Traditionally, vegetarians are rarely considered for when it comes to barbecues. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been handed a limp vegetable kebab or an incinerated pepper. As a nation, we’ve moved quite happily towards eating less meat, but the barbecue has remained firmly the domain of Dad and his burgers.
It’s time to catch up – when it comes to barbecuing veggies, we need some new ideas. There are so many vegetables that work brilliantly with the smoky, charred flavours of the barbecue. Aubergines are one of them – when halved and scored skin-deep, grilled, then dressed with honey, miso and lime they’re definitely one of my favourites. Courgettes work really well, too – I like them cut into thick ribbons and charred on both sides, then quickly dressed with lemon, good oil and soft herbs. Root vegetables can be thickly cut and blanched for a minute or two in salted water, then grilled and basted like a steak to build up the most deliciously crispy crust.
As excited as I am to get outside and enjoy days at the beach, a spritz or two, broderie dresses, flip flops and sitting on the grass, we’re not quite there yet. Weekends in May can be scorching hot, and they can be wet and grey – so the best thing about this recipe is that it can be cooked indoors or outdoors.
There seems to be a blanket fascination with halloumi, especially among vegetarians. While I like the squeaky cheese, I think it needs a bit of help in the flavour department. It takes centre stage in this recipe, so it’s a good idea to invest in the best quality one you can find, as varieties can differ hugely.
As excited as I am to get outside, we’re not quite there yet. Weekends in May can be scorching hot, and they can be wet and grey – so the best thing about this recipe is that it can be cooked indoors or outdoors
Traditionally, halloumi is made from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, both of which are thought to be easier to digest than cow’s milk. If you’re vegetarian, then make sure you check the halloumi is rennet free, but most are. Here it sits in a warm blanket of blackened peppers and a flash-cooked tomato stew that coats the just-crisped halloumi in its balmyjuices. Somewhere between a warm salad and a fresh herby stew.
Charred halloumi with smoky peppers & tomatoes
- 400g ripe tomatoes
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- 2 red peppers
- 1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons harissa
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4 flatbreads
- 1 x 250g pack of halloumi cheese
- 2 sprigs of fresh parsley
- 2 sprigs of fresh mint
- Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/gas 2. Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them, cut-side up, on a baking tray.
- Finely grate over the zest from 1 lemon, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then roast slowly for 1 hour, or until a little dried out, like chewy tomato sweets.
- Meanwhile, get your barbecue going (or place a griddle pan over a high heat). Once hot, char the red peppers for 20 to 25 minutes, or until blistered and blackened, turning occasionally.
- Transfer to a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel away the charred skin, deseed and cut the flesh into 2cm strips, then place into a bowl.
- By now the barbecue should have mellowed a little. Halve both lemons and grill with the spring onions for around 5 minutes, or until charred all over and the spring onions start to bend when you pick them up.
- Leave to cool slightly, then roughly chop the spring onions and add to the peppers along with the harissa, the juice from 1 hot lemon (use tongs, and be careful), a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper and a drizzle of oil.
- Tumble the roasted tomatoes into the bowl and stir gently to combine. Give it a taste to make sure all the flavours are balanced, adding more lemon juice, salt or pepper, if needed.
- Turn the oven off and pop the flatbreads in to warm up. Your barbecue should be nice and mellow by now, so cut the halloumi into 8 slices and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until softened and a little charred, turning halfway.
- Transfer the smoky pepper mixture to a serving platter and lay the halloumi on top. Roughly chop and sprinkle over the herbs, then take it all to the table with the warm flatbreads and remaining charred lemon for squeezing over.
Recipe taken from A Modern Way To Eat by Anna Jones, out now.
Anna Jones, @we_are_food