Ross Dobson's vegetarian barbecue recipes

Alex Rowe
Light on fuss ... Filo pastry cooks well on a hot plate.
Light on fuss ... Filo pastry cooks well on a hot plate. Photo: Brett Stevens

When conjuring an image of a traditional Aussie barbecue you'd be forgiven for thinking of big slabs of meat and an open beer.

But times have changed, tastes have broadened, and seafood and vegetables are now just as likely to take a starring role in a barbecue meal as the traditional steak and snags.

Barbecue expert and author of Fired Up Vegetarian Ross Dobson suggests looking to Middle-Eastern, Asian and Indian cuisines for inspiration for either a vegetarian barbecue or vegetable side dishes.

Chakchouka ... The vegetarian equivalent to bacon and eggs.
Chakchouka ... The vegetarian equivalent to bacon and eggs. Photo: Brett Stevens

"You're shooting yourself in the foot if you serve up a mock-hot dog," he says.  "Vegetarians feel like it’s tokenistic and immediately won’t touch it."

Dobson shares two recipes from his book below.

Haloumi, mint & preserved lemon cigars

I love filo pastry. I use it to top, to wrap, to stuff and to roll, savoury or sweet. It's cheap, and you might be surprised to learn that it cooks very well on a hotplate. Enter barbecue. Need I say more.

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Makes 12 cigars

INGREDIENTS

6 filo pastry sheets, each measuring 44 x 28 cm

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200 g block haloumi cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 thin strips of preserved lemon rind

sea salt, for sprinkling

lemon wedges, to serve

METHOD

Lay the filo sheets on top of each other.

Cut the stack in half lengthways, then cut across in half to give 24 smaller rectangles of pastry.

Lay the rectangles on top of each other and cover with a damp cloth.

Cut the haloumi into 12 thin fingers.

Combine the mint and olive oil in a bowl.

Lay two filo rectangles on top of each other and brush with some of the oil from the bowl.

Put a piece of haloumi on the short end of the pastry, top with a strip of preserved lemon, then fold the sides of the filo over the haloumi and roll up into a cigar shape.

Repeat to make 12 cigars.

Preheat the barbecue hotplate to medium.

Cook the cigars on the hotplate for 4–5 minutes, turning often, until the pastry is golden and charred.

Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve hot, with lemon wedges on the side.

Chakchouka

Translating Arabic to English can be tricky. That is why, in the world of food, you often see the names of Middle Eastern dishes spelt in different ways, as with this fabulously flavoursome dish from North Africa.

This must be the vegetarian equivalent to bacon and eggs as hangover food. The name alone makes you want to sit up and take notice.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

60 ml (¼ cup) rice bran oil

6 ripe tomatoes, cut in half

1 small yellow capsicum, cut into strips

1 small green capsicum, cut into strips

1 small red capsicum, cut into strips

1 red onion, cut into rings

1 large red chilli, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

8 eggs

3 tablespoons finely chopped

flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

chargrilled bread, to serve

METHOD

Preheat the barbecue grill to high.

Put the oil in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, capsicums and onion and toss the vegies around to coat them in the oil.

Working in batches, tumble some of the vegies over the grill and spread them around so they don't overlap. Cook the vegetables for 8–10 minutes, turning them often using metal tongs until they are tender and scored with grill marks, then transfer to a bowl. Cook the remaining vegetables in the same way.

Sprinkle the cooked vegetables with the chilli, cumin, paprika and salt and toss together. Lightly mash using a potato masher, so the tomatoes especially are well crushed. Spoon the mixture onto a heavy-based baking tray. Put the tray on the barbecue grill and allow to heat up and sizzle.

Form eight evenly spaced little wells in the mixture, then crack an egg into each one.

Close the barbecue lid, if your barbecue has one, or place another baking tray over the top. Cook for 8–10 minutes, just until the egg whites are firm. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot, with chargrilled bread.

Fired Up Vegetarian: No Nonsense Barbecuing, by Ross Dobson, published by Murdoch Books, $34.99