Start talking about barbecuing and we all typically presume it is all about meat. Meat in all its forms, whether that is perfecting the perfect steak or low ‘n’ slow or beer can chicken or ribs or just trying to not burn the sausages.
After many years of outdoor cooking and being an avid South African carnivore – I’m now as excited by the wonderful world of fire cooked vegetables and the extraordinary flavour, colour and texture cooking over fire can bring. I have horrific memories of vegetables from growing up in the UK – flavourless, mushy, slimy and generally boiled to death.
I wouldn’t have eaten beetroot or asparagus or carrots or fennel or broccoli or cabbage or pumpkin (the list is long) if you had paid me! However, over the years of outdoor cooking I have learned to appreciate the magic of flame cooked vegetables and have rediscovered their natural colour, flavour and texture.
The magic combination of fire cooking and vegetables changes everything you thought about them. Numerous occasions I’ve been faced with adults and children telling me they don’t like certain vegetables, but once convinced to try (sometimes difficult to say no to a large South African and it is the children who are normally more open to trying than the adults!) their reaction is priceless. They never realised how amazingly different it could taste as well as how easy it is to cook.
Am I becoming a vegetarian? Hell no! But I find myself mooching around the vegetables in supermarkets and food markets everywhere I go, being inspired to experiment and eager to discover how a vegetable will taste cooked over wood, fire and smoke.