gonna take a while.  6-12 hours in the pit is more or less normal, depending on the size of the meat.

So how do you do it?  Well, if you wanna cook in a pit, there’s no way around it..

..you’re gonna need a pit.  Dig!  You’ll want it 90-100cm deep, and about 15-30cm larger on each side than the food you’ll be cooking.  Line the bottom and sides of the pit with volcanic rocks, then find something to cover the pit with.

On pit cooking day, get things started by building a large fire in the pit.  Keep it roaring for an hour or so, then let it burn down to coals.  You want a big whack of toasty hot coals.  They’re cooking your dinner.  Once the fire has died down enough, wrap your meat in foil and damp hessian, put it in the hole, then cover.  Check this site out for a more in-depth discussion of pit cooking.

portable firepit bbq

Maybe you want to give pit cooking a go but don’t want to dig a great big stinking hole in your lawn.  Or maybe you do, but your significant other won’t allow it.  Either way, no need to miss out!  We’ve got it sorted with our portable firepits.

Billy Lids

If there’s gonna be kids at your Australia Day celebration, think up some activities for them.  For their sake, of course, but for everyone’s sanity too.  Children with nothing to do are often a pain.  Dress ups are a great option.  Go for costumes that fit the theme: things like swagmen with beards and cork hats, convicts with a ball and chain, or bushrangers with revolvers and Ned Kelly helmets.

Everyone Else

Grown-ups need a lot less guidance; most of us know how to enjoy food, drinks, a reclining solution, and the finest of company.  That said, a spot of backyard cricket is a bit of fun.  Two-up is another traditional Aussie pastime; it’s been a favourite of convicts since the eighteenth century, and was beloved by our diggers in the trenches of World War One.  Strictly speaking, you’re only supposed to put money on this game on ANZAC day; keep the bets friendly so nobody loses their shirt.

Less traditional, but just as Aussie, is the simple dress competition.  This is a bit like a fancy dress competition, only it’s not.  Australia Day is about being relaxed, so the winner can only be whoever has put the least amount of effort into their attire.  Think this is easy?  If you’re playing to win, it’s fiendishly difficult: as soon as you go to any effort to make it look like you haven’t gone to any effort then you’ve gone to too much effort.  Whoever thought Australia Day might be so confounding?  It’s quite a brain twister; I think you’ll need another beer.

The next thing you might do is sing the national anthem together.  See how much you can remember.  Hopefully, not all of it; if you can sing the second verse then you’re not properly Australian.  You might prefer the Hottest 100, or whatever tunes you feel like really.  It’s your party.

Grand Final Day Barbecues: The Experts Weigh In

Footy finals season is well and truly here!  Do you know what you’re doing for Grand Final Day yet?  If you’re not one of the lucky ones to score a ticket to the game, there’s a good chance you might be celebrating with the traditional barbecue.

At the beginning of the month we published our guide to hosting a great AFL or NRL Grand Final barbie.  Now we follow up by asking a few food, lifestyle and sporting gurus to share their thoughts on how to enjoy the day.

The Italian Chef


Annalisa Ferrari of a.ferarri kitchen

Annalisa Ferrari is a chef and food writer.  Though now based in Sydney, she grew up in Florence, Tuscany, and lived in Paris and New York City before finding her way to Australia.  If you’re craving something a little more swish than party pies and tomato sauce, then listen up: she’s bringing the noise.

While her food ideas are a far cry from the traditional fare at a Grand Final barbie, the sentiments behind them will be familiar.  We agree with her 100% that great food shouldn’t mean being stuck in the kitchen instead of enjoying the game: “If you have a great sporting event to host and you want to have fun and be part of the party you want to create dishes that need little work, time and attention while the game is on and your guests are over.  It’s much more fun to be in the party rather than cooking it!”


As a native of Italy, Annalisa is somewhat more familiar with the rounder balled version of football.  Her food ideas, though, could work just as well for an AFL or NRL game: “Last time I catered a world cup soccer event we had a pasta al forno (pasta bake) with tomato, pork&fennel sausages, herbs, parmigiano, ricotta and a sprinkle of pine nuts. This item can be put together in advance and put in the oven 30 minutes before you want to eat it, that’s it!”


“In addition, we had a huge ratatouille tart, this can also be prepared in advance.  All you have to do is stick it in the oven when you put the pasta in.”


“Then to wow them all, affogati (ice cream with espresso) for dessert”


“There you have it: a delicious, easy grand final feast!”

