I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of vegetables on the whole, seeing them as an annoying garnish to be eaten quickly before going on to enjoy the rest of the meal.
However, I make an exception for vegetables picked fresh from the garden, yielding to no man in my admiration of a boiled new potato dripping in butter, or freshly picked broad beans mashed with olive oil and garlic and lemon zest served on thick wedges of toast with cracked black pepper. But the very best way to cook them is with an impromptu barbecue, cooking whatever has ripened that day as the sun goes down with a glass of something chilled to hand!
Find out how to barbecue fish
What vegetables to cook
I just cook whatever is ready, which might mean that we’re eating one main vegetable with a sprinkling of a couple others as a garnish. Courgettes cook well over hot coals and are delicious with some mint and raw peas or tiny broad beans sprinkled on top along with the dressing.
Or try quartered lettuce, whole peppers, cherry tomatoes, onions, carrots, asparagus, or even whole sweetcorn.
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How to cook vegetables on the barbecue
I like to slice the thicker vegetables before cooking them, which means that they take less time to cook. I just rinse the dirt off them and don’t even bother to peel them before slicing them into a uniform thickness to try and achieve roughly similar cooking times to everything else.
Good for: courgettes, aubergines, potatoes, large tomatoes, squash
There are exceptions, of course: whole peppers should be grilled until blackened and before peeling off the papery skin to leave the soft red flesh inside, which can be served in slices or mushed up into a thick paste. Dense lettuces cook well if you quarter them, while corn-on-the-cob can be thrown on whole, skin and all.
Good for: peppers, lettuces, corn-on-the-cob, asparagus, green beans, portobello mushrooms, baby carrots, baby leeks
Smaller vegetables like cherry tomatoes and mushrooms are best cooked threaded onto a metal or wooden skewer to keep them in one place.
If you’re using wooden skewers it’s a good idea to soak them in water for a couple of hours first to try and stop them burning on the barbecue.
Good for: cherry tomatoes, mushrooms
Try this recipe for vegetarian tikka paneer and vegetable kebabs
Potatoes and other dense vegetables including beetroot can be sliced and cooked on the chargrill, but you can also parcel them up in a double layer of foil and cook them directly in the embers of the barbeque or fire.
Simply parcel them up, seal tightly and let the steam they’ll generate cook them over an hour or so. I like cooking baby new potatoes this way, finishing them off on the barbecue grill to give them a smoky, char-grilled finish for the last few minutes once they’re nice and soft.
With baby beetroot I like to peel and quarter them and season them with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and then seal them in a small baking tray with tin foil before cooking them on top of the BBQ at the cooler end. They take an hour or so, but are beautifully soft and sweet when they’re done.
Good for: new potatoes, baby beetroot, onions
Try this recipe for herby barbecued shallots in a parcel
I’m with Jamie on this; don’t bother brushing your vegetables with any oil at all. By dry cooking them over charcoal or wood, it’s easy to keep them lovely and chargrilled and firm, only adding the oil as a dressing later.
Dressing after cooking
After cooking, all you need to do to them is to drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil over them, along with some lemon juice or vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper. Serve warm, or even cold, along with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Or try lime-juice, sesame oil, and finely chopped coriander to give an Asian twist, or balsamic vinegar to give a sweet, acidic warmth to root vegetables.
You can even take great handfuls of fresh herbs like mint and parsley and chives, chopping them finely before tossing in a large bowl with the cooked veg and the dressings.
Try this recipe for BBQ courgettes and asparagus with tarragon dressing
Be bold with the quantities. I always try to cook more than I think I’m going to need, saving any leftovers in the fridge to have as a delicious salad or sandwich in the coming days. They taste, if that’s possible, even better after having had a couple of days for the flavours to merge and mellow and permeate the whole dish.
My most important piece of advice is simply not to worry and fret about cooking vegetables on the barbecue. You don’t have to worry about the health implications of serving imperfectly cooked veg like you do with meat and some fish, so relax! Vegetables are al dente if you’ve undercooked them, and char-grilled if they’ve been on for a bit too long. Either way, really good extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice goes a long way to hiding any mistakes…
Visit our BBQ recipes section for more ideas
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