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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:-  15 May 2006

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SUMMER finally seems to be on its way, and before long we will be eating al fresco again. Last year’s barbeques will be dug out of the shed and cleaned up, or we’ll make a special trip to the nearest DIY superstore or garden centre for a replacement and then the neighbourhood will be scented with the aroma of delicious barbequed food………or will it?

Unfortunately, more often than not, barbeques in the UK are associated with burnt, charred food which is still slightly raw on the inside.

As the only non-Americans ever to win the World Barbeque Championship Jackie and Rick Weight from Kent are well qualified to provide advice on how to barbeque food properly.  We’ve got together with the Weights, who now run the American BBQ Co in the UK, to offer you some sound advice before you venture outside this summer.

To BBQ or not to BBQ? That is the question!

Believe it or not, the weather shouldn’t be crucial to barbequing. If you plan to invite friends over for a barbeque, try to choose a spot to position the actual barbeque where it is slightly sheltered. Our trans-Atlantic cousins tend to barbeque all year long – if the worst comes to the worst, just cook outside and then bring the food in to eat. Remember, barbequing is not about weather, it’s about flavour!

Joint or portions?

For some strange reason, we seem to think that a barbeque should be a massive “meat-fest” resulting in our eating far more meat at one sitting than we would normally do.

For a change, try cooking one large piece of meat, or a joint, on the barbeque instead of lots of different meats. Ask the butcher to bone a leg or shoulder of pork, beef or lamb, which you can marinate and cook slower than you would normally barbeque it.

Ring the changes with vegetables

Then, when it is nearly ready, add a selection of fresh vegetables to the grill – onions, mushrooms, courgettes, aubergine, and of course peppers are all far tastier cooked this way. For speed, try putting smaller pieces onto skewers.

Experiment by cooking sweet potatoes in their jackets on the barbeque – once cooked, split open and pop a knob of garlic or chilli butter inside…… yummy!

Get fruity!

The feast doesn’t stop after the main course –different fruits can be cooked on the barbeque – bananas for example, split along the top and cooked in their skins, topped with a slug of rum and cream just before serving. Better still slice a pineapple and pop this onto the grill – sprinkle with a hint of mixed spice or nutmeg and then serve with vanilla ice cream for a really unusual dessert – better still add a slug of maple syrup before the ice cream!

A question of Fuel

Many of us now have gas barbeques to save having to wait for the charcoal to reach the optimum heat for cooking. Some people even light their charcoal with fire lighters and other chemicals to hasten things…..have you stopped to think what all this could be doing to our health? Gas tends to taint our food, and the mind boggles when you think about the way some people put chemicals on the coals and then cook their food over the fumes.

The latest big trend in the States is for wood pellet smokers – unlike conventional barbeques they cook with indirect heat, so there is no chance of a flare up. Another bonus is that you can ring the changes with flavour by cooking on different types of wood – apple for pork, cherry for duck or good old mesquite for that really delicate smoky flavour. Add to this the fact that the wood is natural and there are no nasty chemicals and you can see why it is becoming popular. This type of barbeque is becoming more popular in the UK now as people discover them in the States – look out for them at county shows or via the internet.

Are barbeques bad for us?

Burnt food is known to be bad for one’s health. Cooking meat at high temperatures for long periods produces chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These can damage DNA and cause changes, which in turn increase your risk of cancer. The general advice is that when cooking meat, take the following advice:

* Always cook using indirect heat (the food should never be placed directly above the heat source) thereby preventing flare-ups and resultant ‘blackened’ food

* Marinade meat wherever possible as this tends to reduce the formation of HCA’s

* Where possible cook ‘low and slow’ i.e. low temperature for longer periods of time

In the USA, the National Cancer Institute recommends indirect cooking systems, because they produce less benzopyrene.

I can’t afford a new barbeque – can I adapt my existing one?

Yes, most barbeques can be made safer by changing the way you cook on it and using indirect heat. For example, if your bbq has a lid, push the fire to the sides of the cooker and place the meat over a foil drip tray. Closing the lid will now create a ‘convection’ cooker, where the fat cannot fall onto the heat source and catch fire. Many people believe that the lid is just there to cover the barbeque when not in use – far from it, by closing the lid you can use the fuel far more efficiently and the heat surrounds the food rather than just charring it underneath. Some barbeques now have a flat plate – sometimes with small holes or a trough to let the fat run away – as long as the fat doesn’t fall onto the hot coals, this is far healthier.

If you want to experiment with cooking larger, cheaper joints of meat such as brisket or shoulder of pork on the barbeque, they will benefit tremendously from longer, slower cooking over indirect heat. In America, in the Deep South where barbeques are the preferred way of cooking, it isn’t unusual to cook the food for hours on end to ensure the most tender and tasty results.

So, to sum up, enjoy cooking outside this summer. Consider your barbeque as an extra oven rather than something that is just used to flash cook (or char) the odd chicken piece or sausage. Well-cooked barbequed food is one of life’s true pleasures – just treat your barbeque with respect and don’t try to rush things.

