Grills


Grilled vegetable and butterbean gazpacho

I first fell in love with gazpacho when I visited a small Andalusian village on the hills as a child with my parents. Some years ago, watching the hit Pedro Almodovar movie ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ (in which gazpacho plays a significant part) cemented my passion for the chilled Spanish tomato and raw vegetable soup.

Over the years I have tasted several variations, including white gazpacho made from almonds and grapes, and the newly fashionable (at least in the UK) watermelon gazpacho, which is a little too sweet and insubstantial for my taste.

This recipe started life as simply grilled vegetable gazpacho, which I prepared one lunchtime from leftover barbecued vegetables, including roast potatoes. More recently, when I made the soup again, I substituted the carb-laden potatoes with protein-rich butterbeans. It worked perfectly well as the beans provided the creamy texture just as the potatoes had done. This soup is rather like salmorejo – the thick Andalusian tomato and bread soup – in texture. It is at once hearty, tangy, savoury, refreshing and redolent with tastes of the Mediterranean summer.

The butterbeans I use in this recipe are the large Mediterranean variety called ‘gigante’. They’re available in delis, health food stores and department stores’ food halls. (In the UK, you can often buy them in jars from Sainsbury’s ‘Special Selection’ section). You may use regular butterbeans, or even chickpeas (garbanzo beans) which are common in Spanish cuisine.

Use any combination of Mediterranean vegetables – adjusting the solids to liquids ratio accordingly – and hand around a good variety of toppings so that your guests can choose what they like. Just make sure that your summer tomatoes are very red, ripe, juicy and packed with flavour, otherwise the soup will be insipid.

I often serve regular red gazpacho at the start of a barbecue, but this recipe is substantial enough to be almost a meal by itself. Serves 4.

8 medium tomatoes, halved
1 medium red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and halved
1 medium green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and halved
1 medium courgette (zucchini), trimmed and thickly sliced
1 small baby aubergine (eggplant), trimmed and cut into chunks
6 spring onions, trimmed
Approx 4 tablespoons cooked gigante butterbeans (large lima beans), drained
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 fl oz/ 125 ml tomato juice, chilled
12 fl oz/ 350 ml vegetable stock, chilled or at room temperature
3 tablespoons olive oil (Spanish, if you have it)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, or more to taste
A pinch of paprika
A pinch of ground cumin
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine grain sea salt
Ice cubes

Optional toppings (Prepare a few of the suggested garnishes for your guests to choose. Don’t use them all though, otherwise the flavours will clash or dominate!):

Very finely chopped red onion
Very finely chopped yellow bell pepper
Very finely diced cucumber
Diced avocado, drizzled with lime juice
Finely sliced celery
Finely sliced pickled gherkins
A few pickled green peppercorns in brine, drained
Smoked paprika
Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
Whole almonds, blanched, skinned and lightly toasted
Hard-boiled egg, shelled and finely diced
Croutons

1.    From tomatoes to spring onions listed above, barbecue, roast or grill all the vegetables until tender.
2.    Once cooked, peel and core the tomatoes and peel the peppers. Roughly chop all the vegetables and allow them to come to room temperature.
3.    In a liquidizer or food processor, combine the chopped grilled vegetables with the cooked beans, garlic and tomato juice and blitz for a few seconds.
4.    Add the stock, oil, vinegar, spices and seasoning and blitz the mixture until it is smooth but still retains plenty of texture. Add a little cold water if the texture is too thick.
5.    Refrigerate the soup for 1 or 2 hours. Serve chilled with ice cubes, and hand around optional garnishes of your choice.

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.

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.

lebanese-aubergine-sandwiches

Fed up with your regular sandwich and looking to ring changes? Then look no further. These Lebanese sandwiches can be as simple or elaborate as you want. At their simplest, plain slices of aubergines can be grilled or cooked on a charcoal and stuffed inside hot flatbreads, sprinkled simply with coarsely ground salt and pepper. This is a more dressed-up version, which is a meal by itself.

Use any Middle Eastern flatbreads: the choice available in supermarkets and Middle Eastern delis these days is astonishing. I’m particularly fond of the sesame-studded variety. You can peel the aubergines if you like, as many Lebanese do. Peeled aubergines have an elusive, meat-like texture – though personally I’m happy to leave the peel on. Eat warm. Serves 4.

For the marinade:
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced

For the sandwiches:
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
Approx 8 tablespoons olive oil
4 large pita breads, Middle Eastern flatbreads, or ordinary sliced bread
1 medium firm tomato, finely chopped
1 small red onion, trimmed, peeled and finely sliced
Small bunch mint leaves, torn
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
A few salad leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons red or yellow pepper, finely chopped (optional)
4 tablespoons diced or crumbled white cheese, any variety (optional)

1.    Make the marinade by combining all the marinade ingredients and mixing well.
2.    Slice the aubergine into 1-inch thick rounds. Working quickly, dip both sides of the aubergine slices in the marinade until you have used it all up. The liquid does not have to fully cover or soak the slices – just a touch is enough to give flavour.
3.    Heat the oil on low to medium heat in a frying pan, and cook the marinated aubergine slices in batches of 2 or 3 at a time. The cooking temperature is important here: too high and you’ll burn the aubergine slices and they will remain undercooked from inside; too low and they will absorb the oil, become greasy, and take a long time to soften. The aubergines should be light golden-brown and cooked through (pierce some slices with a knife, just to make sure). Drain on kitchen paper.
4.    Lightly grill (broil) the pita breads or any other bread that you are using.
5.    Stuff the breads with aubergine slices, tomatoes, red onions, herbs, and seasoning. Add the salad leaves, chopped pepper and cheese, if using. If eating as a main meal, serve with salad and a bowl of thick, creamy yoghurt.

This Japanese snack uses specialist ingredients that are widely available in oriental stores and the ‘posh’ sections of supermarkets. It’s an easy, tasty and sophisticated dish that goes well with chilled oriental beer. Serves 1 to 4 – just increase the quantities if you are feeding a crowd.

2 tablespoons red miso (fermented soy bean paste)
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine used in cooking)
1 tablespoon sake (Japanese rice wine)
Salt
1 egg yolk
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
4 mochi (rice cakes)
1 tablespoon white and black sesame seeds, lightly toasted

1. Mix together miso, mirin, sake, egg yolk, spring onions and salt.
2. Place the mochi on a greased baking tray, and grill on both sides under a moderate heat until they are puffed up and golden brown. Take care not to burn them.
3. Spread each mochi with the miso mixture, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
4. Return the mochi to the grill, and cook until the miso mixture is heated through. Serve immediately as a hot snack.