Grilling ain't just for meat, you know. Richard Ehrlich picks six delicious veg dishes to turn carnivores green.
Chargrilled carrots at Social Wine & Tapas
If you haven’t been eating carrots much lately, not only is your eyesight in jeopardy but your gastro-cred too. Carrots are a hot item in cool capital cooking, and dishes like this, from Jason Atherton’s latest venue, show why. They’re totally transformed by contact with scorching heat, and sharp, earthy flavours transform them all over again. Eyesight maintenance was never so much fun. £6. 39 James St, W1U 1EB. ?
Chargrilled asparagus at Providores and Tapa Room
You’re too cool to order something just to show off your inside knowledge of food. But this dish has three items you’ll get kudos for spotting: award-winning goat’s milk cheese from Staffordshire; lemons from Sicily, inimitably perfumed; and crumbs of nocellara olives, the best in Italy. Grilled asparagus holds them all together. Note: this dish is sold only in the Tapa Room. Make your way there immediately! £8.50. 109 Marylebone High St, W1U 4RX.
Grilled leeks at Berber & Q
All members of the onion family love blazing coals. Here it’s an allium duo, with the fire working its magic on a charred spring onion aioli as well as the leeks. Muhammara, a spicy dip originally from Syria, turns the twosome into a thrilling threesome. £6. Arch 338 Acton Mews, E8 4EA.
Grilled aubergine at The Modern Pantry
This is the sort of dish that makes meateaters say, 'Hey! Maybe I could be a vegetarian.' The foot-long list of pan-Asian ingredients (chilli, ginger, yuzu and soy dressing, Thai basil) sounds like they’ve thrown everything at the poor veg. But aubergines have never had it so good, their rich smokiness bathing here in zingy flavours. £7.20. 47-48 St John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ. ?
Vegetali misti alla griglia at Sardo
You know how when you see a groaning display of mixed grilled vegetables in an Italian restaurant, and you stop to look, and you start to drool? Sardo serves that whole experience (minus the drooling) as a starter. Courgettes, aubergines, fennel, peppers, celeriac - it's the perfect way to start a meal there without getting too full for the goodies to come. £9.50. 45 Grafton Way, W1T 5DQ.
Chargrilled broccoli at Ottolenghi shops
If only school dinner broccoli had been like this. Instead of going limp and brown in boiling water it gets quickly blanched, tossed in olive oil, and grilled over the open flame. Add chilli and garlic (cooked till golden in oil), and you’ve got a delicate green delight: way too good for kids. £11.50 (as part of a three-salad selection). At all Ottolenghi branches.
Need more ways to get your five a day? Take a look at the best vegetarian restaurants in town.