A BBQ is a great social occasion and a good way of drawing friends and family together, and there’s no reason to feel left out of the traditional summer BBQs if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. You certainly don’t have to restrict yourself to veggie burgers, either!
Choosing to buy organic and locally-produced fruit and vegetables should ensure you get the very best for your BBQ and will supply you with fresher fruit and vegetables and help support local farmers. If you’re lucky enough to live near a farmer’s market or a farm shop, you should be able to pick up fantastically fresh, tasty, and good value seasonal fruit and vegetables.
And what better way to make the most of the best your area has to offer than with a BBQ and a wide variety of salads? Grilling seals in the flavours of the vegetables and it’s a healthy and fun way of cooking. You can experiment with marinades, fresh herbs, and vegetables you might not have otherwise tried. It’s also a great way to encourage the pickier members of the family to eat more vegetables!
The Usual Suspects
The humble vegetable kebab can be brightened up with a marinade. Simply mix olive oil with a little lemon juice, then add fresh herbs, chilli, or crushed garlic. Soy sauce or balsamic vinegar are nice additions, too, or try harissa (a chilli paste from Tunisia) for warmth. Flavourful oils, such as walnut or avocado, are great drizzled over a green salad as an accompaniment. If you’re using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them overnight to minimise the risk of splinters.
For extra flavour, you could try skewering vegetables on stripped sprigs of rosemary. Good vegetables for grilling include sweet pepper, aubergine, courgette, tomato, mushroom, red onion, asparagus, sweetcorn, and sweet potato. Be aware that some vegetables, such as aubergines and mushrooms, tend to soak up a lot of flavour, so it’s best to limit the marinade time of these to avoid overpowering the natural flavour.
Your Vegan Platter
Make plenty of salads to fit the season, pasta, green leaves, and maybe some leaf and fruits, and the absolute essential, potato salad (with vegan mayonnaise and dill) – and provide plenty of rolls and dips (such as hummus, good quality olive oil, guacamole, tapenades, and whatever else might go well with crudités and bread). Supply some wine and perhaps a non-alcoholic punch or juice.
The Main Event
Find a few large portobello mushrooms and brush them liberally with some good quality olive oil or margarine, and some torn herbs or fresh crushed garlic. Alternatively, spread a little pesto, or olive or tomato tapenade over them before grilling. Or you can make your own garlic ‘butter’ with roasted garlic and margarine – simply spread this lightly over the mushrooms as they cook, adding more as necessary. The mushrooms should be grilled gills uppermost, and can be served in warmed buns with rings of red onion and some fresh organic salad leaves.*
New potatoes should be skewered and given a liberal brushing of olive oil with herbs (rosemary really shines here) before grilling, or you could bake a potato or sweet potato in foil in the smouldering coals for a side dish.
Stuff sweet peppers or large, par-boiled onions with a cooked grain and your favourite mixture of cooked vegetables (try Mediterranean vegetables with basil and pine nuts) and grill until soft.
For the best sweetcorn, peel back the husks, remove the silk, then rub the corn with margarine and tie the husks back over the corn. Cook the corn around the outside of the grill for about 20 minutes. To cook it quicker, try soaking it in cold water for thirty minutes beforehand, or blanch it in hot water.
Tofu well deserves its place on the vegan BBQ, too. Choose a good, firm, organic brand, and marinade it well (overnight is best, and add soy sauce to the marinade for a salty, savoury taste) before grilling. It’s great threaded onto skewers with vegetables.**
Don’t Forget Dessert
As the perfect finish for your meal, try wrapping bananas or plantains (choose plantains with black skin to get the sweetest) in foil, or cook them directly in their skins.
You can also thread fruit onto skewers and grill it – pineapple, peaches, pear, and apple all work well, and you can sprinkle these with a little mixed spice or brush them with agave nectar (a vegan substitute for honey).
Some fruits, such as peach, nectarine, or apple, can simply be sliced in half, grilled, and served with a scoop of vegan ice cream or sorbet for a simple dessert.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could try putting some stoned, ripe cherries in a foil pouch on the grill and serve them over vanilla vegan ice cream.
So there is every reason to fire up the barbecue, cast iron chiminea, or fire pit this year. As long as you have the time for a little preparation, and as long as you can source the best fruit and vegetables, you’ll be able to get the family and friends around a barbecue and enjoy a delicious, home-cooked meal alfresco.
And it’s well worth considering signing up to a local veg-box scheme or creating a vegetable plot in your own garden. You need surprisingly little space, and you can have as much fun growing your food as you can cooking and eating it!
Laura Phillips is a vegan – and has been for several years! – and outdoor living enthusiast, and writes for http://www.chimineashop.co.uk/
* http://www.bbq.co.uk/bbq-recipes/vegetables/readers-recipes-vegetable.htm – another site with lots of BBQ ideas.
** http://vegetarian.about.com/od/vegetarianbarbecuerecipes/qt/grillingtofu.htm – an informative article with loads of good ideas for tofu.