It's a good idea to get your veggies onto the braai early 3

Hot Off the Coals 12/20/10

Michelle Ryan-Edwards gets creative with fresh recipe ideas for a summer braai.

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Going to braais as a vegetarian has always been a minefield for me – and I’d almost started dreading them at the beginning of this summer.

The pattern was always the same:
Either I would take some Fry’s inventions (soya products) which generally get abuse poked at them by omnivores, or I’d take a sweet potato to stick in the coals with some butter. Neither of these make for a fun afternoon in the sun, nor do they leave me feeling great about my food choices.

So I started getting creative. I may have to do more forward-planning than before – and sometimes even some preparation at home – but at least I end up with food that meat-eaters envy rather than ridicule. And, I get to have a tasty, balanced meal, and feel totally happy about my diet and lifestyle.

The recipe below does require a bit of prep time. Ideally, the prep should be done in your hosts’ kitchen, but if that’s not possible, you can do the prep at home and arrive with a container full of your ingredients. It’s worth it. And it goes really, really with a cold micro-brewed beer, like a Birkenhead or a Jack Black.

Mediterranean braai rolls

I adapted this from a TASTE magazine recipe for the ultimate veggie burger. But, my version’s more braai-friendly because it takes the size and shape of the vegetables into consideration.

Per person, you’ll need:
1 small aubergine
2 small courgettes, or 1 large marrow
½ a large yellow or red pepper
A bit of Brie or other gooey, strong cheese ( you can leave this out for a vegan option)
Some hummus, guacamole, plain yoghurt or tzatziki
1 or 2 Portuguese rolls, depending on hunger

Slice the courgette into wide ribbons, but don’t make the ribbons too thick – courgettes are relatively hard vegetables, and you don’t want them to take longer to cook than the others.

Try to cut the peppers in broad slices so that the slices have a big surface area. Don’t slice them in long, thin pieces or chunks.

Lastly, slice the aubergine thickly – if you make the slices too thin, they’ll fall straight through the braai grid. Place the slices on a piece of paper towel on a plate, and grind/sprinkle salt liberally on the slices. Cover with another piece of paper towel and leave for a few minutes. This will draw the liquid out of the aubergine, and make it less bitter. Use the top piece of paper towel to dab the liquid off the top of the slices, turn them over, and repeat on the underside. Give the slices a good rinse afterwards, unless you want the residual salty taste.

You’ll want to get these on the braai before the meat goes on, which works well because the veggies can go on a fire that’s still too hot for meat. They take up quite a big surface of the grill, too, so you don’t want to wait until all the meat goes on because you might not have enough space to spread your veggies out.

Veggies on the braai

Just before the vegetables are ready, with dark char marks and a softer texture (after about 10 minutes), place the inside of your sliced roll/s on the grill to crisp the surface that will be in contact with the filling. This is basic burger lore – buns should be soft on top and crispy on the inside so that the filling clings to the rolls but doesn’t make the bread soggy.

If you have to wait while the omnivores cook their meat before you can tuck in, save the cheese preparation for last. When you’re ready to eat, stick the cheese in the microwave or oven for about 30 seconds to warm it up and make it runnier. You’ll be able to spread it on the rolls easily, and the warmth of the cheese will make up for the fact that the vegetables might have cooled.

This is how I assembled mine, but it’s open to interpretation:

Hummus AND salsa spread on the base of the roll, topped with a slice of aubergine, two ribbons of courgettes, a slice of pepper, a dollop of oozing cheese, and closed off with the top of the roll.

It’s divine and tastes really virtuous. It contains a good balance of nutrients, too, with protein and a bit of fat from the cheese and hummus or other spread, and plenty of low-GI carbs from the veggies. Also, because braai-ing vegetables doesn’t require any oil, you’re saving some calories. Salsa also contains a lot of vitamin C, and guacamole, if homemade without too much salt, is very nutritious.

For more protein-rich rolls, slap some slices of halloumi cheese on the braai instead of using Brie. As halloumi is relatively low in fat, you can have more of it without feeling guilty. It’s a nice, hard cheese that won’t melt on the grill, and, sliced thickly, is perfect for a braai. Portobello mushrooms also work well instead of courgettes – their springy texture is similar and apparently the mushrooms lend an earthy flavour to the rolls.

Putting it all together

Something sexy on the side

Good protein-rich salads and side dishes are preferable to potato salads and green salads if you don’t have meat as your main event at a braai. These are side dishes I always volunteer to make to ensure that I get at least one serving of something exciting at a braai. Most of them can be made at home and eaten cold, and others can be put on the braai at the same time as the meat.

  • Borlotti-bean, cherry tomato, basil and feta salad
  • Lentil, roast butternut and spinach couscous or quinoa salad (tinned lentils cut the prep time for this dish right down)
  • Chickpeas ‘seared’ in sherry with wilted rocket and grated parmesan
  • Baked spinach (shredded Swiss chard drizzled with good olive oil and roasted for about 10 minutes in the oven – this dish is so quick and easy, it’s a joke, and it has a really satisfying, nutty flavour)
  • Button mushroom sosaties, to be cooked on the braai
  • Roosterkoek with grated cheddar tucked into the middle of the dough, on a sosatie stick for easy turning on the braai and immediate eating.
Hot Off the Coals, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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3 Responses to this article

Kobie December 20, 2010 Reply

I make a killer aubergine steak :)

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editor December 20, 2010 Reply

You should share the recipe!

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Michelle Ryan December 20, 2010 Reply

I used this recipe again this past weekend, but on a gas braai instead. For people concerned about the chemicals in charcoal (like my mother), using a gas Weber or similar is a good alternative, and it cooks the veggies perfectly – plus it gives the aubergines those cool griddle marks!

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