Forgive us while we state the obvious: it’s bloody boiling outside. The sun is shining, our bodies are sweating and all anyone really wants right now is an ice cold beer and a Calippo. It’s so hot that the Met (not the police, the weather people) has issued an “extreme heat warning”, with temperatures set to hit highs of 35 degrees next week. Phwoar.
And there’s only one thing to do when a heatwave hits the UK: throw a Great British BBQ. After all, these periods of sweltering, almost unbearable sun are so rare that we must respect them with a bountiful spread of burgers and chicken wings, cooked over a disposable BBQ you scrapped a sunburnt bloke for in Tesco. It’s a sacred tradition and, as such, it’s important to get it right.
That’s why we consulted an expert to help you throw the ultimate barbecue bash this weekend. Having won two BAFTAs for his show Big Zuu’s Big Eats, the titular rapper-turned-presenter and soon-to-be actor knows a thing or two about cooking up a storm. In fact, when he logs into our Zoom call, he’s in the middle of whipping up an caramelised onion omelette, having won yet another award the night before at the Broadcast Digital Awards. The signs of a good celebration frame the shot – namely, an empty Wray & Nephew bottle. “I definitely can’t complain,” he says of his succession of wins. “All the plaudits that we’re getting, obviously they feel good, but they also feel deserved. I’m proud of me and my friends.”
For the uninitiated, Zuu’s friends are Tubsey and Hyder, who join him on Big Eats to travel around in a food truck and chef it up for the UK’s biggest comedians – think seitan kebabs for Jimmy Carr and vegan poutine for Katherine Ryan. But naturally, that’s not all Zuu’s got on his plate. Last month, he joined Stacey Dooley and Chef Kay Kay to host BBC Three’s Hungry For It, “a [cooking] competition that’s geared towards inspiring young people to get into food,” as he puts it. That ethos underpins all of his culinary adventures. “That’s what we kind of found really comfortable, you know, becoming this access to food for young people, but also not marginalising older people [from coming] to watch the show,” he says while cracking eggs into a pan. And it’s working: Zuu is constantly receiving messages from fans about how he’s inspired them to get into food. Compliments to the chef, eh?
Next up, Zuu is making his acting debut in Dave’s comedy Sneakerheads, a show about employees in a sportswear shop that also stars People Just Do Nothing’s Hugo Chegwin and viral comedy’s finest, Lucia Keskin (AKA Chi with a C). The show pushed Zuu to conquer new challenges, which were, mostly, trying not to ruin scenes by laughing at his castmates’ jokes. “It’s so hard. Sometimes one of your co-stars will say something incredibly funny and you’re just there sniggering,” he says. Thankfully, we won’t have to worry about keeping quiet while we’re laughing on the sofa tonight, when it airs.
But back to your weekend plans – specifically, that blow-out barbie you’re going to host for all your mates. What are Big Zuu’s Big Tips? Well, first of all, obviously get yourself a barbecue (any will do) and then…
1. Marinate the night before
“A lot of people don’t know about Arabian seasoning [when marinating meat]. There’s baharat and ras el hanout. I love cayenne pepper – I think it’s way better than chilli powder. Chilli powder is good as well, don’t get me wrong, but cayenne pepper just adds an extra layer of spice.”
2. Use the Nando’s method for chicken
“If you’re gonna make chicken wings, marinate them the night before. If you want to make your life easier so you don’t sit there and watch your wings cook for seven hours, pre-cook them in the oven and finish them on the barbecue. Do it like Nando’s.”
3. Make your burgers from scratch
“Use homemade burgers. I love to add onion and tomato into my burgers, because it makes them a bit more juicy. That’s what Hyder does. Hyder’s our barbecue king in the house. If we ever want to have a nice barbecue, we give him all the meat and I make all the sides.”
4. Throw on some fish in for Omega-3
“Something that’s undefeated is fish. A good, well-oiled fish, so that it doesn’t stick to the barbecue. You can never go wrong.”
5. Don’t forget the veggies
“Throw on some aubergine and, if you’re vegetarian, not vegan, put a lovely bit of halloumi on the grill. Wrap up sweetcorn [and put it on the barbecue] to get that smoky flavour. Marinating your sweetcorn makes it ten times better. Boil it first, cover it in whatever marinade you like and put it on the grill. Or you could do the Mexican thing, where they grill it, put mayo on it and cover it in this Cheeto kind of dust. Or you could use Parmesan or nachos that are crushed up. That makes your sweetcorn go from level one to level one million.”
6. Put some effort into the sides
“Texas barbecue is the original, so they always have coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and collard greens, or something like that. In England, we always just have a side salad of tomato and cucumber. So I would say like a nice coleslaw, mac and cheese, that’s always going to be beautiful. Then I like roasted potatoes. And they’re really easy to do. While you’re doing all your work on the barbecue, your potatoes are in the oven getting beautiful, and then you’ve got something to take out quickly and put on the side.”
7. Perfect the art of punch
“I love a punch, if you’ve got time. This is what kind of takes your barbecue to the next level. In my punch, I put hella Wray & Nephew and then just bare American Kool-Aid. And then just bare random drinks: pineapple juice, apple juice, orange juice. Bare ice. So much random stuff. A fruit punch has to be super random and, as long as it’s filled with alcohol, you can never go wrong. But also just a straight-up Courvoisier, a brandy and coke, can never go wrong.”
8. Soundtrack it with summer vibes
“Dancehall only! Or afrobeats. I feel like dancehall and afrobeats are coming together as one right now. Before it was like you had to choose one, but now you can have a bit of everything. A bit of Popcaan, a bit of Skillibeng and then obviously the classics as well. If you don’t know classic dancehall music, you can literally just type “dancehall playlist” on Spotify or Apple Music and they’ll help you. If you don’t know the riddems, fuck it, just put it on and try.”
Big Zuu’s Big Eats S3 airs Mondays at 10pm on Dave, and the whole series is available to stream on UKTV Play. Sneakerhead starts 13th July on Dave and will also be able to stream on UKTV Play. Hungry For It airs on Tuesdays on BBC Three.