Grill veggies perfectly this Christmas. Picture: Pexels/Rodnae Productions
Grill veggies perfectly this Christmas. Picture: Pexels/Rodnae Productions

How to perfectly grill vegetables for amazing flavour this Christmas

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Dec 23, 2021

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It is probably the most important meal of the year. And while a Christmas lunch with loved ones should be something to look forward to, if you are the one in charge of preparing it, the mere thought of the big day can be enough to bring you out in a sweat.

With vegetables being a big part of Christmas lunch, below chef Khotso Mosia shares a few tips and tricks on how to ensure that your grilled veggies come about perfectly.

Paring, peeling, and cutting

Before you can even begin grilling you need to ensure that your vegetables have been thoroughly washed or rinsed to remove any chemical or biological contaminants. It’s better to leave your vegetables with the peel on as it protects them from the harsh heat of a charcoal fire, however, you will want to trim away any unwanted or discoloured pieces of your vegetables as they will affect the presentation and flavour of your vegetables. It would also be prudent to cut large vegetables into smaller pieces as it will affect the cooking time and the absorption of your marinades and the charcoal flavour.

Blanching

Vegetables with high cellulose content such as green beans, sweet corn, or carrots, will need to be blanched till "al dente" before seasoning and then grilling. My trick is to blanch them in vegetable stock to impart more flavour by blanching in a pot of boiling water with a bit of salt, pepper, and garlic. One could also add a teaspoon of Cream of Tartar to your water to bring out the colour in your vegetables, however, take care not to blanch them too long as it strips the vegetables of important nutrients.

Seasoning, coatings, and marinades

Marinate your vegetables for at least an hour before grilling. A simple mixture of lemon juice, your favourite herbs, olive oil, salt, pepper, and either soy sauce or balsamic vinegar will do. You could make them spicier by adding dried chilli flakes to your marinade but be careful not to add too much oil to your marinade or your vegetables may over char or burn. So, whatever you're coating or marinade is, always lightly oil your vegetables.

Heat

When grilling vegetables you want to ensure that your coals or grill are hot enough to ensure your vegetables cook rapidly and that you attain an attractive char or grill pattern. Your vegetables should however not directly come into contact with a flame or they will burn. Intense infra-red heat from hot coals is what you want to ensure your vegetables cook through, while retaining the integrity of their original shape or form.

Cooking time

Different vegetables cook for different periods of time depending on their water or cellulose content and their size. Ensure you grill vegetables of similar size and consistency at the same time. Do not overcook them as they may become dried out, chewy or inedible (depending on what you are grilling). It is also important to remember that marinating your vegetables in an "acid" such as lemon juice or vinegar will shorten cooking times as they "cook" the vegetables on a cellular level by breaking down cellulose and the cell walls. Cooking your vegetables in foil or parchment parcels will steam your vegetables on the grill and you will not obtain the coveted grill char that you desire . When grilling starchy vegetables such as potatoes, ensure that they completely cook through, and not only on the outside. One could then remove your vegetables from the parcels when cooked, and grill directly on the fire to obtain an attractive char.

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