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20 vegetarian BBQ ideas from top chefs (that'll stun your meat-loving pals, too)

*drops drumstick in total awe*

20 vegetarian BBQ ideas from top chefs (that'll stun your meat-loving pals, too)
21 May 2018

Veggies have got it tough. Real tough.

Where burger-loving meat eaters get a perfectly cooked, sublimely tasty beef patty worthy of the holy scriptures, burger-loving veggies get… a mushroom. Where meat eaters get pick o’ the twenty-page menu, veggies get something with goat’s cheese on it… again. Where meat eaters can whimsically dance down the snack aisle of the Co-op, theatrically plopping crisps and chocolate bars and cakes and ooooh maybe a cheeky lil’ Battenberg into a wicker basket like an Oliver Twist extra, poor veggies must silently interrogate each and every item until they give up their sinister gelatine secrets.

Veggies, man. They get it real tough.

So be a darling, would you? Be a sweetheart. A good egg. Make a veggie’s day this summer by incorporating one, a couple, or absolutely all of the below slabs of outragous culinary genius into your usual BBQ sausage fest. We gathered the UK’s finest fire-cooking talent and pried their vegetarian go-to grill-out showstoppers from their brains. And heck, they really are showstoppers. Jaw-droppin’, animal-lovin’, plant-appreciatin’ showstoppers…

  • The best barbecue: fantastic barbecues to make this summer a hit.

Chilli and Lime Butter Figs

“Who in the hell doesn’t like the sound of that? Roughly pound a little ginger, garlic and bird’s eye chilli in a pestle and mortar, then stir the resulting paste into some melted salted butter. Slice the figs open and barbecue until soft, repeatedly dipping them into the butter and returning to the barbecue until they caramelise. Serve with lime and fresh coriander and buy me a beer as thanks when you see me next.”

- Sebby Holmes, founder of Farang

Sake Mushroom Melee

“If you see me over a BBQ, it’s likely this that I’ll be tending to. I love it. I lay out two sheets of aluminium foil and pile on a load of Japanese and European mushrooms, then pour a generous amount of sake over them, plus a splash of soy, as much sliced garlic and my guests can handle, and a few large knobs of butter. Then I pull the foil up around the mushrooms and twist the top, place on top of the BBQ or into the coals, and cook through. Do the same, and you can watch them fly off the buffet table as soon as you put them down, too.”

- Scott Hallsworth, founder of Freak Scene

Jerk Cauliflower

“Cauliflower loves to carry strong and bold flavours. It’s why we turned to it for a great vegetarian option on our menu: it works so well with jerk spices. Start by combining a cup of pineapple juice, 2tbs brown sugar, a dash of maple syrup, a dash of soy sauce, a pinch of salt, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. This is your brine, so stick your cauliflower in there halved, but with the stem in-tact. Leave it for 2-24 hours.

“In the meantime, make a jerk marinade by mixing ¼ cup veg oil, a squeeze of lime, a couple of scotch bonnet chillies, ¼ onion, a sprinkle of thyme, a teaspoon of grated ginger, pinch of all spice, salt, pepper and a tbs white vinegar. Grilling your cauli on coals, turning it constantly to stop it burning, and when it’s halfway cooked, brush it with the marinade and char on all sides. When it’s cooked through, brush it once more and take off the grill. Serve with your favourite pineapple salsa.”

- Basit Nasim, co-founder of HotBox

Read more: 9 meats you didn’t think you could BBQ (but oh boy you gotta this summer)

Feta Parcels With Spicy Tomatoes

Feta and BBQ go together beautifully, grilling the cheese melts it perfectly, and it adds an amazing smoky note. Oh, and it takes minutes to do. Make a large foil parcel with a large slice of feta, chopped fresh tomatoes, chilli, sliced red pepper, parsley, garlic and oil, then place on charcoal for a few minutes until the feta melts. Serve with fresh, hot bread.”

- Marianna Leivaditaki, head chef at Morito

Smokey Fried Eggs

“Get those coals live and kicking again in the AM and do this for a perfect morning-after-the-night-before breakfast. Simply crack a bunch of eggs onto a hot plate. A pinch of paprika and that wood smoke is the ultimate seasoning. Serve with some grilled sourdough on the side, too.”

