Being a vegetarian at a barbecue can be tough. There’ll always be that one person who will try to persuade you to taste the steak or ask if you miss sausages. Or the host will buy some halloumi for you to eat, but the meat-eaters or children will get to it first. Worse than that though, is being hungry while everyone else is chowing down on assorted meat products, leaving you with some lettuce leaves and sub-par garlic bread.
If you want to surprise and delight any non-meat-eating guests at your next backyard barbie, here are six ways to make the most of summer’s abundant vegetables. If rain interrupts proceedings, these dishes can all be transferred to the oven or stovetop instead.
LEMONY COURGETTES WITH FETA AND MINT: If you’ve got a glut of courgettes to deal with, and you can’t fob them off to friends and whānau fast enough, whack them on the barbecue. Top and tail the courgettes, then cut into fat strips. Toss with olive oil (about 2 Tbsp, for four courgettes) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Barbecue for 5 minutes a side, until they’re starting to char at the edges. Remove to a waiting plate, squeeze over some freshly squeezed lemon juice before sprinkling over some finely chopped mint, crumbled feta, sumac and chopped, toasted walnuts.
GARLIC MUSHROOMS: Slather Portobello mushrooms with garlic butter (for 6 mushrooms, crush a clove of garlic with ½ tsp salt, mix into 125g softened butter with a handful of finely chopped fresh parsley and some freshly ground black pepper). Cook on the hot plate until soft. Rainy day option: bake in a 200C oven for 15 minutes.
BARBECUE CAPONATA: This isn’t caponata as an Italian nonna would make it, but it’s a great short-cut to make the most of summer vegetables. Cut two medium eggplants into 3cm chunks and put in a large bowl. Add a couple of punnets of cherry tomatoes, 2 red or yellow peppers, cut into chunks, and a roughly chopped red onion. Pour over about ¼ cup olive oil and toss to coat. Season well with salt and pepper and toss again. Tip this mixture out onto a barbecue hot plate (or bake in the oven at 220C) for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is looking near the point of delicious collapse. Add a cup of kalamata olives and 2 tablespoons of capers to the hot plate and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Transfer everything to a serving dish. Whisk together 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar with a ½ tsp of brown sugar and drizzle this over the top. Serve hot or at room temperature. Any leftovers are great on a pizza base, topped with mozzarella.
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BARBECUED CHERRY TOMATOES WITH BASIL DRESSING: Take a bundle of wooden skewers (about 12 should do it) and soak them in cold water for at least 10 minutes. While the skewers are soaking, put 1 small clove garlic, crushed with ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and ¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves in a blender. Whiz until smooth. Drain the skewers and thread them with cherry tomatoes (2-3 punnets should do it). Cook the skewers on a barbecue hot plate or grill, turning occasionally, until the tomatoes are at bursting point. Remove to a platter and drizzle over the basil dressing before serving (warning: the tomatoes will be VERY hot). Rainy day option: cook the tomatoes under the grill.
FETA IN A PARCEL: Bored with halloumi on the barbie? Then you need to try barbecued feta! Tear off a large-ish sheet of foil and place a 200g slab of feta on top. Sprinkle over 4 finely chopped spring onions, a few sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano (or ½ tsp dried) and a finely diced red pepper. Drizzle over a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and secure the foil like a parcel by folding over the top and sides. Put the parcel on the barbecue hotplate and cook for 10-15 minutes. Unwrap and let diners scoop out the hot feta with grilled bread or crackers, or raw vegetables (no double dipping please!) Rainy day option: cook in a 200C oven.
BARBECUED PEPPERS WITH OLIVES AND TOMATOES: Halve some red peppers (allow one per person). Rub all over with olive oil and put on the barbecue, cut side down, for 10 minutes. Flip over onto their backs and fill the cavity with cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives. Drizzle with olive oil again and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, until soft. Garnish with fresh basil and serve. Rainy day option: cook in a 200C oven.