Vegetables on the barbecue often get a bit of a bad rap. They’re often confined to burnt but undercooked kebabs thrown on as an afterthought but they have so much potential when treated with care on the barbecue.
Unlike meat, vegetables really benefit from being marinated or dressed after cooking as they will absorb whatever they are doused in much better than when they’re in their raw state.
It’s hard to say exactly how many veg to use as it depends how hungry you are, and what else you’re serving. For 4 people we’d use roughly 1 fennel bulb, 1 courgettes, 2 peppers, 1 onions and a small bunch of spring onions. As a main dish, add another ball of mozzarella. However, adjust quantities for what you have to hand. Asparagus, aubergine and are all wonderful.
This dish puts vegetables back in the barbecue spotlight and is a beautiful centrepiece for a summer party or al fresco dinner.
- A mixture of courgettes, spring onions, fennel, brown onions, aubergine, peppers and any other veg you feel like including
- Salt and pepper
- ½ head garlic
- 2 lemons, halved
- 150ml good olive oil, plus extra for grilling
- Large bunch basil, leaves removed and roughly torn, keeping some intact.
- Tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped (optional)
- 1 ball of mozzarella
- 100g good quality olives, roughly chopped. Either green or black work, whichever you prefer.
- Handful pine nuts, toasted to serve (optional)
- Preheat your grill to a medium high heat. You want it hot enough to get a decent char on the vegetables but not so hot that it burns them without allowing them time to cook through.
- Slice the larger vegetables into medium sized slices. Softer vegetables like peppers and courgettes can be slightly thicker than fennel, for example. Spring onions should be cooked whole and round onions can be cooked in wedges.
- Place all the vegetables and the garlic (in its skin) in a large baking dish or bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and mix to ensure everything is well coated.
- Grill the vegetables and garlic in batches until they are slightly charred on the outside but soft and yielding on the inside. Fennel, aubergine and round onions will take slightly longer than the others. Spring onions will take seconds. If you like, you could use the stalks from the basil to baste the vegetables with a little salted olive oil whilst cooking for extra flavour.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the lemons, cut side down on the barbecue whilst you’re cooking the veg to get a good char on the cut side. Once cooked, squeeze the lemons into a small bowl along with the olive oil, honey, salt and pepper, capers (if using) and the torn basil leaves, reserving some for serving and whisk well to combine. Lastly, squeeze the cooked garlic out of the skin into the dressing and whisk again.
- Once the vegetables are cooked, arrange them on a serving plate and drizzle over the dressing. Leave it to sit for at least 20 minutes to absorb. When ready to serve, pull apart the mozzarella into large pieces and drape over the vegetables. Scatter over the chopped olives, remaining basil leaves and the pine nuts (if using) then finish with a little more olive oil, flaked salt and pepper.
Giovanna Ryan was a Masterchef finalist in 2017 and is now a contributing food editor for House Beautiful UK. Born and raised in London, she comes from a family of foodies and is inspired by her Italian heritage. When she's not cooking up a storm in the kitchen she teaches classes for her business cook and feast.