‘Dirty’ BBQ Veg with Queso Fresco

‘Dirty veg’. This isn’t some new dude food trend, but a pretty shit hot way of cooking vegetables on a BBQ. Cooking something ‘dirty’ basically means cooking it directly on the coals. I found this on a blog called Country Wood Smoke, which is written by a guy down in Devon who appears to be married to his BBQ. Actually I have many friends like that. Hang on, actually I’m a bit like that…

Anyway, the idea is simple and brilliant; nothing ground breaking but a real trick up the sleeve nonetheless. Basically, man-down-in-Devon (real name – Marcus) is saying, ‘what the hell y’all doing slinging your vegetables on dat grill when you could be charring em directly in the coals you bunch of absolute fookin’ numpties?’ because in my head Marcus has an accent which is a cross between Southern American, gangsta and Scottish. Wouldn’t that be a thing. Weirdy hybrid accents are cool. I met a man recently who had an accent which was a cross between Georgian (ex-Soviet state Georgian), and cockney. That was hilarious. I really liked him. He didn’t like me because I laughed every time he said something.

Anyhow. Get yourself some hardy-ish veg like peppers and courgettes and some onions, oil them up, salt and pepper them, then stick them directly in the coals once they’re ready for cooking (ie when the flames have died down and they are white/grey). Turn them occasionally until they’re charred in places all over. You think the courgette won’t cook, but it will. It’s also nice to do some more delicate veg, so once you’ve taken peppers et al off the coals and put them aside, get your er, BBQ wok (a wok with holes in) or, if like me, you don’t have one, a metal colander, and put that directly in the coals. Oil and season up some cherry toms and also some baby corn and put them in, tossing them about quite often, until they’re charred in places too. When all veg are done, chop them finely; the smoke and char flavour is just wonderful. What difference does it make cooking them in the coals rather than on the grill? Well they taste smokier, they cook in about 2 minutes flat and above anything else, it’s just really FUN.

Not quite cock rocket veg arrangement

Makeshift BBQ wok. Probably should warn you I can’t really get all the burnt bits off the bottom…

When you first put the vegetables in the coals you will think, ‘I can’t eat it that! It’s all dirty!’ That of course is stupid. They don’t come out covered in ash, just nicely charred and tasting amazing. Woman up.

We ate them wrapped with salsa, and some queso fresco, which is a Mexican cheese in case you don’t know. The idea that you might not know it will sound ridiculous to any American or, indeed, Mexican readers (sure I have loads), but it’s really not a cheese that is available here. And now someone is making it in Peckham. I know. Gringa Dairy is under an arch on the Old Kent Road. This means there are now like, 3 reasons to love the Old Kent Road! There’s Gringa and Shu Castle and also the fireman in the window – you’ll know what the last reference is all about if you know the Old Kent Road. I can hear at least two of you shouting, ‘I know the fireman in the window!’

The cheese is a bit like feta, but less salty, more creamy and a little less crumbly. You could slice it, for example. It’s apparently a right ball-ache to get the cheese tasting the way it does in Mexico due to issues of climate and method. I can’t say I’ve tasted the original to compare but by gum it tastes just perfect with a bit of dirty veg of a summer’s eve. Give it a whirl. We also splodged on some sour cream plus green chillies (note to self – CHAR THOSE TOO). A squeeze of lime caramelised on the grill…

I don’t want to make some cliche about this being the best vegetarian BBQ food as if there’s nothing good for vegetarians to eat from the BBQ. It is, though.

Dirty BBQ Veg  (two of us managed to plough through this – disgraceful)

2 peppers
1 courgette
2 large red onions, peeled and quartered
Handful baby corn
Handful cherry toms
Handful garlic cloves, unpeeled
Green chillies
Olive oil

Oil up the veg and season with salt and pepper. As I said the peppers, courgette and onions can go directly in the coals, just move them around a bit – this is proper instinctive cooking you cavewoman, you. Once done, set aside then do the baby corn, chillies, tomatoes and garlic in a metal colander or BBQ wok, if you’re well organised and er, have one. Move them frequently. When all veg are charred, chop them up. They should still have nice crisp, charred bits on the outside, but will be soft inside.

Serve with tortillas/tacos, sour cream, salsa, queso fresco…wrap em up. The possibilities for variations on garnish are obviously many.


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