Annabel Langbein: Vegetarian barbecue (+recipes)

By Annabel Langbein

Mediterranean salad. Photo / Annabel Langbein media
Mediterranean salad. Photo / Annabel Langbein media

Ahh the promises, the promises. We've all been there, full of fierce, heartfelt determination each January the first, resolving to ... aah what will it be this year? Do more exercise ... learn something new ... lose weight ... drink less ... spend less time in front of a screen ... be a better person ... open doors for other people ...

A week later, 75 per cent of us (if research is to be believed), are still on track, but roll things out another six months and around half will have fallen off the wagon of their best intentions.

I'm a great believer in dropping the bar to make things easier - it gives you a better chance of success.

Thinking about well-being, both on a personal level and a planetary one, brings me to the idea of eating less meat as a worthy and, at the same time, achievable resolution for 2017. The huge global initiative known as Meatless Monday is an idea that's been around for about 14 years and is now active in 44 countries around the globe.

You'll find it from the East to the West - from Bhutan to Hungary and Denmark to Peru. Vested in helping to support the environment and reduce our carbon footprint is the idea that one day a week can make a world of difference, and at the same time, adopting a more plant-based diet make a positive difference to your own health. It picks up on American food activist Michael Pollan's well-known mantra: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

It's a no-brainer when you think about it - you get to save money (meat being a big-ticket item in the shopping trolley), be healthier and use less of this troubled planet's resources, while not feeling like you're missing out. Feels like win-win all round.

It might not be only Monday that becomes meatless in your life, but a designated day provides a focus towards using less, wasting less, feeling healthier and being more resourceful.

So here, then, are some meatless meals to cook on the barbecue this summer, designed to forever dispel the idea that the only good thing to cook over the coals is meat!

Mediterranean Salad

Ready in 35 mins + cooling. Serves 4-6

2 eggplants, cut into 3-4cm chunks
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 large red peppers
2 large tomatoes, cored and sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
250g mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks
Basil or rocket leaves, to serve

Basil Dressing
1 cup packed basil leaves
½ cup boutique extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped

Toss eggplant with oil, honey, salt and pepper. Cook on preheated barbecue grill over medium heat, turning frequently, until totally tender with no sponginess left. At the same time, place whole peppers on the grill and cook until skins are deeply charred and blistered. While eggplants and peppers are cooking, make the dressing by placing basil leaves in a sieve and pouring over boiling water to wilt. Cool at once under running water, drain, then whizz in a food processor with oil, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. (Or if you prefer, just use 3 Tbsp pesto, thinned with a little olive oil.) Remove vegetables from grill, cover peppers and leave for 10 minutes so they steam a little and can be peeled more easily. Peel and deseed the peppers, tear into strips and place in a bowl with eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Top with basil or rocket leaves, drizzle with basil dressing and serve at room temperature.

Grilled Veges with Sesame Sauce

Photo / Annabel Langbein media
Photo / Annabel Langbein media

Ready in 20 mins. Serves 4 as a side

3 long Asian eggplants, halved lengthways
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil, to brush
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Sesame Sauce
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp soy sauce

To make sauce, stir together all ingredients. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill over medium-low heat until softened and lightly browned (asparagus takes about 8 minutes and eggplant 5-6 minutes each side). Arrange on a platter and top with Sesame Sauce and toasted sesame seeds.

Rainbow Salad with Halloumi

Photo / Annabel Langbein media
Photo / Annabel Langbein media

Ready in 30 mins. Serves 4

¾ cup couscous
¾ cup boiling water
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tsp tomato puree or tomato juice mixed with
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup lemon juice
4 small green or yellow zucchini, finely sliced on the diagonal or lengthways
2 large red, orange or yellow peppers, deseeded and cut into sixths or eighths
250g halloumi, cut into 3cm cubes
½ cup parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds (optional)

Place couscous in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to absorb (about 5 minutes). Place chickpeas in a medium pot with oil, garlic, tomato purée mixture, cumin and lemon zest. Cook until mixture is sizzling and smells aromatic (2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice then couscous. It can be prepared ahead to this point and chilled for up to 2 days until needed.

Preheat a barbecue grill or hotplate. Grill vegetables and halloumi - peppers will take about 5 minutes each side, zucchini 2-3 minutes each side and halloumi about 1 minute each side. When ready to serve, stir parsley and pine nuts or sunflower seeds, if using, into couscous mixture, pile on to a serving platter and top with the grilled vegetables and halloumi. Serve warm or at room temperature.

- Canvas

• For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see her new summer annual A Free Range Life: Celebrate Summer! (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95) or visit annabel-langbein.com.

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