We then asked Annalisa a few questions:

What are your favourite food ideas for a Grand Final day barbecue?

“So if I had to choose a menu that has to be done in part on the bbq I would get a whole rib eye fillet, cover it with fresh herbs and cook it 5 minutes per side. Let it rest (for 20 minutes) then carve thinly and serve with roasted shallots.”

image001 (2)“While you are resting the meat you can put thick slices of eggplant , zucchini and peppers, covered in sumac, oregano salt and pepper on the BBQ and grill. When these are ready drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a splash of lemon and serve with Mozzarella as a side to the  the meat.”

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“In addition this can be accompanied by a pasta with pesto, fresh tomatoes, olives and ricotta  (that can be made in advance).”

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“I finish it all off with Ice cream affogato’s and perhaps a salame dolce ( a chocolate log with nuts, coconut flakes, biscuit and dried fruit.”

What do you recommend in the way of drinks for the day?

“For drinks you could have some mimosas to start  (champagne and  fresh orange juice) or another great drink is a sprits (Aperol, soda water and a slice of orange) This is a great low alcohol drink to kick off the day!”

What’s the best time for Grand Final day celebrations to start?  Grand Final breakfast, yea or nay?

“Any time of day is a great time for a grand final celebration: it’s the final! What more of an excuse do you need to get the crew together have fun eat and drink and possibly watch your team kick the winning goal?”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“For the World Cup my Italian friends ended up playing in the garden with a pink Barbie ball, pretending to be on the national team. Their serious actions executed with the Barbie ball where priceless!  When sport is a passion, any ball will do, so long as you get the chance to kick and celebrate.”

What should the host provide at a Grand Final day barbecue, and what should guests bring?

“When I host a party I like to do most of the cooking, but If I ask guests to bring something it’s salad, bread, crackers for cheese, beer and wine. If I have a friend who loves to make a special dessert then I let that friend go ahead and bring it.  There are never too many treats!”

What’s the worst thing anyone can say or do at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Not having the sportsmanship to let people cheer for their team. There is nothing like a bad loser! Sport is a game, passion and love.  Everyone in it should be treated with respect and celebrated no matter what the results of the game are.”

The Food and Travel Writers

Amanda and Shayne Quayle

Amanda Quayle and Shane Schipper of Graze the Earth

Shane Schipper is the head chef for Cirque de Solel’s show Kooza, and an enormous NRL fan.  Amanda is a marketing and events professional with a passion for food and travel.  Together they write about their circus adventures around the world on their blog “Graze the Earth”.

What are your favourite food ideas for a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Slow roasted lamb shoulder and beer can chicken on the BBQ. This way we can watch the game and chat to our friends. We marinate the lamb a day before in garlic, chilli, basil and olive oil.For the beer can chicken we rub it with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper. Empty half the beer (husband to consume) and put in the can three lemon wedges, tspn garlic, tspn chicken salt and pinch of oregano.”

“Can’t go wrong with potato bake! This has become such a huge hit at our BBQ’s that we have to make two trays of it. We only make one salad, experience shows the meat and potato bake go first. Rocket, grilled asparagus, toasted pine nuts, roasted tomatoes and shavings of Parmesan.”

What do you recommend in the way of drinks for the day?

“Drinks on grand final day are usually beers and wine. We provide soft drinks and water with raspberries and mint.”

What’s the best time for Grand Final day celebrations to start? Grand Final breakfast, yea or nay?

“Nay to breakfast! To much prep and not enough time. We have friends arrive from 2pm that way we can chat and eat before the pre-match coverage starts.”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“A girlfriend of ours was backing the opposite team to us. She disappeared into our kitchen and hijacked our dessert by handing out cupcakes with blue glitter frosting to bribe everyone to support her team!”

What should the host provide at a Grand Final day barbecue, and what should guests bring?

“A good host should provide the food for the BBQ, non alcoholic drinks and eskys or buckets of ice to keep guests drinks cold. Guest can bring their alcoholic drinks of choice.”

What’s the worst thing anyone can say or do at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Offend other guests who are supporting the opposite team. Yelling at them does not help, they’re not playing the game! Sport brings out passion in people but it can also make them a little irrational. Remember to keep your cool and have a good time.”

The Barbecue Fanatic


Chris Girvan-Brown of Urban Griller

The phrase “avid barbecue fiend” doesn’t seem to appear in any dictionary I own, but if you find it in yours, what probably follows afterwards is a description of Chris Girvan-Brown.  Chris is the founding president of the Australian BBQ Association (ABBQA) and is head BBQ chef of the Urban Griller BBQ Cooking School and Catering Company in Western Australia.  He also appears on barbecue cooking segments on local radio, and has been operating BBQ cooking schools for 14 years.

