How To Cook A Good Vegan BBQ
Greg Hanger, chef at London vegan restaurant Kalifornia Kitchen, says he uses tofu to impress his friends. This is made from soybeans and makes a great substitute for meats like pork, chicken or beef. Tofu has become something of a food trend now that there’s an increase in the number of people choosing veganism and vegetarianism over eating meat, but tofu has been a staple of Asian cuisine for years. It has a bit of a bad rep for being bland and tasteless, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case – a bit like chicken, tofu can be a blank canvas to put flavour onto. Greg likes to smother his tofu in an Asian-style marinade before sticking it on the grill. Here’s his recipe:
30g of ginger
2 fresh chillies
2 heads of garlic
2 tbsp of maple
1/2 bunch of fresh coriander
5 tbs of soy sauce
- Juice all the ingredients and slice your coriander. Dice one block of tofu and mix it all together.
- Let it sit for twenty minutes and then add to skewers.
- High heat for five minutes and you’ll have yourself an Asian style tofu skewer!
Greg also likes to use tempeh in the same way, putting it on skewers to cook over the open flames. This is made from fermented soybeans, with a firmer and grainier texture than tofu. It has a nutty flavour and is packed with protein, fibre, calcium and vitamins. If you want to try something other than Greg’s Asian-style sauce, Michael Daniel, chef at vegan and vegetarian restaurant The Gate, offers us the recipe for his ‘Michael’s Masala Marinade’:
50g of fresh ginger
25g of crushed or finely grated garlic
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp of turmeric, cumin and paprika
1 medium-sized fresh red chilli
- Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix until combined.
- The tempeh can be cooked on the open flame but they need to be watched more carefully. If it’s easier to pop them on the grill and leave them, they can be wrapped in foil, or - to really impress your guests - banana leaf.
- Tofu also makes a great alternative, because its texture is perfect for soaking up the flavour of whatever you choose to season it with. My secret is to drain some of the water out of it first, to make it lighter and easier to marinade. The two marinade recipes are also perfect to make simple tofu more exciting, or you could improvise and try making your own recipe based on how spicy or sweet you like your marinade to be.
It’s quite hard to barbecue jackfruit as it usually comes with a consistency of pulled pork (which is what it makes a great alternative for). But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the barbecue altogether – instead of doing plain old jacket potatoes, make your guests Jessica Prescott’s BBQ-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Jackfruit & Grilled Corn recipe from her Vegan Goodness Feasts cook book:
4 sweet potatoes, about 450 g (1 lb) each
565g of tin jackfruit in brine (drained weight about 300 g (10½ oz))
125 ml of BBQ sauce
¼ head of red cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 corn cob
1 tbsp of coconut oil
- Preheat the barbecue 20 minutes ahead of cooking.
- Scrub each sweet potato clean, dry with a tea towel and prick a few times with a fork. Tightly wrap each potato individually in foil and place on the hot BBQ for one hour, turning once during the cooking time. After one hour, give them a squeeze with some tongs – they should feel soft.
- Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, drain the jackfruit and squeeze out as much brine as possible. Break the soft stringy bits of jackfruit away from the small, tough piece, discarding the seed pods as you go (they are perfectly edible but I prefer not to cook them). Combine the stringy pieces of jackfruit in a bowl with the BBQ sauce and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the cabbage and carrot and set aside.
- Slather the corn cob in the coconut oil and grill on the BBQ, turning it as it cooks, until slightly blackened all over. Heat the jackfruit, either directly on the flat-plate part of the grill (if you have one), in a cast-iron pan, or on top of some foil.
- When everything is ready, carefully remove the foil from the potatoes. Cut through the skin along the top of the potatoes with a sharp knife and push the soft, cooked flesh to the sides with a fork, to make room for the fillings. Start with the red cabbage and carrot, then top with the jackfruit sauce. Cut the corn away from the cob and sprinkle this over. Finally, add a generous dollop of Chipotle Cashew Cream/sour cream/yoghurt, a sprinkling of coriander (cilantro) leaves and jalapeños.
The experts at Whole Foods highly recommend seitan as a meat substitute, telling us: “High-protein, wheat-based seitan is one of the most under-utilised meat substitutes. Its chewy, toothsome texture makes it excellent for the grill.”
Made from wheat, Seitan is vegan but not gluten-free, so as long as this isn’t an issue for you, it’ll likely be right up your street. It has a texture that is most like meat, and can be compared to chicken, beef or pork. It’s dense and chewy. The guys behind vegan movement BOSH! have created some rather delicious BBQ seitan ribs which are sticky, sweet and spicy, serving them up roast tomatoes and BBQ sauce for dipping.
For something a little different that tastes as close to the real deal as you can get, try Michael’s vegan mince kebabs: “They’re always a hit,” he says. “They can convert even the most stubborn of carnivores!” Here’s how to do them:
Soya mince or other-plant based mince (available in most supermarkets)
1 red onion
¼ bunch of parsley
¼ bunch of coriander (optional)
1 tsp of turmeric
1 tsp of cumin
Salt and pepper
- Finely chop the onion, parsley and coriander.
- Mix with the mince.
- Add the turmeric and cumin.
- Mix well with fingers until combined.
- Shape into patties and grill until cooked through.
