Barbecue season is almost upon us, and for vegetarians that can sometimes mean nodding quietly and smiling when someone asks you whether you’re enjoying the half-cooked cardboard veggie-sausage you’ve just drowned in ketchup and fried onions in a futile attempt to make it more appealing.
People just don’t know what to do with vegetarians at barbecues. The are lots of simple things of course, if I’m invited to a BBQ I usually bring halloumi, or corn on the cob to throw on the grill, or some pre-made falafel – things that everyone can enjoy (even the carnivores). If you’ve got the time, you can even try your hand at making some interesting veggie burgers. Or, you can focus on improving your side-dish game, which is what these recipes are all about.
The following recipes are incredibly simple. They can be enjoyed hot or cold, so you can make them ahead of time and they can be prepared on the barbecue or in the oven (perfect for an inevitably rainy British bank holiday weekend or if you just fancy something a bit different for dinner). The first dish is the main event – roasted aubergine marinated in Ras el Hanout, served with pomegranate, feta and a yogurt and cayenne pepper dressing, the second dish is more of a side – fried courgette salad with chickpeas and green lentils. The beauty of these dishes, is their easily scalable, a whole aubergine will do roughly two people as a main dish, to bulk it out you can add however many aubergines you need, or change it up a bit by adding a few peppers to the roasting tray / barbecue.
For the aubergine (serves 2 as a main)
- 1 aubergine (eggplant)
- 1 tablespoon ras el hanout*
- olive oil
- 100g Feta cheese
- 100g Greek yogurt
- 1/2 a lemon
- cayenne pepper
- 1 small pomegranate
- handful of fresh coriander
- *Ras el hanout
- (North African spice mix)
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves\
PREHEAT OVEN 280˚C
- Slice the aubergine into centimeter thick disks
- If you’re being the aubergine in the oven, coat a large baking tray with a thin layer of olive oil, sprinkle the ras el hanout over the oil and mix through. Coat each piece of aubergine in the spiced oil and arrange on the tray. (You may need a little more than a tablespoon of the spice mix.) Once arranged, drizzle with a little more oil and transfer to the oven to bake for 30 – 40 minutes. If you’re grilling the aubergine on a barbecue, make up an oil spice mixture in a small jug and paint the spice mix onto the aubergine using a pastry brush. Barbecue for 2-5 minutes.
- To make the yogurt dressing, half the feta and blitz together with the juice of half a lemon in a food processor, add Cayenne pepper to taste
- When the aubergine is cooked, arrange on a large plate or platter. Crumble over the remaining feta, drizzle over the dressing and top with pomegranate seeds, some chopped coriander and a little sumac.
For the fried courgette salad
- 1 courgette (zucchini)
- 1 pack of cooked green lentils
- 1/2 can of cooked chickpeas (you can used both dried lentils and chickpeas, but make sure they’re prepared prior to assembling your salad. Lentils may need to be soaked overnight)
- fresh coriander
- dried oregano
- dried thyme
- Cut the courgette into thin disks
- Lightly oil a frying pan and fry the courgettes until cooked
- Once cooked, transfer onto a little kitchen paper to remove the excess oil, season with salt and black pepper
- In the same pan, fry the chickpeas for a few minutes (be careful, sometimes they pop)
- Empty the cooked green lentils into a salad bowl, and season with a little oregano, thyme and ground black pepper.
- Chop the coriander and stir through the lentils
- Add the chickpeas and the courgette
- Season once again, and lightly toss – remember this salad can be served both hot and cold.