BBQ Vegetable Recipes From Daniel Watkins, Acme Fire Cult 

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Let’s put things bluntly rather than sending out hazy smoke signals; barbecues weren’t made for meat and meat alone. Oh no; in Summer, the UK has some splendid, spanking fresh fruit and vegetables in season just made for char marks, bar lines and the distinct smoky flavour of the grill. 

When it comes to cooking vegetables on the grill, Daniel Watkins, chef and co-founder of Acme Fire Cult, says it’s imperative to” wash and dry all your vegetables well”. This is because drying vegetables after washing is important for barbecuing. Excess water can interfere with the cooking process, leading to steaming instead of grilling and preventing the formation of a nice grilled char. Also, oil and marinades adhere better to dry vegetables, ensuring flavour is evenly distributed.

Speaking of oil, he also advises to use both high quality olive oil and sea salt. Indeed, a good olive oil has a distinctive taste that can significantly elevate the flavour of vegetables, adding fresh, fruity, peppery notes that lower quality oils simply cannot provide. The same goes for salt. 

Maldon sea salt is a favourite among many chefs because unlike some table salts, it’s completely natural, unrefined, and free of additives. This allows it to preserve the rich minerals from the sea, which can enhance the flavour of dishes. Moreover, Maldon sea salt is known for its unique flaky texture. This unusual shape is created by the hand-drawn and hand-harvested process. With a clean, light flavour and no bitter aftertaste (often found in lesser quality salts), its gentle saltiness can elevate the flavours of a dish without overpowering them.

Chef Watkins advises that “depending on the recipe, use your instinct – you are in control. It’s important you have a good amount of heat for all vegetables”.

He adds: “Over cooking is the main common mistake. When it comes to cooking over fire, everything matters – choosing the right coal, getting it to the right temperature, and the timing of cooking.”

With those tips in mind, here are some of Watkins’s favourite BBQ vegetable recipes to try out at home.

Roast Corno Peppers, Cantabrian Anchovy, Salsa Verde

Serves 4 

Ingredients

For the peppers 

  • 16 large corno peppers 
  • Olive oil, to taste 
  • Merlot vinegar, to taste 
  • Salt, to taste 

For the salsa verde 

  • 50g flat leaf parsley 
  • 50g chervil 
  • 50g tarragon 
  • 50g coriander 
  • 50g liliput capers 
  • Juice of approximately half a lemon 
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 150 ml olive oil 

To finish 

  • 12 anchovies 

Method

For the peppers 

Put straight onto the coals, turning so all sides start blackening, then place into a bowl, with a cloth or cling film stretched over the top or cling film. This will allow the steam to help lift the skin off the peppers. 

When the peppers have cooled down a little, gently peel the skins off, place the peppers into a mixing bowl, add little splashes of olive oil and merlot vinegar. Season, adding as much or as little to your taste. 

For the salsa verde 

In a blender, add all of the herbs, the garlic, a good splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt, then blend once you have the consistency you want (have it as chunky or as smooth as you prefer). Add more lemon juice, olive oil and salt to taste. 

Salsa verde can be very interchangeable in terms of what herbs you use, so feel free to experiment with what’s available.

If you want to lower your waste, we like to use the stalks from the herbs instead of the liliput capers. Lightly salt them and pickle by covering in vinegar and leaving in the fridge overnight. 

To finish

Across two plates, arrange the peppers, and dress with some of the oil and merlot vinegar mix from the bowl. 

Add a generous amount of anchovies on top, and finish with spoonfuls of the salsa verde.

Coal Roast Leek, Pistachio Romesco 

Serves 4 

Ingredients

For the coal roast leeks

  • 4 large leeks 

For the leek oil

  • 1kg leftover leek tops 
  • 1kg pomace oil 

For the pistachio romesco 

  • 150g pistachio (plus extra for garnish) 
  • 150g almonds 
  • 1 clove of garlic 
  • 300ml leek oil 
  • Salt 
  • 8 green bell peppers 
  • Jalapeño vinegar or green Tabasco 
  • Iced water, if needed 

For the tofu whip

  • 1 pack of silken tofu 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • Salt 

Method

To make the coal roast leeks

  • Cut the green tops off and reserve for the leek oil. 
  • Wash the leeks thoroughly and dry well 
  • Lay the leeks on hot coals and allow the outside to blacken evenly and the inside steams in its own juices. 
  • Check the leeks occasionally, pressing gently to see if they feel soft. As soon as they do, remove from the coals. 