What are your favourite food ideas for a Grand Final day barbecue?

“You need good finger food, nothing too complex, little boys are great grilled in the BBQ, wrap them in bacon if you want to go upmarket, but just grilling them is enough! Sprinkle some BBQ rub on chunks of corn, Frenched lamb chops are great, they come with their own handle, just hit them with salt and pepper and grill them off, serve with a herby mayonnaise.”

What do you recommend in the way of drinks for the day?

“Mostly the drinks will look after themselves as people bring what they want, have plenty of clean glasses and bottle openers. I would make sure to have some soda and lemon slices. Watch that your bins don’t fill up with empties!”

What’s the best time for Grand Final day celebrations to start?  Grand Final breakfast, yea or nay?

“I think an early start is good, but it’s a long day if you have a Grand Final Breakfast, make sure it’s a hearty affair, there is a long way to go!”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Not really funny at the time, but I’ve seen a serious BBQ fat fire from the host being distracted by a crucial goal and never quite getting back to the job at hand! Tragic, but we did laugh after a bit of hose work!

What should the host provide at a Grand Final day barbecue, and what should guests bring?

“It’s a no-brainer: the Host provides the meat, ice and backup beer, the guests bring beer, salads and nibbles.”

What’s the worst thing anyone can say or do at a Grand Final day barbecue?

” ‘Can someone move that car, I need to go home.’ it’s the beginning of the end!”

“Rule No 38 of good BBQ:  Make sure your “best mate” doesn’t have to move his car to let out some wimp who wants to go home too early.”

Theme Ideas for Your Next Outdoor Get-Together or party

Theme ideas for your next outdoor get-together

Not every backyard party needs a theme.  It can be enough just for people to get together to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere.  Add some snacks, a few drinks, some tunes.. you’re set!  Sometimes, though, it’s a bit of fun to give your party a theme.  Here are a few theme ideas for your next outdoor get-together or party.


Themes for Childrens’ Parties

The backyard can be the perfect place for a kid’s birthday party: at some point after a few red cordials there might be a bit of chaos and bedlam, and it’s a good idea to keep that away from the antiques.


Every boy of a certain age understands that robots are awesome!  Decorations should be metallic, grey and silver in colour, festooned with nuts and bolts.

What to serve: Use a robot shaped cookie cutter to make robot biscuits.  Cola can be served as “mineral oil”.  Marshmallows of different sizes can be assembled using toothpicks into marshmallow robots.

What to do: Use cardboard boxes and foil to have the kids dress up as robots when they enter the party.  You can turn this into a competition, with a prize for the best robot costume.  “Simon says” can be played as “robot says”.  “Pin the tail on the donkey” can become “pin the arms on the robot”.  Have “robot races” where legs have to be kept straight at all times – first to the finish line wins!

Bubbles and Balloons

This one’s great for toddlers, though I think that deep down, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we all love bubbles and balloons.

What to serve: Gumballs, meatballs, rumballs, stuffed potato balls, and delicious round food of any type.  Bubble tea.  Fill balloons with helium and anchor them down by tyeing them with string to pieces of raspberry coconut slice wrapped in parchment paper.

What to do: Show the kids how to make their own bubble wands using pipe cleaners.  Have a competition for who can blow the largest bubble.  Hold a “balloon race” where two or more teams of equal size all stand in a row and pass the balloon from the from the front to the back – when the balloon gets to the end, the kid at the back runs to the front and then the balloon gets passed back again – the first team to run through every member so that the kid who started at the front is back there again, is the winner.  Popping balloons can be fun, but be careful that this doesn’t happen near to anybody’s ears or eyes.

For the Grown-Ups

No need for the kids to have all the fun!

Tropical party

There’s no better way to pass away a hot summer night than with a tropical party in the backyard.

What to serve: Cocktails.  Woohoo!  Yeah, cocktails!  Mai Tais, mojitos, frozen daiquiris, margaritas, pina coladas, getting caught in the rain.. these all fit the bill for a tropical party.  Don’t forget to serve a few alcohol-free “mocktails” for the non-tipplers and those who have to drive.  Tropical fruit platters are a great food idea, as are skewers and mini hawaiian pizzas.  Click here for more finger food ideas.

