Back in January I asked what BBQ New Years Resolutions people had and one of the popular responses was to cook more side and vegetable dishes on the BBQ. It’s a trend that is ever increasing and we want to have side dishes that are more interesting that the classic iceberg lettuce, chopped tomato and cucumber. I’m also seeing a rise in people cooking entire plant-based meals on the grill, so here are my 6 Top Tips for cooking vegetables on your barbecue.
- Oil and Season
Quite often my “Go To” preparation for cooking vegetables on the grill. The oil not only stops the skins from drying out as the vegetables roast, but the oil acts like a glue to help the seasonings stick. On a very basic level sprinkling the oiled vegetables with some sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper tastes great, but why not add a herb, spice, or spice blend to your roasting vegetables and give them yet another dimension of flavour. The photo below shows baby potatoes seasoned with oil, salt, pepper and chopped fresh rosemary, beetroots with oil salt and pepper, and squash with oil and garam masala. Three very simple but very tasty vegetables to cook on the barbecue at the same time you cook the meats or fish items.
Other vegetables to benefit from being cooked in this way include: Endive, Tomatoes, Fennel, Lettuce, Spring Onions, Courgettes (Zucchini), Sweet Potatoes and Jacket Potatoes.
A peculiar of the vegetable world is the aubergine or egg plant, which needs to be salted for at least an hour before going near the grill. Depending on their size cut the aubergine in half or into slices, and using the tip of a sharp knife score the surface of each side with a diamond pattern. Sprinkle each cut surface with sea salt flakes and leave on a tray for an hour for the salt to draw out some of the moisture and soften the aubergine flesh. The score lines will help the salt work its’ magic and you will be amazed just how much flavour grilled slices of aubergine have on their own way before adding other flavours.
- Par-Boil then Add Flavourings
Some vegetables need to be softened up slightly with a few minutes in a pan of salted boiling water. Carrots definitely fall into this category and once boiled for a minute or so remove to a kitchen paper lined plate and allow to steam dry. The carrots shown here were then tumbled with a mixture of runny honey, orange jest and chilli flakes before going on the barbecue for a 8-10 minutes of roasting heat just to finish their cooking and colour up their outer edges.
The cauliflower in the first photo was also boiled whole for 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water before being drained, brushed with harissa paste and roasted until the edges were all crispy and gnarly!
- Grill in the Skins
Vegetables like corn on the cob in the husks and leeks come with built-in protective outer layers that will take the heat of the BBQ allowing the inner flesh to cook through. One tip with corn on the cob in the husks though is to soak them in water for a good hour or so beforehand. This will not only help prevent the husks from setting on fire, but the corn inside will steam slightly as they are on the grill.
Vegetables like leeks can also be grilled in their outer leaves until they turn black but the flesh inside the stem feels all soft and tender. Remove from the BBQ and once cool enough to handle, remove the outer leaves to reveal the beautifully softened inner flesh that can be pulled into strips and dressed simple with a little oil, seasoning, and some freshly picked thyme.
- Wrap in Prosciutto
Some say that bacon makes everything taste better and while you could simply grill tender asparagus stems they are such a treat when wrapped in the salty savouryness of Prosciutto. Flashed over a grilling heat just long enough to caramelise the prosciutto and soften the asparagus spears. Check out my recipe for Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus for a very moreish side dish or grilled snack plate.
There are those emergency signs that say “In-case of Emergency Break Glass” and I think the culinary equivalent is “When in doubt cook in foaming hot butter with garlic and a touch of chilli!” For green leaves like Cavolo Nero, Kale or Spinach a simple yet classic cooking method is to heat a skillet on the grill before adding butter and a little cold-pressed rapeseed oil, garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook out these flavours momentarily before adding your leaf of choice and wilting down slightly while tossing in the hot infused buttery goodness!
Don’t be tempted to cook for too long, especially if you are going to serve the greens in the skillet, which will remain hot for long enough to continue the cooking at the table.
I can’t think of many vegetables which can’t be roasting, grilled, braised, or smoked on a BBQ. With these 6 Top Tips for getting your vegetables “BBQ Ready” you’ll not only be eating more balanced meals but you’ll also be using your BBQ to full effect! Up Your BBQ Vegetable Game this Summer!