Sunday 29 July 2012

Exmoor House vegetarian barbecues and picnics

As regular readers know, I'm not exactly a foodie and, left to my own devices, I will happily eat the same thing (or nothing) day after day.  But the one thing that does get me salivating are Rosi Davis' tweets about the food she's serving at her Exmoor guest house.

So I said to her, 'Hey, about doing me a blog post.'  Cos this is the season of barbecues and picnics and really, us vegetarians tend to draw the short straw - a handful of crisps and the odd corn on the cob, if we're lucky.

Anyhow, Rosi said yes, so I'll handy you over without further ado...

Rosi Davis:  Here are some ideas for summery vegetarian food that you could use for picnics and barbeques. At our guest house at Wheddon Cross on Exmoor we specialise in providing food to suit peoples’ dietary requirements – we design the menus around our guests each day - and much of this article is based on dinner recipes we use for guests who don’t eat meat or fish. I’m an omnivore, my husband Frank (who’s the chef) is definitely a carnivore – but we both just love good food and really enjoy experimenting with taste and texture. I’ve avoided being too prescriptive, so haven’t given detailed recipes here: the aim is more to help inspire you.


Vegetarian scotch eggs

I had the idea for this a few weeks ago, we tried it out on ourselves first (as we always do) and it’s had the seal of approval from guests. The ‘scotch’ bit is pulse based; it can be any mixture that is the right sort of consistency to be moulded around the egg and not fall to pieces when fried. Coat peeled hardboiled eggs with, for example, flat green lentils cooked till soft with herbs and/or spices and (technical term) mushed up. You could also try using your favourite falafel-type chickpea mixture… or a nut roast recipe, if it’s the right sort of texture. You need to put a double layer of breadcrumbs (beaten egg, crumbs, beaten egg, crumbs) on the scotch eggs once they’re assembled, then deep-fry them. The scotch eggs go nicely with a garlicky mayonnaise or a tomatoey dip.

Quiches, pasties, filo parcels

Some suggested fillings: tomatoes and mixed peppers; goat’s cheese with spinach and mushrooms; brie with courgettes (Somerset brie is made with vegetarian rennet); blue cheese, cream cheese and lovage herb (Exmoor Jersey Blue cheese, made with vegetarian rennet, is very blue and tastes deliciously creamy); mixed mushrooms; spicy lentils.

Omelette wrap & roll (thanks to Michelle Vickers of Ras Mbisi Lodge for the inspiration for this one)
Make omelettes with your choice of fillings (or just spice ’em up a bit). The omelettes need to be about the same size as the wraps you’re using. Just use a small amount of filling, and don’t make it chunky – the omelettes don’t want to be too thick, or the wraps will split. Place each omelette on a wrap or soft tortilla, and roll up. Cut into slices diagonally for a pretty pinwheel effect.

The barbeque

Halloumi and courgette burgers

We found this recipe in the Morrison’s magazine. We adapted it a bit for our guests, but the original version is also wonderful: the link is here. 
You could do the burgers directly on the barbeque, or in a griddle or pan (definitely use a griddle if you want to do the aubergine slices).

Vegetable kebabs

Always good! We use aubergine, peppers, square slices of onion, courgette, cherry tomatoes, button mushrooms… Marinate the cubes of aubergine in olive oil first. The squares of onion are good for holding things in place; watch out that the cherry tomatoes don’t split. Once your kebabs are assembled on their skewers, brush everything with olive oil (flavoured with herbs, chilli etc if you like) before cooking; baste with oil while they’re cooking if necessary.

The best garlic mushrooms

Use big flat mushrooms (e.g. portabella). No need to peel them, just wipe any dirt off. Remove the stem if you like. Spread the gills side liberally with garlic or herb (or garlic and herb) butter. If you’re making garlic butter, try baking the garlic beforehand for a lovely mellow flavour; if you’re using herbs add a splash of lemon or lime juice too. Wrap the mushrooms lightly in foil, to keep all the juiciness in, and barbeque till soft.


No summer meal is complete without them…here are a few with a slight difference.

Add a new dimension to a Russian salad (finely diced cooked potato & carrots, peas, bound with mayonnaise) by including a touch of smoked paprika.

Try ‘coleslaw’ made with grated carrots and courgettes instead of cabbage. Salt the courgettes lightly once grated and leave in a sieve for about an hour to drain, then rinse and squeeze out gently to get rid of the moisture. If you want a change from mayonnaise, use yoghurt, a light vinaigrette or just olive oil.

This is a simple and lovely pepper salad. Roast red peppers till the skin is charred and the flesh is tender; remove the skin (use the plastic bag trick*), slice and dress with olive oil, garlic and some ground cumin and/or coriander – or whatever you fancy! It’s even better when left to marinate for several hours.

Tomato salad with mint instead of the ubiquitous basil makes a nice change.

If you’d like us to do the cooking for you, you’ll find details of our dinner bed & breakfast packages at 
We also do dinner for people who are not staying with us at Exmoor House; because we make everything ourselves, taking dietary needs and preferences into account, bookings are needed at least 24 hours in advance.

Rosi Davis, Exmoor House Wheddon Cross, Somerset

* The plastic bag trick for peeling roasted peppers: once they’re cooked, put the peppers into a freezer bag (or similar – one that’s not going to melt) squeeze as much air out as you can, seal and leave till cool. The pepper skin should then be easy to pull off.

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