Summer is well and truly with us. British summers come with some obligatory customs which include watching Wimbledon on TV while munching through a bowl of strawberries, a muddy festival or two, overly competitive sports days and barbecuing in the rain while cursing at the BBC weather forecast.
It is sometimes a little rubbish as a vegetarian going to a barbecue. But, they needn’t be so rubbish when you host your own. I really love vegetable kebabs and have complied some top tips for making them a little more exciting.
Must be marinated beforehand! Otherwise they go wrinkly and watery. When preparing them, click out the stalks and put the caps in a plastic tub with more olive oil than you would expect. Give them a good shake, and leave for about an hour before cooking. You’ll be surprised at how much oil they will soak up. They may not be diet friendly anymore, but they will taste great.
Since garlic and mushrooms are a match made in heaven, I really love adding finely slice garlic to mine. What is really great is packing the underside of the cups full with lovely herbs and garlic. Skewer the mushroom right through the middle trapping the garlic and herbs between the underside of the mushroom and the next thing you choose to skewer next to it.
Ahhh, good old salty, squeaky halloumi goodness! With most halloumi, there is a natural slice through the centre of the cheese. When cutting the halloumi up, try to follow this line, otherwise the halloumi may fall apart when skewering or fall off the skewer when cooking.
But there are other options as well as halloumi. Why not try an Indian-style kebabs with paneer and a spicy, tikka marinade?
Feta also keeps is shape when cooked. Just be very careful at the skewering stage as it crumbles easily.
You don’t have to simply have to chop the vegetables into chunks – you could slice them using a vegetable peeler. As some vegetables take longer to cook than others, it is good to peel the vegetables that take longer. Personally, I really don’t like undercooked courgettes or butternut squash and luckily, these are both great for peeling. When putting them on the skewer, fold them up, or you could fold the ribbons around other vegetables.
Remember that onions take a while to cook. I actually quite like the taste of raw onions, but I know plenty of people that don’t. If you prefer well cooked onions, it might be a good idea to put all of the onions on one skewer and cook for a little longer – if you put them on with other vegetables, everything else will be charred to a crisp while the onions will be undercooked.
The great thing about onions is that they hold the marinade when cooking. As the folds of the onion open up when cooking, keep adding more marinade using a pastry brush. They also caramelise a little when sweet marinades are added.
Marinades are a great way to add some interesting flavours to the vegetable kebabs. You could keep it simple with garlic, chilli and herbs. Or you could mix it up a bit with a spicy yet sweet jerk marinade or miso glaze.
Keep brushing on the marinade when cooking on the barbecue using a either a pastry or marinade brush so the flavour builds.
If you are organised enough, soak wooden skewers in water before hand so they don’t burn so easily.
I’ve seen some people using rosemary twigs as skewers – this is a great way of getting some lovely flavour throughout the kebab.
Remember that some tofu can be a bit bland, so add a good marinade when cooking. Be sure to use firm tofu and if you have time, press the tofu for a good 30 minutes before cooking to drain out as much water as possible.
You don’t have to just stick to the same old vegetables if you don’t want to. You could make an asparagus raft to using two skewers, or use more unusual vegetables like shitake mushrooms or pak choi. Even whole garlic cloves and marinated artichokes are lovely.
Some fruits cook really well on barbecues and go well with a honey or rum marinade. A friend of mine once made pineapple kebabs with coconut shavings which were divine.