To make the leek oil

  • Wash well, slice the leek tops, shred and place in a Thermomix. 
  • Cover with the oil, and set the Thermomix to 70 degrees for 7 minutes to speed 10. Pour into a bowl over an ice bath, and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, pass through a sieve and season. 

To make the pistachio romesco

  • Roast the nuts slowly until evenly coloured set aside and allow to cool. 
  • Over the fire, char the peppers evenly until the skin blackens and blisters, sit in a bowl with a lid allowing them to steam and loosens the skin. 
  • Deseed and remove the skin from the peppers. 
  • In a Thermomix, place the peppers, toasted nuts and garlic and a little of the leek oil, blend until fine purée, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is well blended.
  • Continue to blend on a lower setting adding the remaining leek oil
  • If the mix is a little thick, add the iced water to soften the texture. 

To make the tofu whip

  • Blend all ingredients in Thermomix, until smooth and cream-like. 
  • Store in a squeezy bottle. 

To finish

Using a piping bag or large spoon, spread the romesco into the centre of a bowl.Cut the room temperature leeks into barrels (roughly 3 inches in length) and place on top of the romesco, season and dress with leek oil. Top with a spoonful of tofu whip and extra chopped roasted pistachios.

Grilled Trombetta Courgettes, Vadouvan Butter

Serves 4 

Ingredients 

For the courgettes 

  • 4 trombetta courgettes 

For the vadouvan butter

Makes a portion for 8 (can be halved to serve, the rest frozen)

  • 400g dairy free butter – is simply to make it vegan, could use dairy.
  • 220g Shallots 
  • 11g madras curry powder 
  • 11g turmeric 
  • 6g each of the following: Fennel seeds, cumin seeds, salt, cardamom black, peppercorns, mustard seeds 
  • Red chilli, finely diced 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • Peel of 1 orange 
  • 2 inch ginger finely chopped 

For the chickpea purée

  • 800g tinned chickpeas 
  • 5 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves 
  • Juice of half a lemon 
  • Confit garlic (optional) 

For the tofu whip

  • 1 pack of silken tofu 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • Salt 

Method 

To make the trombetta courgettes

Simply wash, cut down into nice portion size. Add a little olive oil and seasoning. Grill all sides until they start to soften, depending on temperature of fire. Trombettas lend themselves really well to live flames. 

To make the vadouvan butter

Sweat down shallots and all the other ingredients, cook out slowly (without colour) for approximately 2-3 hours. 

Take off the heat and let it stand for 30 minutes. 

Once the mix has cooled a little, place the mix in a high speed blender until the mix is smooth Taste, check the seasoning, and add a little salt. 

This can be frozen and makes for a great accompaniment for most vegetables but particularly works well with the courgettes. 

To make the chickpea purée

Boil the chickpeas in a pan of water with the bay leaves and thyme (approximately 30 mins). Drain the chickpeas, keeping back 2 tbsp of the cooking water and discard the bay leaves. In a blender, purée the beans to a soft cream with the reserved cooking liquid and the olive oil, then squeeze in the lemon and salt to taste. 

At this stage, add more lemon juice, olive oil or confit garlic, if you like. 

To make the tofu whip

Blend all ingredients in Thermomix, until smooth and cream-like. Store in a squeezy bottle. 

To finish 

On a plate, take a generous amount of chickpea puree on to the centre of the plate, place the grilled courgettes in the centre. Spoon over generous amount of butter. To finish, add some tofu whip or creme fraiche.

The Bottom Line

So, there you have it, some seriously delicious sounding vegetable-led barbecue dishes. Thank you chef!

Now, we think we can smell burning outside. Is that the neighbour’s fence? Oh no! Noooooooooo!

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