“With steak, people talk about the ‘maillard reaction’, that caramelisation of the sugars and amino acids – well, that happens with all vegetables as well. Vegetables cooked on fire are amazing,” says cooking with fire expert and author of Charred, Genevieve Taylor.
“The barbecue is the last bastion of the carnivore, but people want to eat more vegetables and less meat and I wanted to show people that fire and veg are amazing.”
How to barbecue veg
A barbecue is just another heat source, so you can cook any vegetables on it. Parsnips take on a caramelised edge, mushrooms suck up smoke and are a sponge for flavour, classic Mediterranean vegetables such as peppers, and courgettes have a natural affinity with fire and smoke.
How to prep: If you’re barbecuing vegetables with a dense texture, like carrots, blanche them before marinating – perhaps with cumin, chipotle chilli and garlic – so they soak up the flavour and cook faster.
How to cook: Over medium heat. Turning regularly so they don’t char too quickly.
Serve with: Hit the vegetables with some lemon juice and herbs to cut through the sweetness. Play with texture and colour by layering with spring onions, herbs and pecans. Balance with something creamy like tahini or ricotta.
Genevieve Taylor, Charred: The complete guide to vegetarian grilling and barbecue
How to barbecue broadbeans
How to prep: Rub the pods lightly with oil and throw them straight onto the bars.
How to cook: Over medium/high heat – no flames or fireworks, just steady glowing embers. Cook for 2-3 mins, until marked and starting to blister. Flip them over and cook for a further 2-3 mins.
TOP TIPS FOR BARBECUING VEG
1. It’s not meat – Your veg won’t sear in quite the same way as meat, and it won’t drip or render fat either. A few of the same principles do apply though: the thinner the cut and larger the surface area, the faster the cook.
2. Direct heat – The fire is at its hottest just after the flames have died down and you have glowing embers with small flicker flames. Great for a speedy, searing cook; ideal for veg that is thin and will cook fast– think asparagus spears or courgette strips.
3. Indirect heat – Usually done over a shallower bed of embers when they are starting to fade and turn ash-grey. With a slower and lower cook, the heat can build up and move through the whole veg without burning the outside and leaving the inside raw. Think cabbages, squash, sweetcorn.
The pods provide a sacrificial vessel in which the peas can steam and cook
Serve with: in a bowl and toss with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Offer lemon wedges on the side for squeezing. When cool enough to handle, slip the beans from their pods and scoff. An ideal snack for a cold beer…
Bob Andrew, chef, Riverford
How to barbecue courgettes
How to cook: Blacken the courgettes on each side over hot coals, until the insides are smoky and tender. Cook courgette leaves or spinach, brushed with olive oil, alongside for the last few minutes. Remove from the heat and roughly chop with a knife. Then gently crush everything together with your hands and season generously with salt and pepper.
Serve: on a platter with a generous splatter of tahini sauce or yoghurt and a drizzle of maple syrup (or similar), lemon juice and lemon zest.
Tom Hunt, chef and author of Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet
How to barbecue strawberries
How to marinade: Add the strawberries to a bowl with a little sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Mix well and leave to macerate for 10 minutes.
How to cook: Thread the strawberries onto skewers and place them directly on the BBQ bars. Griddle for about two mins, turning once until lightly marked – just enough to warm them and caramelise some of the sugar.
Serve with: vanilla ice cream and the rest of the marinade spooned over the top for a delectable contrast of hot and cold, sharp and sweet.
Bob Andrew, chef, Riverford
Seasonal fruit and veg can turn a predictable BBQ into a feast for the senses.
– Bob Andrew
How to barbecue peaches
How to prep: Halve the peaches and scoop out the stones.
How to marinade: Stir demerara sugar, amaretto, lemon juice and cinnamon together. Spoon over the peaches and leave them to marinate at room temperature for at least 30 mins to a few hours.
How to cook: Barbecue for five mins on each side, until tender and smoky.
Serve with: Creamy mascarpone (with an extra splash of amaretto, should you desire.
Sam Richards, recipe writer, Abel & Cole
Originally published in June 2022.
Main image credit: Jenny Zarins, for Tom Hunt’s Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet