Most people enjoy a barbeque. On a hot sunny day there is nothing better than eating al fresco with friends and family. In the UK this time is usually fairly short as summers can be unpredictable at best, which means that planning a weekend of outdoor cooking is somewhat hit and miss.

Burgers, sausages and perhaps pieces of chicken are the usual favourites of a British barbeque, and very often that is how it stays. The following tips for food, preparation and cooking will hopefully give you some new angles to try and bring more excitement and variety to the summer BBQ.

Only get meat out of the fridge just before it is to be used. This also goes for any party foods that may be accompanying the BBQ. Many people go down with food poisioning through not adhereing to this obvious piece of advice.

Lighting a BBQ can be a pain for those of us who don't get to do it so often, and like other places in the world, for some unknown reason it's usually the man's job to cook! Use firelighters if ossible, and keep to a minimum the use of BBQ lighter fluid. It is easy to use too much fluid and this can transfer a taste to some of the food you are cooking early on. Using solid firelighters, or small pieces of kindling for the more adventurous, place them with the coals and light them, placing coals over the top so as to get as many pieces of charcoal lit as you can.

Start the barbeque early enough. To light a barbeque and then immediately expect to cook is unrealistic. The charcoal needs to get hot and for this it needs time. Light the coals at least half an hour before you start cooking. The coals should be turning grey before you put your first meat on. Very often the BBQ is at it hottest an hour or so after lighting.

Try and do fatty foods first, the fat runs onto the coals and adds to the smells and flavours, making sure that everyone feels hungry!

If your BBQ is big enough use two racks, one for the vegetarians and one for the carnivores. This way there will be no complaints from the veggies about meat residues.

Do you like cooked onions with your meal? If so and you always forget to pre-cook any, then slice your onions and place them with a little oil in a foil tray (you can keep and wash out an old takeaway tray for this). Placed on the BBQ at the same time as your first lot of meat should see some nice soft onions to go with whatever you are cooking.

Fish is great on a BBQ and fish grillers can be bought at most shops selling BBQ equipment. Gut and remove the head from Rainbow Trout, and place either directly on the BBQ or wrapped in foil. If in foil the fish should be ready in around 15 minutes.

Wrap mackerel fillets in foil with a little butter, they will cook quickly and have a wonderful flavour.

If you like good pieces of meat, get a fillet of your choice, steak, chicken, lamb etc., and baste the meat in curry paste before putting on the BBQ. It's not to everyone taste, but I have friends who love it.

For the vegetarians there are lots they can have. Apart from very good quality sausages and burgers, a good BBQ item is the good old kebab. Take pieces of raw mushroom, capsicums (bell peppers), onion, courgette (Zuccini), and any other vegetable you like and place them on a metal skewer. Wooden ones can also be used but can also burn! The smell is great and the smokey taste from the coals is wonderful.

Desserts can be made on a BBQ. If you want a simple easy to do treat just put unpeeled bananas on the BBQ. When the skins has all gone brown carefully peel the bananas to reveal soft hot fruit. With cream or ice cream it's fantastic.

A variation on the bananas theme is to peel the banana and wrap in foil with a sprinkling of brown sugar. Ten minutes should see you eating a sweet sticky caramelised banana. I could go on and on with my tips for BBQ's but one final point I have to say, and I have a 3 year old so I know what I am talking about. KEEP CHILDREN AWAY FROM THE BBQ! I know it's obvious, but you can be surprised by how quickly the little blighters can move when there is something interesting to see.

Have fun in your garden and enjoy the summer.