This is my absolute favourite way of eating vegetables; grilled to a melting softness on the barbecue and steeped with your very best extra virgin olive oil, a little garlic, a lot of fresh basil and some new potatoes.
It’s one of those dishes that ages brilliantly. It tastes even better the next day and the day after that. So it’s worth making a lot. You can grill the vegetables on the kitchen grill, but the best flavour comes from the barbecue. I only make this dish twice during the summer as it is a labour of love, but so worth it. It’s a good one to do if you have lots of friends over for a barbecue lunch.
An Italian friend showed me how to make this dish a very long time ago (I think I was still a teenager…!) and I love it. If you go to any deli in Italy there are deep trays of grilled courgettes (zucchini), aubergines (melanzane) and peppers (peperoni) in baths of olive oil. You can eat the grilled vegetables as a platter of anti pasti, but I love them all mixed together with some new season British new potatoes to make a more substantial dish.
Miraculous ingredient: Peppers (red, orange or yellow), aubergines, courgettes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil
Grilled peppers, courgettes and aubergines with new potatoes, garlic, olive oil & basil
6 whole peppers (red, orange and yellow ones only – green is too bitter)
2 aubergines, thinly sliced lengthwise, approx. 3mm
3 courgettes, thinly sliced lengthwise, approx. 3mm
500g baby new potatoes cut in half
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20g fresh basil, chopped
150ml of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons coarse sea salt to taste
If you are barbecuing, use briquettes as they last longer than charcoal. Once the barbecue is at the right temperature (the briquettes have turned to a grey ash colour and glow with heat, about 40 minutes) oil the grill with some vegetable oil and wipe with kitchen paper – do this a couple of times. You can now lay all the peppers on the barbecue and as many slices of courgettes and aubergine as can fit and they won’t stick to the grill.
The peppers will take at least 20 minutes to blacken and grill on all sides, including the top and bottom. Once cooked, place the grilled peppers into a plastic zip lock bag, seal and leave to steam.
The slices of courgette and aubergine will need a couple of minutes on each side. Make sure you grill the slices well, it’s better to over grill and have a few burnt bits than take them off too quickly and they are still crunchy. The vegetables should be soft and tender.
Kitchen grilled vegetables
Turn the grill to high and adjust the rack to be approximately 12 centimetres below the grill. Place the whole peppers on the rack and grill until the skin begins to blacken and char. Rotate the peppers onto each side until the entire pepper is almost black and soft, 40 minutes.
Place the grilled peppers into a plastic zip lock bag, seal and leave to steam.
Adjust the rack to be closer to the heat and grill the slices of courgettes and aubergine for 3 minutes on each side until soft.
The easiest way to peel grilled and blackened peppers is to leave them in the sealed plastic zip lock bag for 15 minutes. By this time the skin will have pulled away from the flesh and they will be cool enough to handle. Peel all the peppers by hand, remove the stalk and seeds. Tear the peppers into long strips.
Boil the baby new potatoes in salted water until they are soft, approximately 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes well.
Combine the extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped garlic and basil in a large serving bowl. Add the grilled vegetables and potatoes. Mix well allowing the aubergine and courgette slices to slightly tear. Season with well with sea salt.
Barbecue: Preparation time 40 minutes, cooking 30 minutes, serves 6
Kitchen grill: Preparation time 10 minutes, cooking 1 hour 10 minutes, serves 6