The Modern Cook returns with a celebratory take on charred veg. A roast over the coals gives these paprika burgers a smoky hum, and brands slabs of halloumi in preparation for a lime pickle wrap
Cooking over coals is so suited to vegetables, and almost any can be used. Undistracted by meat fat, I find the subtlety of veg allows the smoky hum of the coals to come even more alive. Favourites this year have been wedges of summer cabbage, thin slices of skin-on sweet potato, thick steaks of celeriac (quickly preboiled in salted water until tender), chicories halved then dressed in a sweet vinaigrette … all grilled so that char marks tattoo themselves on to their exteriors, while their insides are soft and yielding.
My offerings today, though, make more of a meal of vegetables on the barbecue. I’ve made a veggie burger (that doesn’t fall apart!) from plump white beans, walnuts, sundried tomatoes and a proud hit of smoked paprika (the flavour you might associate with chorizo). And secondly, some easy, fluffy flatbreads filled with that barbecue favourite, halloumi – although feta, paneer or even tofu would stand in happily – alongside a quick lime pickle made with scotch bonnet peppers whose sweet heat has an almost melon-like quality.
You might still be up for braving the barbecue when the weather is cool but otherwise both of these can, of course, be cooked indoors on a griddle or in a frying pan.
Barbecue pimentón burgers (main picture)
75g brown rice (or 150g cooked)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika (pimentón)
½ tsp each of salt and black pepper
400g tin cooked white beans, rinsed, drained and patted dry
75g sundried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
4 dried apricots, roughly chopped
30g fresh breadcrumbs, or you could use oats
8 burger buns
A little more smoked paprika
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
Manchego cheese, thinly sliced
A handful of cress
1 To cook the rice, put it in a small saucepan with twice the amount of cold water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and put a lid on. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Turn the heat off, remove the lid and let it steam dry.
2 Add the walnuts to a hot frying pan and toast over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant and golden. Tip into a bowl to cool.
3 Return the pan to the heat. Add a little oil, the onion and chilli. Cook for 10 minutes, or until soft and sweet. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4 Blitz the cooled walnuts with the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
5 Mash the beans with a fork. Add the sundried tomatoes, apricots, onion and chilli mixture, cooled cooked rice, walnut mixture and breadcrumbs and mix well to an mouldable dough. If it seems dry, add a little oil from the sundried tomatoes.
6 Line a tray with baking paper. Squeeze together a small handful of the mixture, put it on the tray and flatten slightly into a burger shape. Repeat until you have eight burgers. Brush each burger with a little oil.
7 Heat the barbecue until the flames have died down. Grill the burgers for about 3-4 minutes on each side, not moving until a crust has formed and they come away from the bars quite easily. The burgers are quite fragile, so be gentle with them. Alternatively you could fry the burgers in a pan for the same amount of time, or bake them in the oven at 220C/425F/gas 7 for 10 minutes.
8 To assemble the burgers, slice each bun in half and spread both sides with a little mayonnaise. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and put a couple of slices of avocado on the bottom half of the bun. Put the burger on top of the avocado, then a couple of slices of manchego,
Halloumi, Lime And Scotch Bonnet Flatbreads
400g tomatoes of different colours and sizes
A small bunch of mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
250g block of halloumi
Peppery summer leaves, such as rocket
2 tbsp tahini
Greek yoghurt to serve
For the pickle
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 scotch bonnet or other red chillies
1 tsp honey
1 To make the lime pickle, peel the zest from the limes in long strips with a speed peeler. Add to a small saucepan. Squeeze in the juice. Add the cumin, salt and sugar.
2 Bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, until the zest strips have shrunk and are curling at the edges. Set aside to cool.
3 Once cool, pick the zest from the pan. Reserve the liquid. Chop the zest and add it to a bowl with the chilli and honey and mix well.
4 Chop the tomatoes: I like to cut mine into different shapes and sizes, making sure no two are the same. Add them to a bowl with the mint, 1 tbsp lime pickle juice and a good drizzle of olive oil.
5 Heat your barbecue until the flames have died down and you have a hot but even heat, or heat a griddle until it is really hot. Grill the halloumi on both sides until softened, with charred lines, but not burnt.
6 Meanwhile, warm the flatbreads: I do this on the cooler edge of the barbecue or over an open flame, turning with tongs after 30 seconds or so.
7 Once the halloumi is perfectly cooked and the flatbreads are warm, pile the tomatoes on top, add a pile of the halloumi and the leaves, then drizzle of tahini and yoghurt, and a sprinkle of the lime pickle.