How To Make The Ultimate Veggie BBQ

Think BBQ and most people will picture a grill topped with sausages, steaks and burgers. But bestselling cookbook author Rukmini Iyer of The Roasting Tin fame is determined to prove veggie options are just as delicious. From aubergine stacks to crispy gnocchi and vegetable skewers, here’s a taste of what you’ll find in her new release, The Green Barbecue.
DAVID LOFTUS

My family are vegetarian and over the past few years, most of my close friends have become vegetarian too.

I eat meat rarely, and it’s the combination of flavours and textures in plant-based cooking that are of real interest, as that’s what I cook for the people closest to me. The idea of an entirely vegetarian or vegan feast, packed with texture, flavour and colour, which opens up the world of cooking and eating outdoors to the people I love, is immensely appealing as BBQs are almost exclusively associated with carnivorous cooking – though this is something that is happily changing. 

I’m not sure there’s anything better than cooking and eating outside. With good company, perhaps a dog or two, or even just cooking a dish for yourself, it’s incredibly satisfying to break cooking down into its simplest components.

I’ll often add a chopping board on a garden table to maximise my time outside, and with minimal fuss, and as much enjoyment as anyone can expect from a bit of lazy food prep in the sunshine, lunch or dinner rolls off the grill in courses, with nothing more than occasionally flipping something on the BBQ, drink in hand. 

I must name-check one of my food mentors, Genevieve Taylor, whose vegetarian BBQ book Charred I have been dying to read, but refrained while writing, so as not to inadvertently cross over with the contents of this book. She is the queen of cooking outdoors – buy both and double the number of vegetarian dishes for your BBQ.

Inspired? Here are three of Rukmini’s recipes to try at home…

Aubergine & Goats’ Cheese Burger Stacks With Honey & Thyme

Serves

4

Total Time

40 Minutes

Ingredients

2 large, evenly sized aubergines
2 x 100g rind-on goats’ cheese wheels
A handful of fresh lemon thyme sprigs
Olive oil, for brushing
Sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Runny honey
Crusty bread rolls, to serve

Method

Step 1

Cut the aubergines into 1cm slices, and the goat’s cheese into very thin rounds. Sandwich each piece of goats’ cheese between two similarly sized slices of aubergine, along with a sprig of thyme. Brush both sides of the aubergine with oil and add a tiny pinch of sea salt flakes and black pepper.

Step 2

Once your barbecue is ready, place the aubergine stacks on the grill and cook for 10-15 minutes per side, until the aubergine is cooked through and the cheese has melted. You can flip them every 5-6 minutes or so and give them a brush with olive oil.

Step 3

Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle with honey, scatter over the remaining thyme, and serve with crusty rolls on the side.
Crispy Gnocchi On A Stick With Charred Peppers & Basil Pesto

Forget about threading just plain old vegetables on a stick – here, you intersperse veg of your choice on skewers with just-blanched gnocchi. The result is crisp perfection.

Serves

3-4

Total Time

25 Minutes

Ingredients

1 x 500g packet of gnocchi
3 mixed peppers, chopped into gnocchi-sized pieces (don’t use green peppers)
2 tbsp of vegan basil pesto
3 tbsp of olive oil, plus more for brushing
A pinch of sea salt flakes
A good amount of freshly ground black peppercorns
8-12 skewers, soaked if wooden
For the dressing:
½ lemon, juice only
4 tbsp of vegan basil pesto
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt flakes

Method

Step 1

Tip the gnocchi into a bowl of just-boiled water, and leave to blanch for 2 minutes, then drain and run under cold water to cool.

Step 2

Put the gnocchi into a large bowl with the chopped peppers, vegan pesto, olive oil, sea salt flakes and freshly ground black peppercorns, and mix well to coat. At this point you could refrigerate the gnocchi until you're ready to BBQ.

Step 3

Thread the gnocchi and pepper alternately onto the skewers. Once your barbecue is good and hot, brush one side of the skewers with oil, then lay them over the BBQ at a slight angle (this stops them falling through) and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the gnocchi are crisp and brown. Brush the tops with oil, then turn over and repeat with the other side.

Step 4

Meanwhile, mix the lemon juice, pesto and extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt flakes to taste. Once the skewers are cooked through, serve immediately, with the basil dressing alongside.

Step 5

NOTE: There’s really no limit to the number of things you could pair with gnocchi on a stick – try cherry tomatoes and halloumi or tofu, or cubes of fresh fennel and halved figs. And you could use red pesto or harissa or mustard mixed through with olive oil as a marinade.
Crispy BBQ Tofu Lettuce Wraps With Cashews, Carrots & Nuoc Cham

This is a combination I first tried in Vietnam – nuoc cham is such an addictive dipping sauce that it’s tempting to drink it straight up. If you can resist, save some and use it for your crispy tofu instead.

Serves

4

Total Time

25 Minutes

Ingredients

For the tofu:
280g of firm tofu (I like to use Tofoo)
1 lime, zest and juice
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 tbsp of sesame oil
For the carrot pickle:
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 tbsp of rice vinegar
1 tsp of caster sugar
1 tsp of sea salt flakes
For the nuoc cham:
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
20cm of fresh ginger
1-2 tbsp of soy sauce
50ml of water
1 lime, zest and juice
To serve:
1 small cos lettuce, leaves separated
A handful of toasted cashews

Method

Step 1

Cut the tofu into large cubes, and put them into a bowl with the lime zest and juice, soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil. Mix gently to coat, then cover and set aside.

Step 2

For the carrot pickle, mix the carrot matchsticks with the rice vinegar, caster sugar and sea salt flakes. Cover and set aside.

Step 3

To make the nuoc cham, put the garlic, chilli and ginger in a pestle and mortar, and bash into a paste (alternatively, grate all the ingredients into a jug). Add the soy sauce, water, lime zest and juice, and taste. Adjust the amount of soy, water and lime as needed, and set aside.

Step 4

When your BBQ is good and hot, griddle the marinated tofu for 2-3 minutes per side, until lightly charred and crisp. Scatter with a pinch of sea salt.

Step 5

Arrange the lettuce cups on a platter and add a spoonful of carrot pickle to each. Divide the crispy tofu between the cups, scatter with the toasted cashews and a drizzle of nuoc cham, and serve the remaining nuoc cham alongside.

The Green Barbecue (Vegan & Vegetarian Recipes to Cook Outdoors & In) by Rukmini Iyer is published by Square Peg, £17.99.
 
Available at Waterstones.com
 
Photography by David Loftus.

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