Vegging Out at the Barbeque
The braai, the barbeque, the cookout; or in the UK - the washout. Whatever you call it, the moment the sun pops it’s head out from behind one of those all too familiar clouds the skies over the suburbs of the UK thicken with smoke as if the Clean Air Act was just a piece of fiction. The smell of smoking charcoal, burning burgers mingled with the heady smell of lighter fluid combines to create the aroma of summer. For vegetarians barbeque season, however long or short it turns out to be, is a nightmare. Being invited to one usually is accompanied by a cheery forced smile, a raised eyebrow and a quiet, but audible sigh; the most you’re likely to get is a pre-packed veggie burger that confirms the myth that vegetarian food is basically cardboard. Whether you are a vegetarian, or expecting one to turn up at any moment, here are some vegetarian barbeque ideas that are deceptively simple to prepare.
A Good Grilling
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to realise that roasting or grilling vegetables is actually the best way to cook them. There are two advantages: one, they taste better and two, they retain more nutrition. Vegetables can be chopped and diced, stuck on skewers and grilled to perfection. An alternative method is to pop them into to a foil packet, add a little butter or oil, salt, pepper and herbs or spices to taste, and pop on the grill. Indian or Thai spice mixes create a seriously tasty dish which goes well with rice or noodle based salads. Make plenty, because all the non-vegetarians will suddenly have a major ethical crisis and ‘turn’ once the packets are opened.
Bite Sized Temptations
Although requiring slightly more preparation (not much more) another vegetarian barbeque dish that is likely to tempt the taste buds of even the most ardent meat eater, are stuffed aubergine rolls. Mix together olive oil, chopped chillies, mint, lemon juice and add cubes of Feta. Refrigerate the mix for a couple of hours, covered in cling film. Once the barbeque is underway slice aubergines lengthways and grill on the barbie for a minute each side, remove these and dab a spoonful of the mixture to each, roll and skewer to create perfect bite size vegetarian treats.
Homemade Veggie Burgers
It’s not nice to make any of your guests feel left out, which is why it’s so tempting to offer a generic vegetarian burger option to your carrot crunching friends. Although the commercial variety have improved considerably in the last twenty years, if you like to offer the homemade touch to all your guests a simple carrot, chickpea and coriander mix makes a great alternative burger. The technique is the same as for the meatier variety. Simply grate the carrots and blend the cooked chick peas. Mix together with herbs, seasoning and spices to taste, bind with egg and breadcrumbs as normal. You can freeze these burgers prior to cooking so they can be made well in advance – handy if you’re also making meat based burgers – which allows you to avoid cross contamination. The finished burgers can be grilled on the barbie as with normal burgers.
There are a whole range of dips and sauces that are already vegetarian or vegan, including humus and guacamole. These are both easy to make and are generally popular with the meat eating variety of guest as well. Humus can be made in advance and stored in jars or containers in the fridge; guacamole can be made in advance but avocado can colour badly if left for long. When making the mixture, add the lemon juice as quickly as possible and one trick (that seems to actually work) is put the stones into the mixture while it’s being stored.
Whatever you find in your veg box there are likely to be all the basic ingredients to make a meat-free feast for any barbeque this summer. Always make extra, when preparing vegetarian food for barbeques, as most meat eaters will suddenly ‘turn’.
Charlotte blogs about Food & Drink covering everything from recipes and tips, to dairy products. On her spare time she loves shopping.