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Meat-free magic: Genevieve Taylor’s veggie BBQ recipes

Depart from the done-to-death and elevate your veggies this summer by getting inventive over the barbecue. Don’t know how? Genevieve Taylor’s easy, colourful new collection of grilling recipes will have you heading in the right direction

The overriding desire with outdoorsy Bristol chef, food writer and “fire fiend” Genevieve Taylor’s latest book is simply to “explode the myth that good barbecue has to be all about Man vs. Meat”. Cooking over fire on a day-to-day basis, rather than just the odd bank holiday, has never been more popular and as the appetite for eating more veg and less meat has grown, vegetarian barbecue ideas have become more creative than simple corn on the cob. “When you cook over a grill or griddle, some sort of magic happens: flavours intensify, surfaces caramelise and edges get irresistibly crisp and charred,” says Gen of the flavour-enhancing Maillard reaction caused by the high heat. “Plus, the whole theatre around this way of cooking can only add to the experience.”

While she seizes any opportunity to free herself from the shackles of the kitchen and get out into the fresh air, she – mindful of the British climate – has also designed and tested many of the recipes in Charred on a griddle pan on the hob as well as on a barbecue. So now there’s really no excuse not to experiment…

Barbecued carrot, ricotta & toasted pecans
(serves 4 – 6 as a side dish)

“I adore this salad and would eat the whole thing myself given half a chance – the combination of sweet charred carrots, creamy ricotta and crunchy nuts is quite simply addictive. If you’ve never grilled a carrot before, do it now. They are an absolute revelation and show just how good fire-cooked vegetables can be.”

• 1 x 500g (1lb 2oz) bunch of carrots, preferably with the tops on
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
• 1 tsp soft dark brown sugar
• 1 tsp dried chilli flakes, ideally chipotle chilli flakes
• 1 clove of garlic, crushed
• 250g (11/4 cups) ricotta
• 1/2 bunch of spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
• 50g (1/2 cup) pecans, toasted and chopped
• A small bunch of coriander (cilantro), chopped
• Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Trim the tops off the carrots and scrub under running water. Slice in half lengthways, or into quarters if they are a little larger – you want them to be approximately finger-thickness.

2. Fill a pan with boiling water and add a little salt, then set over a high heat and bring back to the boil. Once boiling, add the carrots and blanch for 3 minutes.

3. Drain well and tip into a mixing bowl. While they are still hot, add the olive oil, cumin, brown sugar, chilli flakes and garlic and stir.

4. Cover and leave to marinate for a couple of hours at room temperature. Once you are ready to cook, fire up the barbecue ready for direct grilling, or preheat a cast-iron griddle pan on the hob.

5. Lay the carrots on the grill bars or griddle and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, turning regularly, until they are nicely caramelised. If you are barbecuing, you can add a few smoking wood chunks or chips to up the smokiness. Use a brush to baste the carrots with any excess marinade from the bowl as you turn them.

6. Once soft and caramelised, scatter the carrots over a serving plate and dot with heaped teaspoons of ricotta. Sprinkle the spring onions, chopped pecans and coriander. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil and finish with a good grind of pepper. Serve while still warm.

Sticky butternut squash & feta with pomegranate salsa & garlic yoghurt (serves 4)

“Butternut squash grills a treat. I often leave the skin on, born from a combination of loving the chewy texture and being too lazy to peel them. Choose a good, even-shaped squash, so all your slices are of a similar diameter. The slices that have a hole in the middle where the seeds were make the perfect receptacle for the pomegranate salsa. Almost as if they were designed for that very purpose…”

• 1 x 1.2 – 1.4kg (23/4 – 3lb) butternut squash, cut into 8 approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) rings, skin on, seeds discarded
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
• 200g (7oz) feta, crumbled
• 2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes, more to taste (or use regular chilli flakes)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salsa
• 1 large pomegranate, seeds picked
• 3 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
• 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
• A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• A few sprigs of mint, leaves picked and chopped

For the garlic yoghurt sauce
• 5 tbsp Greek yoghurt
• 1 clove of garlic, crushed
• 1 – 2 medium hot red chillies, finely chopped

To serve
• 4 pitta breads, toasted and cut into strips

1. Fire up your barbecue ready for direct and indirect cooking, or set a griddle pan over a medium heat to get hot.

2. Brush the squash slices with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange them on the barbecue so they are slightly off to the side of the fire. If you are cooking on a griddle, lower the heat a little. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning them over halfway, or until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

3. Brush the pomegranate molasses all over both sides and cook for a few minutes on one side until sticky and caramelised. Turn the squash over and top 4 slices with the crumbled feta, avoiding the slices with the hole so it doesn’t fall through!

4. Sprinkle on the Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes and leave to cook for another couple of minutes, until the cheese begins to melt. Shut the barbecue lid or loosely cover the griddle with foil to help.

5. While the squash is cooking, make the salsa by mixing together the pomegranate seeds, spring onions, pomegranate molasses, parsley and mint. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

6. Make the yoghurt sauce by mixing the yoghurt, garlic and chilli with a little salt and pepper. To serve, layer up 2 pieces of squash, starting with a feta-topped piece. Spoon over some of the pomegranate salsa and the yoghurt sauce and serve with the pitta strips alongside.

Charred (Quadrille, £16.99); photography by Jason Ingram