Anna Jones returns for a meat-free barbecue
Cooking over coals is so suited to vegetables, and almost any can be used. Undistracted by meat fat, I find the subtlety of veg allows the smoky hum of the coals to come even more alive. Favourites this year have been wedges of summer cabbage, thin slices of skin-on sweet potato, thick steaks of celeriac (quickly preboiled in salted water until tender), chicories halved then dressed in a sweet vinaigrette ... all grilled so that char marks tattoo themselves on to their exteriors, while their insides are soft and yielding.
My offerings today, though, make more of a meal of vegetables on the barbecue. I’ve made a veggie burger (that doesn’t fall apart!) from plump white beans, walnuts, sundried tomatoes and a proud hit of smoked paprika. And secondly, some easy, fluffy flatbreads filled with halloumi – although feta, paneer or even tofu would stand in happily – alongside a quick lime pickle.
You might still be up for braving the barbecue (in a jumper) but otherwise both of these can, of course, be cooked indoors on a griddle or in a frying pan.
Barbecue pimentón burgers Makes 8
75g brown rice (or 150g cooked) 120g walnuts
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika (pimentón)
½ tsp each of salt and black pepper 400g tin cooked white beans, rinsed, drained and patted dry
75g sundried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
4 dried apricots, roughly chopped 30g fresh breadcrumbs, or oats
8 burger buns Mayonnaise A little more smoked paprika 1 avocado, peeled and sliced Manchego cheese, thinly sliced A handful of cress
1 To cook the rice, put it in a saucepan with twice the amount of cold water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and put a lid on. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Turn the heat off, remove the lid and let it steam dry.
2 Add the walnuts to a hot frying pan and toast over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant and golden. Tip into a bowl to cool.
3 Return the pan to the heat. Add a little oil, the onion and chilli. Cook for 10 minutes, or until soft and sweet. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4 Blitz the cooled walnuts with the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
5 Mash the beans with a fork. Add the tomatoes, apricots, onion and chilli mix, rice, walnut mix and breadcrumbs and mix well to an mouldable dough. The mix will still be quite crumbly, so scoop out half the dough and blitz it, then stir it back into the remaining
dough to bind it all together. If it seems dry, add a little oil from the tomatoes.
6 Line a tray with baking paper. Squeeze together a small handful of the mixture, put it on the tray and flatten slightly into a burger shape. Repeat until you have eight burgers. Brush each burger with a little oil.
7 Heat the barbecue until the flames have died down. Grill the burgers for about 3-4 minutes on each side, not moving until a crust has formed and they come away from the bars quite easily. Be gentle with them. Alternatively you could fry the burgers in a pan for the same amount of time, or bake them in the oven at 220C/425F/ gas 7 for 10 minutes.
8 To assemble the burgers, slice each bun in half and spread both sides with a little mayonnaise. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and put a couple of slices of avocado on the bottom half of the bun. Put the burger on top of the avocado, then a couple of slices of manchego, a big pinch of cress and the second half of the bun.
Halloumi, lime and scotch bonnet flatbreads Serves 4
400g tomatoes A small bunch of mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil 250g block of halloumi 4 flatbreads Peppery summer leaves, such as rocket 2 tbsp tahini Greek yoghurt to serve
For the pickle
2 limes 1 tbsp cumin seeds 1 tsp salt 1 tsp sugar 2 scotch bonnet or other red chillies 1 tsp honey
1 To make the pickle, peel the zest from the limes in long strips. Add to a small saucepan. Squeeze in the juice. Add the cumin, salt and sugar.
2 Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, until the zest
Undistracted by meat fat, I find the subtlety of veg allows the smoky hum of the coals to come even more alive
strips have shrunk and are curling at the edges. Set aside to cool.
3 Once cool, remove the pickle from the pan. Reserve the liquid. Chop the pickle and add it to a bowl with the chilli and honey and mix well.
4 Chop the tomatoes: I like to cut mine into different shapes and sizes, making sure no two are the same. Add them to a bowl with the mint, 1 tbsp lime pickle juice and a good drizzle of olive oil.
5 Heat your barbecue until the flames have died down and you have a hot but even heat, or heat a griddle until it is really hot. Grill the halloumi on both sides until softened, with charred lines, but not burnt.
6 Meanwhile, warm the flatbreads: I do this on the cooler edge of the barbecue or over an open flame, turning with tongs after 30 seconds or so.
7 Once the halloumi is perfectly cooked and the flatbreads are warm, pile the tomatoes on top, add a pile of the halloumi and the leaves, then drizzle of tahini and yoghurt, and a sprinkle of the lime pickle.