Even though you can’t even see their faces, you’ll still be able to hear their grimaces down the phone “ a vegetarian barbecue … how… interesting…”. However good you rate your friends, and however accepting they may be of the vegetarian in their midst, the words ‘vegetarian’ and ‘barbecue’ really can seem like an oxymoron to many. All too often, the late cancellations and feeble excuses, end up thinning your summer BBQ festival to just a few usual suspects. But there are ways of avoiding the label of a limp barbecue, whilst still maintaining your vegetarian principles. With the right preparations, you could even get have your meat-eating buds coming back for more.
The first thing for a successful veggie barbecue is plenty of meaty-looking traditional barbecue fare – sausages, burgers, and marinated fillets. If your meat-eating friends can wrap their burgers up in baps, and splice their hot-dogs into buns, then they won’t be stepping too far outside their comfort zone – and the battle is half won. There are plenty of excellent meat-substitute products, based on soya, tofu or mycoprotein, that look and taste like the real thing. If you’re feeling devious, you can even avoid mentioning the dreaded v-word at all! Just remember to stock up on the requisite meaty accompaniments; relishes, mustard, ketchup and onions.
Of course, the one drawback with most of those meat-sub products is that they are not ideal for cooking on a barbecue grill. They often lack fats and oils, and are prone to disintegration, if not ‘handled with care’. What works best is to ensure your grill is clean, and then to lightly oil it. Before cooking, lightly brush over your faux sausages, and burgers, with vegetable oil or melted butter. That way, they’ll be both juicier, and less likely to stick. An occasional brushing with more oil, during grilling, will help keep them sizzling – and makes charcoal-like ‘sausage sticks’ less of a possibility.
Having made sure that you have ticked all of the boxes, as far as the barbecue basics go, you can then move onto some more adventurous creations. Home-made veggie burgers can be magicked from chickpea, lentils, and beans (with appropriate seasoning and spicing up) and are delicious barbecued. If you are going down the home-made route, just remember to focus on getting a nicely bound mix – you don’t want your bean-burgers falling into the charcoal pan in a smoky mess.
There are also plenty of vegetables that have the best bought out in them by a little open-air charcoal flaming. Go for the sweeter vegetables, where the natural sugars are likely to caramelize. These can be absolutely gorgeous just grilled as they are, with no extra preparation. Try such succulent vegetables as corn cobs, asparagus or aubergines. Rub a little butter into them first, and keep turning until they have a nicely toasted blush of black. Cobs of corn, in particular, are gorgeous after a light grilling, followed by a good roll in the butter dish.
Another real delight on the barbecue is grilled halami – and this is perfect for skewering on kebabs. Cut it into squares, and skewer with chunks of tofu, sweet peppers, red onion squares and cherry tomatoes. Hopefully the the aroma of melted cheese will get them queuing round the barbecue, keen to try your veggie kebabs out. If you do use tofu, make sure that it is the extra-firm variety – and consider marinading it overnight first. The texture and blandness of tofu can take some getting used to, so pumping up the flavor quotient will go a long way to ensuring satisfied grins all round.
If you can put all this together with a flourish, and lace your summer barbecue with plenty of good company (and possibly a drop or two of beer) you’ll be onto a winner. You may even be pleasantly surprised the next time you call with your follow-up veggie barbecue invitations – no more grimacing. Homer Simpson got it all wrong – you can win friends with veggies.
This is a guest post written by Edward Khoo, a blogger who believes being green doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.