Barbecue Designs and Sites
If you are constructing a, why not build in a barbecue at the same time? It will cost very little- you probably have the materials to hand -and, apart from being something of a status symbol, it’s great fun to use when the weather is kind.
Choose a sheltered spot on which to site it – you don’t want a howling wind fanning the flames, and make sure that it is away from precious shrubs or climbers; evergreens, on the whole, stand up better thanshrubs to being scorched occasionally. The ideal site is against a brick or concrete wall, where it can do little or no harm. If this is not possible (the walls of the house are not suitable because of smoke drifting indoors), then consider making an island site for it on the patio, if there is space; then everyone can gather round and help (or hinder) the cook. Keep it reasonably near the kitchen so that dishes and foodstuffs can be shuttled back and forth without too long a walk.
You can now buy barbecue kits which can be built in as a permanent fixture. They consist of a grid and tray to take the charcoal and a grill on which to put the food. An attractive extra is a battery-operated rotisserie which fits over the top. This equipment is incorporated into a simple three-sided brick wall which anyone can make and which requires only a little over 100 bricks. Alternatively, you can buy an attractive small triangular barbecue kit that will go into an odd corner and occupy little usable space.
If you have the space, it pays to build two more brick piers at either side of your barbecue and continue the bricks at the back, then to fix ceramic tiles on a wooden base on top. You then have an area on either side on which to prepare and serve food. Cupboards can be built underneath, not only to house charcoal and other cooking items, but the odd flower pot or two as well.
Make the most of your barbecue. Plant essentialaround it so that guests can help themselves to flavourings – mint, tarragon, and especially chives can then be snipped over salads, while goes well with fish, and lamb is particularly good when cooked over rosemary. The herbs can be grown in tubs as part of the decoration of the patio, or in an especially raised bed nearby.
Remember that you will need some good lighting so that the cook can see what he or she is doing. A discreet spotlight set high will do the trick or you could floodlight the whole area.
CONSTRUCTING A BASIC BARBECUE
Set the bricks out, dry, on the patio where the barbecue is to be, making two courses. Then, using the barbecue grill as a guide, check that the dimensions are correct and square, and draw a line around the inside of them as your guide.
Then mix up your mortar so that it is workable and not runny, adding a spot of washing-up liquid to it, to make it easier to work. Lay the bricks along the back wall first, then add the side wall bricks, checking all the time against your pencil guide, making sure they are square and level. Then start the second course – the corner bricks will have to be placed to make a half bond – and continue round, ending with two half bricks to finish off the front at either side. When you get to the height where the charcoal tray is to go, put three bricks sideways on so that they project as half-bricks from the centre of each side wall, to form a ledge on which the tray can sit. An average barbecue is 11 courses high, but you can vary it to suit yourself.
A more elaborate barbecue could be constructed, Spanish style, with a brick arch overhead, culminating in a chimney. This sort of thing would become a focal point of the patio and should be treated accordingly; the wall at the back could be covered in decorative tiles, and lighting could play its part in adding drama to the setting (wrought-iron outdoor lamps can be found that would go very well in this scheme).
To extend the usefulness of a barbecue beyond the summer season, consider the possi-bility of building some sort of overhead protection against the weather. A pergola could be extended and roofed in, for instance; and provided the barbecue itself had an arch and chimney over it, or some other method of avoiding a fire hazard, you could eat alfresco for many more evenings of the year.