With Australia Day coming up, forget burnt steak and dried-up sausages on the BBQ: Mark Bennett, head chef of Esca Bimbadgen in the Hunter Valley, shares his top tips, techniques and ingenious hacks to create delicious BBQ recipes to enjoy all summer long.

1. A little heat to cool off
Summertime might be hot but it doesn’t mean the food can’t be. Chillies are in season and they are a great way to liven up a fresh summer dish. Start off with some green chillies if you are new to the heat. Generally speaking the smaller the chilli, the hotter it gets.

2. Get fruity while it’s good
Summer is the opposite of winter in more ways than just temperature. While we’re limited to citrus fruits in Winter, Summer opens the door to deliciously fresh berries, peaches, melons, apricots, pineapples and mangoes. Make the most of this by cutting wedges of peaches and nectarines and searing them on the BBQ with some marinated chicken. Toss the hot stone fruit with some baby spinach, sliced spanish onion and macadamia nuts for a beautiful and fresh summer salad.

3. Barbequing isn’t all about meat
Sick of chicken breasts and turkey burgers? Try grilling your next homemade pizza on the BBQ. Once you’ve piled on your toppings simply place the pizza onto the BBQ and close the lid until the cheese is melted and slightly brown. The BBQ is also perfect for corn, zucchini and summer squash – you can even grill your quesadillas!

4. Use flavour to get creative
The best way to make your BBQ food interesting is by adding marinades and rubs to your meats, transforming a regular chicken thigh or lamb cutlet into a mouth-watering flavour festival. Think fresh herbs, lemon juice, garlic, spices and oil. Even simple combinations such as lamb with red wine, garlic and rosemary can spruce up your BBQ, and don’t forget to season everything with salt and pepper.