- Jimmy Garcia, founder of The BBQ Club

Pit-Charred Sprouts

“Sprouts. Correct, we hated them once, too. That was until we went to Barrel and Ashes in LA, and they served us BBQ sprouts as a side. We’ve been hooked ever since. The charring adds a whole new level of flavour to these often over-boiled little balls of festive hell. Start by getting the BBQ coals white hot - it’ll take a good 20 minutes. Then wash, peel, bottom and oil 20 sprouts and add them to pre-soaked skewers. Turn them on the grill until they get a good char all round. Season with sea salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They’re great as a side, or served with grilled chilli and onion (with grilled bacon in there, if you’re a carnivore).”

- Scott Munro, co-founder of Red’s True BBQ

Read more: 11 tricks, tips and hacks that’ll make you a BBQ legend this summer

Celeriac, Hazelnuts and Coolea Cheese

“I actually started roasting celeriac like this for a dessert dish – it gets these amazing notes of toffee and coffee that work really well with ice cream. This one, though, is a great veggie dish, or a side for a BBQ chicken. Peel and halve a whole celeriac, and wrap both pieces in tin foil before placing directly onto your coals for 60 minutes.

“Meanwhile, heat 100g of butter in a pan with 100g crushed hazelnuts. Once browned, remove from the heat and add 35ml of sherry vinegar and season with salt. Take the celeriac off the heat, unwrap, and break it up into chunks. Season, plate up, cover with butter. Then give it a heavy shaving of Coolea cheese (or Gouda, which works just as well).”

- George Barson, head chef at Kitty Fisher’s

Mars Bar-Nana

“A grill-out favourite of mine is to peel then cut a banana into 1-2cm chunks, then cut a Mars Bar into similar size chunks and place them both into the banana skin in an alternating fashion. Wrap it back up and BBQ it until the mars melts! Then, grab a can of condensed milk, pierce several holes in the top and put that on the BBQ too. It will caramelise and end up tasting a bit like dulce de leche. Pour it all over the gooey Mars Bar banana for an outrageous guilty pleasure.”

- Scott Hallsworth, founder of Freak Scene

Coal-Blackened Sweet Potatoes

“This was inspired by watching an incredible Argentine chef, Francis Mallmann, cooking vegetables directly on hot coals. The beautifully blackened exterior and delicious sweetness of the potato work beautifully together. Wash whole sweet potatoes, rub them generously with salt, and wrap individually with foil before whacking them onto medium-hot coals.

“Turn every 5-10 minutes, and cook until a skewer goes through them like butter – approximately 40 minutes. Remove the foil and put the potatoes onto the coals directly to blacken the skin. Once well charred, cut in half, drizzle with olive oil, and top with sea salt, sour cream, chives, and a squeeze of lime.”

- Basit Nasim, co-founder of HotBox

Read more: The 13 best summer lunchtime craft beers

Ultimate Horseradish Sauce

“Wrap a horseradish root in foil with butter, thyme and garlic. Slow-cook on the barbecue for five hours, until it’s soggy. Unwrap, blitz it up with a dash of vinegar, a bit of brown sugar and a lot of butter. Have it with everything.”

- Ramael Scully, founder of Scully

Burnt Blood Orange & Pine Curd

“It’s a BBQ dessert showstopper. It’s amazing served warm with ice cream, cold and folded through an Eton Mess, or, my personal preference, with freshly baked scones and clotted cream. It does require you finding 500g of pine branches, but after that, it’s plain sailing.

“Start by getting your BBQ real hot, then cut 10 oranges (ideally blood oranges) in half. Place the branches on the grill, and the oranges on top, cut-side down, until they caramelise and start to smoke. Remove, leave to cool, and juice. Add 185ml of the juice to a metal bowl with four eggs, two egg yolks, 160g caster sugar at 125g cubed butter.

“Next, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water) and stir until it thickens. When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready to go.”

- George Barson, head chef at Kitty Fisher’s

Tomato Pie

“I spent my summers in Virginia Beach, fishing with my granddaddy, doing fish fries and clam bakes with my grandma. This dish is the accompaniment for both, or a great vegetarian main event.

“Start by greasing a medium ovenproof dish with butter. Throw 150g mature grated cheddar, 1 grated onion and 100g mayo into a bowl with a glug of (vegetarian) Worcestershire sauce, 1tsp of oregano and a pinch of salt and pepper and mix. Cover the base of your pan with day-old, crustless slices of white bread (five should do it), cover that with ripe tomato slices, season, and add another layer of bread.

