Barbecues


Moroccan vegetable kebabs

The versatile chermoula serves as a sauce and a marinade in a wide variety of Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian dishes. Although traditionally used with seafood, it is also mixed with pureed tomatoes to create a delicious sauce for green beans, broad (fava) beans or carrots. Recipes vary widely, often containing ingredients like finely chopped pickled lemons. In this dish, my Moroccan-recipe chermoula imparts a wonderful flavour to fresh vegetables. Serving little saucers of ground cumin on the side is the tradition in Morocco.

Serve the kebabs with plenty of couscous flecked with saffron, finely chopped herbs such as parsley and mint, and sliced nuts like almonds and pistachios. If you are serving the kebabs as part of a barbecue spread, you can also grill freshly made or shop-bought flatbreads on the barbecue, along with skewers of cubed white cheese. A big bowl of green salad, and a side salad of sliced oranges, red onions and black olives would be perfect, along with little saucers of pickled lemons and harissa or chilli sauce on the table. Serves 4.

For chermoula:
½  pint/ 300 ml virgin olive oil (Moroccan, if you have it)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon saffron strands
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground dried ginger
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
Small bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), trimmed and minced
Fine grain sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the kebabs:
1 small cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets
1 medium aubergine (eggplant), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered
1 courgette (zucchini), sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 red and 1 green pepper (bell pepper), trimmed and cut into 1-inch squares
12 tiny baby onions, trimmed, peeled and left whole

To serve:
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely crushed

1.    To make the chermoula, combine all the chermoula ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well-blended. Set aside.
2.    To make the kebabs, blanch or steam the cauliflower, aubergine and fennel for 5 – 7 minutes. They should be fairly soft, but not falling-off-the-fork tender, otherwise they will become mushy. Drain and cool.
3.    Place the par-boiled and raw vegetables together in a large bowl. Add the marinade, gently rubbing it all over the vegetables so that they are evenly coated. Cover and set aside for between 30 minutes to 4 hours, tossing the vegetables occasionally.
4.    About 15 – 20 minutes before you are ready to eat, heat up the barbecue or grill (broiler). Thread the marinated vegetables on metal skewers, reserving the marinade for basting.
5.    Barbecue or grill the skewers, rotating them carefully and basting the vegetables several times until lightly and evenly browned.
6.    Serve hot with the crushed cumin on the side.

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Barbecued baby aubergines with Med yoghurt dip

Smoke, fire, stomach doing somersaults in anticipation and, if you are lucky, sunshine pouring all over the proceedings like a special blessing… Well, I love barbecues as much as the next vegetarian person, but I get bored of unimaginative offerings, often consisting of little more than veggie burgers, jacket potatoes and corn on the cob. This simple Greek-style, broadly Mediterranean recipe is guaranteed to bring sunshine into your kitchen – whatever the weather!

Serve with pitta bread toasted on the barbecue or grill, and a platter of simply cooked green vegetables or tomato and mixed leaf salad. Serves 4.

For the yoghurt dip:

1lb/ 500g Greek yoghurt, sieved through muslin (cheesecloth)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mint leaves, finely chopped
1 small red onion, trimmed, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 oz/ 100g Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
1 tablespoon small capers (chopped if they’re too big)
1 tablespoon gherkins, finely chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the aubergines:

12 baby aubergines (eggplants)
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil, ideally Greek
Salt and pepper

1.    Make the yoghurt dip by mixing together all the dip ingredients. Set aside in a cool place to let the flavours develop.
2.    When you’re ready to eat, fire up the barbecue or grill (broiler) on medium heat. Halve the aubergines lengthwise, leaving them attached to their stalks. Using a small pastry brush, coat the cut sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3.    Cook the aubergines on the barbecue or grill for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until they are done (test each aubergine for doneness with a small skewer).
4.    Serve the aubergines with the yoghurt dip.