Last-minute grilled salad
This is another dish where the idea is not to dictate to you what you should or shouldn't use. Instead, it's about what you have handy and what's fresh. It's the way I actually eat BBQ at home. I will throw a steak or some ribs on and when they're cooked and waiting to be sliced, I switch to a direct heat on the BBQ and throw on what I have picked up from the shops. Any vegetables can be grilled - the great thing about them is that, unlike meat, you can burn them and they get better rather than worse. The bitter char touches enhance the flavour rather than overpower it - within reason though. Turning vegetables into charcoal is not the point and overcooked is overcooked.
Vegetables such as leeks, onions and fennel have layers. You can either slice these veg and grill them, or cook whole until black on the outside, then peel off the charred layer to reveal a cooked smoky interior. You can do the same thing with whole aubergines, blackening the skin and then peeling it off. You could even cook any of these vegetables directly on the coals for a more intensely smoky effect.
All you then need is a nice dressing, some salt, maybe a few herbs and perhaps some crunchy additions. Have fun and don't discount anything as a potential ingredient. The suggestions below are for a spring grilled salad.
- 2 fennel bulbs, one left whole and the other thinly sliced
- 3 courgettes, thickly sliced lengthways
- 2 Tropea onions or red onions, cut in half lengthways (unpeeled)
- 3 spring onions
- 1 leek
- 4 white/purple/green sprouting broccoli stalks
- 3 English asparagus spears
- 1 globe artichoke, trimmed, quartered lengthways
- 1 small bunch dandelion leaves
- 1 romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthways through the core
- For the dressing:
- Olive oil, to taste
- Lemon juice, to taste
- 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 small handful chives, cut into 2.5cm lengths
- 2 tbsp puffed wild rice (deep-fry raw wild rice for a few seconds in 180°C oil, then drain)
- 1 tbsp crispy garlic slices
- Couple of grates of Parmesan cheese
- Maldon salt
Cook the whole fennel bulb in the hot coals for 10 minutes until blackened, then peel off the outer charred layer. Set aside.
Lay the fennel and courgette slices, the onion halves, spring onions, leek, broccoli, asparagus and artichoke quarters on the BBQ grill. Cook, turning as needed, until the vegetables are tender and heavily charred. As they are cooked, remove them from the grill. Leave the leek until it is blackened all over, then remove and peel off the outer layer. Roughly chop up all the veg, including the whole fennel bulb.
Grill the dandelion leaves for a few seconds, and the lettuce halves on one side until almost black.
Combine all the grilled vegetables on a large platter.
Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and salt, then sprinkle with the herbs, puffed wild rice, crispy garlic and Parmesan. Serve immediately.