JP McMahon: Don’t be afraid to throw some flame on your veggies

Grilling vegetables over a direct flame gives them a beautiful bittersweet umami flavour

Grilling with an open flame is a technique we shouldn’t just reserve for our meat and fish. Photograph: Getty Images

Grilling with an open flame is a technique we shouldn’t just reserve for our meat and fish. Photograph: Getty Images

 

As the temperature drops and the dark days draw ever closer, it’s time to reach for the flamethrower. I don’t mean in relation to warming yourself (that would be a little too risky) – I’m talking about cooking vegetables over a direct flame.

We often reserve this privilege just for our meat or fish, for example, have you ever had a chargrilled celeriac? Grilling vegetables over a direct flame gives them a beautiful umami bittersweet flavour and adds to their desirability.

I wanted to take this technique of cooking vegetables with a flamethrower to a wider public

It’s a technique we use a lot in Aniar. Just this week, we opened a new cafe and wine bar in Galway (called Tartare) and I wanted to take this technique of cooking vegetables with a flamethrower to a wider public. I decided to put a burnt pickled cauliflower on the menu. We served it with velvet cloud sheep’s yoghurt and leek ash.

We often don’t give acidity and bitterness enough time in our daily diet and it’s something I like to advocate. Firstly, I quartered the cauliflower and trimmed away the green leaves. I then placed it on a metal tray and slowly blackened it with a flamethrower.

I like to get my flamethrower in a hardware shop as they seem to last longer. You don’t need a gigantic one, a little handheld one is fine. When you’re finished charring your cauliflower, place it in a hot 3-2-1 pickling solution (three parts vinegar, two parts water and one part sugar). Allow the mixture to cool.

The leek ash adds a nice touch to the entire dish and it’s also a nice seasoning to use with game

It’s ready to eat straight away but I think it benefits from a few days’ aging. As I intimated above, burnt pickled cauliflower pairs well with the clean and creamy flavour of sheep’s yoghurt.

The leek ash adds a nice touch to the entire dish and it’s also a nice seasoning to use with game, in particular venison, which is in season now. Simply, slice your leeks into strips and bake until black in a 200 degree oven. Remove and allow to cool. Blend in a food processor and then sieve. Keep in an airtight container and sprinkle away.

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