Barbecuing peppers on the BBQ is nothing new, and neither is mushrooms to a certain extent – but you can shake up your recipe by choosing a more interesting variety of mushroom. “King Oyster mushroom is not a shellfish, but a meaty, affordable and tasty source of protein,” David Swann, Executive Chef at Food Story, tells us. “These are now widely available in super markets and are a perfect swap for meat or fish, often likened to scallops for their meaty texture and umami rich qualities.”
So, how do you cook them to get maximum flavour? David fills us in: “Cut them in half, right down the middle, and brush lightly with a little oil. Season well and BBQ on hot coals, turning after two to three minutes. Once these have coloured and are looking tasty, remove from the BBQ and brush with a miso glaze – this gives a serious meaty hit and makes them super unctuous.
“You can buy miso paste anywhere, I prefer the white miso and mix it with a little orange juice or some of my favourite Ketjap Manis (Indonesian soy sauce – available in all supermarkets). You need this mixture to be thin enough to paint on with a pastry brush, and thick enough so it sticks. Once coated, add this back to the BBQ and cook on both sides again for a couple of minutes each. You can garnish these with freshly sliced spring onions (green parts) and sprinkle liberally with toasted sesame seeds.”
Didn’t think celeriac was good enough for the barbecue? Neither did we – but David swears by his recipe to add variety and flavour:
“Celeriac will require some precooking in an oven, but just because you’re having a BBQ, doesn’t mean it needs to be cooked from start to finish on the BBQ. You can cut some seriously meaty-steaks of Celeriac and this is absolutely delicious flame-grilled. Cut a steak around three-quarters to one-inch thick, rub these lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in a pre-heated oven around 170°C for around 10-15 minutes. The BBQ should only be seen as a vehicle to impart flavour and colour.
“For something like this, I would cook it on the BBQ on its own initially, to caramelise the natural sugars in the vegetables, before adding any glazes or dressings. This will also give more of a crust before you add any sugars to the veg, which will speed up the caramelising and create a different style of bark.”
When it comes to adding a glaze, try a sweet soy sauce, or Indonesian soy: “It is really cheap and you can buy it in all super markets. Brush your steak heavily on both sides and allow to BBQ, you can do this in between turning, to build up the levels of glaze. I like to garnish these off the BBQ, post cook, when it’s caramelised. The soy will caramelise the flesh and leave a coat of black love on top of the white celeriac. Sprinkle these steaks with more fresh herbs like coriander, or some Thai basil. Sprinkle with crushed dried chillies and zest a little lime over the top to finish it off and give another flavour dimension. You can then cut this through to reveal the colours of the meat inside. The eating experience is very meaty in texture and it tastes incredible.”
Luckily, “most of the best dips are vegan,” says Greg. But he adds that if there’s just one thing you should try this year it’s beetroot hummus – super easy to make but very effective: “Just blend chickpeas, garlic, tahini and beetroot, tasting for flavour as you go. It’s so simple yet refreshing!”
Everyone loves a bit of salsa on the side of their plate, whether it’s to mix in with their salad or dip their burger into. David’s zesty, fresh version is super easy: “Take a tin of sweetcorn and drain it. Add to a mixing bowl with a finely diced small red onion, some chopped coriander, and a squeeze and the zest of a lime. Now deseed and finely dice chop a red chilli. Add to this the flesh of some good tomatoes – plum tomatoes are easy, because of their shape, again cut these into cheeks, so you have the flesh and not all the seeds. Dice this evenly to match the corn. Season well with fresh black pepper and sea salt.
“Next take a good wedge of cucumber and repeat the process, dicing to match the corn. To finish this off, add some chopped mint. A few leaves of this will perk up any salad. Cut it small to allow little bursts of flavour in every mouthful of the salsa.”
Potato salad most commonly uses mayonnaise to make the sauce, but if you’re throwing a strictly vegan barbecue, there are ways around this – David suggests making a potato salad that uses a flavoursome vinaigrette instead of mayo:
“Take a good handful of baby cornichons and chop these through roughly. Rinse a small handful of baby capers and throw these in whole,” he says. “Now add a small amount of chopped dill. (If you don’t have dill, you might have some fennel fonds in the fridge or growing in your garden, these give a light aniseed flavour and are really refreshing.) To finish the salad, zest a lemon using a micro plane and finally, add a finely diced shallot to the party. For the vinaigrette, use three parts olive oil, to one-part vinegar. For this, I would use a white or red wine vinegar, definitely not malt. Whisk these into a good spoon of vegan Dijon mustard. If you are feeling frisky, add a little coarse grain mustard too.”
Let’s be honest, cheese perks up any meal, not just a barbecue. If you’re into the classic burger cheese slice, Violife’s vegan imitation is pretty spot on, so lay that down before plonking your meat-free meat on top. For salads, crumble a bit of Sainsbury’s Greek-style coconut-based alternative over the leaves and finish with some olives. And for those who simply crave a slice of the humble cheddar, Ocado’s Free-From Cheddar Style alternative should do the trick.
No barbecue would be complete without an array of condiments to choose from. For vegans and gluten-frees, however, these can be a minefield if you’re not checking the labels properly. Encona’s Jerk BBQ Sauce is vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, while Hellmann’s now sell vegan mayonnaise. Sinclair Condiments also do a top-notch vegan Banana Ketchup if you’re after something a little bit different to ketchup, and can also be used to marinate chicken or lamb.
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