What to do: Man, do the limbo!  How low can you go?  Have a hula hoop competition – whoever can hula the longest, wins.  Don’t forget to grab a few hammocks for your guests so they can recline in true tropical style.

Classic Afternoon Tea

Elegant and refined, civilised and traditional.  Initially arising in 19th century Britain amongst hungry highborn ladies of Queen Victoria’s court as an informal stopgap “mini meal” between a midday lunch and a dinner not scheduled until 8:30pm, afternoon tea became a distinctly formal affair once the queen herself got involved.  Afternoon tea parties would go for hours and might host hundreds of guests.  Once a daily ritual for the idle rich, afternoon tea is generally enjoyed in modern times as a rare treat to mark a special occasion, such as a birthday or baby shower.

Fine manners and finer china are optional, but highly encouraged.

What to serve:  Tea!  Loose leaf tea, ideally.  Some seven decades on from its initial publication, George Orwell’s seminal essay ‘A Nice Cup of Tea‘ still serves well as a guide to brewing a great cuppa.  Additionally, champagne, prosecco or other sparkling white wine can be served.

Afternoon tea also requires some food:  pastries, cakes, slices, small finger sandwiches, biscuits, and scones are all very strong options.  Bruschetta or chicken caesar salad are far less traditional menu items, but no less tasty.  You should aim for a balance between savoury and sweet.

What to do:  Converse in a genteel, leisurely fashion.

All Ages

What about family dos, and other occasions for children and adults together?  Keep reading!

Outdoor Fiesta

Food, drinks, and games are all part of the fun of a south-of-the-border themed fiesta.

What to serve: Nachos, tacos, enchiladas, salsa dip with corn chips, beans and rice, guacamole, sweet churros, mezcal, Tecate, and agua fresca.

What to do: Hold a chilli eating competition, break open piñata, or enjoy siesta.



Halloween is growing in popularity in Australia, and in many parts of the country, the end of October is when the weather starts to get nice again, so it’s a great time to take your Halloween party outdoors.  Costumes and novelties make it a great time with a little something to offer people of all ages.

What to serve: Snacks.  Creepy, ghoulish snacks.  Spookier the better!

With a little ingenuity, tasty treats can manifest as macabre, menacing, monstrously morbid morsels.  Rum balls can be dipped in white chocolate and decorated with a chocolate chip and red icing to become bloodshot eyeballs.  Cupcakes can be topped with thick zigzags of light orange icing to become braincakes.  Bruschetta pieces can be placed into guacamole vertically in rows, as tombstones, to create a chips and dip graveyard.  Juice can be frozen inside a rubber glove – you can then cut the glove away to create a severed hand to place inside a bowl of sangria or punch.  Cocktails can be served with black licorice sticks as stirrers.

What to do: The key to making a Halloween party for all ages work is to include something for everyone.  A Halloween scavenger hunt is a great way to make things fun for the kids, while keeping them occupied and getting them out of the way.  For the “groan-ups”, there’s probably little need of organised activities as they no doubt already know what to do at a party.  For all ages, costumes are to be non-negotiable.  This is a Halloween party, after all!

The Good Old Aussie Barbecue

An evergreen favourite.  Though there’s nothing uniquely Australian about barbecueing, we’ve been more than happy to put our own spin on it and adopt it as a national icon.  And why not?  The Aussie barbecue is a wonderful institution unifying people of all ages and from many walks of life.

What to serve: Beer is the traditional beverage of choice at the aussie barbie.  Well chilled pale lagers work well with the weather and the food, although crisper tasting ales like Cooper’s Sparkling are also worth considering.

Meat, fish and seafood are the traditional barbecue fare.  Prawns and sausages are both popular for a reason, but there’s no reason to limit yourself: shish kebabs, lamb cutlets in tandoori marinade, crispy barbecued pork belly, whole baby snapper, pulled pork, swordfish steaks, salt and pepper squid, yabbie skewers.. you can even cook pizza on the barbie.

It’s good to barbecue some vegetarian food as well, and not simply to cater to guests who don’t want meat; you don’t need to be completely herbivorous to find your mouth watering at the sight and scent of barbecued stuffed capsicums, barbecued portobello mushrooms, or barbecued corn on the cob.  Bananas and pineapple rings can both be barbecued as well, for a delicious dessert.

It’s a terrible idea to put your salads on the barbecue, but they work great as a side dish at any Aussie barbie.

What to do: Crank some tunes.  Play backyard cricket.  Keep in the shade when the sun’s at its hottest, and kick back and have a yarn with friends and family.