“Next, add a layer of cheese mix, another layer of slightly overlapping tomatoes to top it off, more cheese and then a shower of sliced spring onion and red chilli slices. Cook on the BBQ (indirectly over the heat) for 25-30 minutes, until you have a golden top.”

- DJ BBQ, taken from his book Fire Food

Griller’s Lemonade

“Oh, you betcha. It’s insane. Doing it this way brings in amazing caramel notes without giving up any of its refreshing properties. Grill lemon halves until they’re nice and dark, then squeeze 100ml of juice from them. Add 75g of sugar, 500ml sparking water, and serve over ice.”

- Brett Redman, chef and co-founder of Jidori

Read more: WTF do I do with a jackfruit?

BBQ Peach Salad

“Simply quarter a handful of peaches and grill them on the BBQ for a couple of minutes. Then toss into a salad of goat’s cheese, fresh peas, broad beans, torn mint, pomegranate seeds and pea shoots for a delightful and fresh summer-winning salad.”

- Jimmy Garcia, founder of The BBQ Club

Blackened Pumpkin

“If you’re brave enough to light the BBQ in autumn, trying cooking pumpkins directly over the edge of the coals. Keep turning them so the skin blackens all over and the flesh feels tender. Split them in half, scoop out the seeds, and serve the pumpkins just as they are, with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil and sprinkle of sea salt.”

- Nick Balfe, head chef and founder of Salon

Sticky Strawberry and Coconut Rice

“If this doesn’t come out sticky, smokey, sweet and banging, you’ve don’t it wrong. It’s a great little dessert you gotta try this grilling season. Take six chopped strawberries, a few portions of freshly steamed sticky rice, thick coconut cream and a big heaped tablespoon of quality strawberry jam, then mix it all up and leave for ten minutes to allow the rice to cool and to soak in all the flavours.

“Next, portion the strawberry rice into banana leaf parcels (or tin foil), then add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sesame seeds before wrapping closed. Smoke over a little wood and charcoal in the barbecue for 15-20 minutes.”

- Sebby Holmes, founder of Farang

Read more: 18 gotta-get cookbooks for a way waaay cooler kitchen

Whole Potatoes Under Ash

“I love cooking potatoes under ash, not only because you get an amazing chewy skin and fluffy insides, but they save so much space on the grill. Just stab your potatoes (any type will do, but Cyprus potatoes are the best in my opinion) and wrap in foil, then dig a hole in the hot ash and bury them inside. Cover, and cook for 60-90 minutes. When done, unwrap them, cut in half, and serve simply with olive oil, oregano and sea salt.”

- Marianna Leivaditaki, head chef at Morito

Black Leek Salad

“My grilled salad is dead easy, and a never-fail winner too. Drop some leeks directly on the coals, and some peas in the pod and wedges of baby gem lettuce on the grill. When the leeks blacken, strip off the burnt outer layer. Toss everything together with olive oil, lemon juice and lots of ricotta, and let the residual heat melt everything together. You’ll have created a wonderful dressing with the juices from the veg, too.”

- Nick Balfe, head chef and founder of Salon

Smoky Butter-Drowned Heritage Carrots

“I saw a lot of people doing something similar with pineapples – hanging them on hooks over a camp fire - and figured beautiful carrots would be an amazing alternative. Wash two bunches of heritage carrots (with green tops still attached) and tie them with short string. Drizzle with rapeseed oil, and salt and pepper. Then hang them over hot coals from a long piece of string for 15-20 minutes.

“In the meantime, take a block of soft salted butter and mix with finely chopped coriander, flatleaf parsley, three chopped garlic cloves, the zest of one lemon, and a deseeded and diced red chilli. Once the carrots are cooked, baste them in the herb butter, season and serve.”

- Steve Horrell, executive chef at Roth Bar & Grill

Grilled Pineapple with Coconut

“This was one of the dishes we served at BBQ Club last year, and was a huge hit. Marinade the pineapple chunks in chilli, lime and brown sugar syrup for as long as you can. You can spike it with rum if you like. Place them on the BBQ for 3-4 minutes, then quickly toast some coconut shavings on there too. Serve with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche.”

- Jimmy Garcia, founder of The BBQ Club

(Main image: David Loftus)