Jackie and Rick Weight can be contacted by visiting where there is also a Barbeque Forum where you can chat with other barbeque fans.

Southport & Ormskirk Hospital Financial recovery plan update

ON THURSDAY the 11 May 2006, Managers at the Trust started a series of briefing sessions with all staff to explain that the Trust is inviting expressions of interest from staff who may wish to consider Voluntary Early Retirement or Voluntary Redundancy.
The Trust is facing a very challenging year in which it must make savings of £10million. A Recovery Plan has been agreed which will deliver at least £4million and this has already started. It includes a range of actions including a vacancy freeze, marketing of the Trust's services to generate additional income and purchasing savings. We anticipate the vacancy freeze will realise a saving of approximately 100 posts.
However, in order to help to achieve the remaining £6million the Trust is reviewing its staffing structures and roles, and the first part of this exercise is to offer Voluntary Early Retirements and Voluntary Redundancies.  Ward based nursing staff however are excluded from the invitation to express interest.
Jonathan Parry, Chief Executive said:- "Staff have been given a deadline by which they must register their interest, after that they will receive additional information to help them make a decision. Expressing an interest does not commit anyone to proceeding any further and any decision to proceed would be entirely voluntary.  Whilst we clearly will have to wait and see what level of interest there is in these voluntary arrangements which will add to the posts already frozen, we do not believe that there will be sufficient numbers to achieve the required reduction of a minimum 200 posts. We have therefore met with Trade Union Officials to start a process of consultation to try and avoid compulsory redundancies and whilst all action will be taken to avoid them they cannot be ruled out.  I want to stress that if compulsory redundancies are necessary, ward based nursing staff would be excluded.  Our staff will be kept fully informed of developments over the coming weeks."

What do you our readers think about this?  Email us TODAY!

Could YOU foster?

PEOPLE from Liverpool are being urged to foster local children.  An advertising and marketing campaign is underway during Foster Care Fortnight to find homes for scores of youngsters who are waiting to be placed.

Fostering involves looking after someone else's child because their parents or carers can no longer care for them. They range in age from babies to teenagers.

Executive member for Children's Services, Paul Clein, said:- "For many years, Liverpool had a policy of placing youngsters in children's homes - some of them a considerable distance from the city.  Thankfully, those days are gone, and we are now committed to finding placements for children locally, where they can retain contact with family and friends. But that presents a real challenge because we need to find scores of placements every year."

Some placements are permanent, others temporary and some very short term - perhaps just a matter of days.  There's a particular need for permanent carers for boys aged 5-12, teenagers, brothers and sisters and ethnic minority youngsters.

Interim Executive Director of Children's Services, Stuart Smith, said:- "Good foster carers are special people. Their age and marital status is not important. What does matter is that they are able to provide a loving environment for a child.  It can give a tremendous sense of achievement and of doing something that has a real benefit for future generations. Children thrive and develop in families and we know people in Liverpool have a lot to offer.  We are committed to offering as much support and help for foster carers as we possibly can. That includes round the clock access to support and advice, training, financial allowances and the equipment needed to look after children."

People interested in finding out more about fostering can call the recruitment team on 0151 233 3700 or visit


* You don't have to be married to become a foster carer

* Single people are eligible

* There is no upper age limit - but you do have to be over 21 and in good health

* Every foster home is given access to a PC

* People carriers may be available for foster carers with several children

* Realistic financial allowance that meets the additional cost of the child to your home

* Dedicated support from a trained family support worker with full advice and guidance

Win a day at a top workplace

TEENAGERS in Merseyside could win a day at the Houses of Parliament, at a major UK film studio or in the ITN studios by entering a national competition.

Speak Up’ asks young people aged 14 to 19 to devise a communications campaign to inform their peers about what they should do when they first start work. Young people can win the latest hi-tech gadgets, as well as a day’s work experience at one of the UK’s most sought after workplaces.  The competition aims to get young workers to speak out about health and safety concerns they have, ask questions and get the right training before using heavy machinery or equipment.

In devising the campaign, entrants can use an A6 postcard, an outdoor poster, a full page newspaper advert or a website banner ad. Young people can enter as an individual, or in groups of up to 4.

The competition is being organised by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). Chairman of the IOSH Merseyside Branch, Lisa Fowlie, said:- “I hope that young people in Merseyside will take part in this competition – it’s their chance to win some great prizes and help warn other youngsters in our area of the risks that can exist at work.”

IOSH President, Neil Budworth, added:- “Young workers are 50 per cent more likely to have an accident than more experienced colleagues. That’s why they need extra attention and care.  Young people are our future – and too many of them are not getting the opportunity to fulfil their potential. I hope our Speak Up competition helps to keep the workers of today and tomorrow safe.”

More information about Speak Up is available on  This site contains a number of activities, including games and a resource zone for teachers, youth workers and employers to use. The site is also sponsored by the Learning and Skills Council.

All Speak Up entries must be received by Friday 22 September and be sent to IOSH, The Grange, Highfield Drive, Wigston, Leicestershire LE18 1NN. Remember to include your name(s), address, contact numbers, the name of your campaign and the medium you have chosen to use.
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