You don’t have to have your own outdoor space to make delicious barbecue food – and neither do you need to eat meat. Allow vegan BBQ expert Martin Nordin to explain…
From lido swims to park picnics, many warm-weather joys are currently off-limits thanks to the coronavirus lockdown. But barbecues are still on the table – at least for those lucky enough to have a back yard, garden or balcony.
Happily, most barbecue recipes can be adjusted and cooked on an indoor grill, so you don’t have to miss out on those smoky summer flavours if you don’t have access to private outdoor space. Neither does eating a vegetarian or vegan diet mean you can’t cook delicious dishes over the coals.
Martin Nordin is the author of new cookbook Fire, Smoke, Green (Hardie Grant), which contains over 70 vegan and vegetarian barbecue, smoking and grilling recipes. He explains that the principles of cooking vegetarian food on a barbecue and using a standard indoor hob and grill “are effectively the same”.
“Cooking vegetables over an open fire is unbeatable when it comes to producing deep flavours, but… you can go far using your regular cooker,” Nordin says. “Add grill stripes using a griddle pan and use the oven to finish off your vegetables.”
If you’ve ever pondered how to whip up original vegetarian dishes over the flame, Fire, Smoke, Green cookbook has tons of inspiration: think charcoal-roasted aubergine with smoked tomatoes and grilled cauliflower with gremolata (an Italian condiment that blends fresh parsley, chilli, pine nuts, garlic and lemon zest).
Below, you’ll find three of Nordin’s delicious vegetarian and vegan barbecue recipes – proving that meat-free cooking is anything but boring. Happy grilling…
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Grilled cauliflower with gremolata recipe
Grilled cauliflower ingredients
- 2 cauliflower heads
- 100ml rapeseed oil
- 150g unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped green chilli
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 unwaxed lemon, finely zested
- sea salt flakes
- 90g whitecurrants
Light the barbecue and let the charcoal take on a strong, even glow. Prepare a package to cook the cauliflower in by putting a slightly smaller sheet of baking parchment on top of a slightly larger sheet of kitchen foil. Keep close to hand.
Mix all the ingredients for the gremolata in a bowl.
Slice each cauliflower head into three ‘steaks’. Cut from the root end so that you have a piece of root attached to each slice. Lightly brush both sides of each slice with oil.
Grill the pieces of cauliflower so that they take on some grill marks. Place them on the baking parchment, cover with the butter and season with salt. Fold the package together to create a sealed parcel and place it back on the barbecue – preferably in a position that is less hot – and close the lid.
Open the package after about 30 minutes and check that the cauliflower has turned a beautiful shade of golden-brown and is starting to soften. The florets should flex if you press them gently. Take the temperature of the root – when it is around 80°C, the cauliflower is ready.
Place one slice of cauliflower on each plate, dollop a large tablespoon of gremolata onto each slice and top with the whitecurrants.
Charcoal-roasted aubergine with smoked tomatoes, grilled lemon and toasted pine nuts recipe
- 6 medium aubergines
- 3 unwaxed lemons
- 400ml water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2–3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 1 sprig of lovage
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 12 smoked tomatoes + 2 tablespoons oil from the tomato smoking process (see recipe below)
- 60g pine nuts
- 1 sprig of parsley
Light the barbecue. Pierce the aubergines in a few places using a cocktail stick then place them straight onto the glowing charcoal. This can even be done while the charcoal is still burning. Roast the aubergines until the skin has charred completely and the aubergine is soft inside, around 15 minutes. Place in a mixing bowl and cover with a lid or clingfilm so that they continue to steam and release some liquid.
Halve the lemons and grill them on the cut-side down until they have taken on some colour.
Peel the aubergines once they have cooled down enough to be handled without burning yourself. Try to retain as much of the brown flesh just beneath the skin as possible – this is where most of the flavour is – but ensure that all the charred skin is removed. Save the juice remaining in the mixing bowl for the broth in the next step.
Boil the water and salt in a saucepan, ensure that the salt dissolves into the water. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the garlic, parsley, lovage, peppercorns and coriander seeds. Add the leftover liquid from the aubergines and the smoked oil from the tomatoes. Cover with a lid and leave to stand for around 20 minutes. Strain the liquid.
Toast the pine nuts, either using a cast-iron pan or a sieve above the fire.
Smoked tomatoes recipe
- 500g tomatoes
- 1 garlic bulb, halved widthways
- fresh mixed herbs, e.g. rosemary and thyme
- rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 200 ml rapeseed oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 100–200g smoker chips
Light the barbecue. Get a large baking tray and a smaller heatproof plate with a 1–1 1/2 cm (1/2 in) high edge (the edge cannot be higher than the one on the large baking tray). Place a thin layer of smoker chips in the bottom of the large baking tray then place the smaller plate in the tray.
Position the tomatoes, garlic, herbs and grated lemon rind on the smaller plate. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Cover with kitchen foil and place the baking tray with the plate on the grill while there are still flames. After a few minutes, the chips will begin to smoke and the smoke will seep out from under the foil (if the smoke doesn’t seep out, you can unfold the foil a little at one corner to check it is smoking).
Remove the baking tray from the grill when it begins to smoke and leave it to stand on the ground for a few minutes. Repeat this step three to four times. Remove the foil to check whether the tomatoes and oil have taken on colour. Otherwise, repeat the procedure a few more times.
Place the smoked tomatoes in a sterilised glass jar, pour the oil over and seal the jar. If you like, you can fry the tomatoes quickly in some oil just before serving – this will add heat to the tomatoes and the flavours will blossom once again.
Charcoal-roasted red beetroot with feta & dukkah recipe
- 6 small red beetroot
- 6 slices of sourdough bread
- unsalted butter
- 60g feta, preferably made with goat’s milk
- 6 teaspoons dukkah (see recipe below)
- fresh mixed herbs, e.g. oregano, parsley, shiso leaves and basil
- sea salt flakes
Add charcoal or firewood to half the barbecue so that you have space to roast the beetroot using indirect heat later. Light the barbecue and once it is burning strongly, place the beetroots straight onto the charcoal so that the outer layer burns. Turn several times using tongs.
Pick up the beetroots, place on the grill and position them on the charcoal-free side. Close the lid and roast using indirect heat for around 1 hour until the beetroots feel soft when you gently press the skin. You can measure the core temperature – it should preferably be above 85°C.
Peel the beetroots once they are cool enough to handle without burning yourself. It can be a little tricky to remove the skin – try pulling it off with your fingers; otherwise, cut it off with a knife.
Let the barbecue get really hot so you can toast the bread. Butter the slices of bread. First, grill them quickly on the side without butter, then turn them over onto the buttered side and grill them until there are clear grill stripes.
Slice the beetroot and crumble some feta on top. Place them on the grill briefly so that the cheese begins to melt.
Place a few slices of beetroot with feta onto each slice of toast, sprinkle some dukkah over them and top with herbs and sea salt flakes.
- 60g hazelnuts, without shells
- 8 macadamia nuts
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon mild chilli powder, e.g. piment d’Espelette
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
Put a dry frying pan on a medium heat and add the nuts and coriander seeds. Roast for about 5 minutes until golden-brown. Stir occasionally to ensure they do not burn. Take off the heat.
Place in a food processor and add the cumin, chilli, oregano and salt. Run a few blitzes or pulses – it should be in small pieces but not too finely chopped. Store in a dry, air tight container.
Extracted from Fire, Smoke, Green: Vegetarian Barbecue, Smoking and Grilling Recipes by Martin Nordin (£12, Hardie Grant)