Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cooking Cheeses on the Barbecue

Meat's all very well, but when it comes to non-meat barbecue dishes, it doesn't all have to be copycat soya burgers and vegetables on skewers. What about cheese? Depending on the type you buy, and the way you cook it, it can barbecue really well. So, whether you're following a non-meat diet or just fancy a change, here are some tips on barbecuing different types of cheese. (And it it's not all just halloumi either.)


provoleta close up
Argentinian Provoleta - a type of cheese derived from Provolone, but commonly cooked on the barbecue (or 'asado') over there

Directly on the grill
The knee-jerk reaction to many when they're considering barbecuing cheese is to open up a pack of halloumi. It's salty, makes your teeth squeak (yes it does) and there's even a British version of it. Apart from being salty and briny in flavour it's quite mild so it goes well with chillies, red peppers or a rich tomato sauce. But you'll get good results too from other cheeses. A firm Cheddar can be cut into chunks and threaded onto vegetable kebabs. Cook for just a few minutes each side so that the veggies are still crisp in the centre and take off before the cheese melts - don't overdo it or you'll lose the cheese. Provoleta, if you can get it, is heaven on a barbecue. It's a trademarked version of Provolone cheese, sprinkled with oregano and mild chilli flakes and it's eaten in Argentina (in the UK you can buy it online from Pampas Plains). Rub with a little oil and cook it either directly onto the oiled bars of the grill or in a pan (or foil, or in a heatproof dish) on the top. You just need a minute on each side, until it develops a chewy crust but hasn't oozed out of the sides yet. When you're cooking any cheese on a barbecue, it's best not to wander off or you'll lose it through the bars of the grill - in Provoleta's case you just want to brown it and give it a delicious, smoky crust.

Sandwiches
There's nothing wrong with making toasted sandwiches on a cool barbecue - just make them up as usual and with tongs, cook for a minute or two on each side and remove just before the cheese oozes. Good ones to try are Raclette (a French cheese which tastes similar to Edam to me). It's mild and melts well. Or try sliced Brie or Camembert with Prosciutto. Basically anything you'd put in a toastie in your oven grill will work here, too. Experiment with different types of bread too; pittas, nutty wholemeal slices and ciabatta work brilliantly. Avoid breads that are too soft and crumbly as they might break up on the grill. You can also try barbecuing a slice of cheese on top of a veggie like a large flat mushroom. Just don't try it while the heat is blaring or you'll burn the bread before the heat's had a chance to get to the cheese.

Foil Parcels
Ah, the old standby from my Girl Guide days around the camp fire. Jacket potatoes, chicken, fish, baked beans - are all great cooked in foil parcels. Try loosely wrapping goat's cheese, chopped red peppers (roasted from a jar or raw) and some other veggies in foil and placing on the barbecue. In a few minutes you'll have a little parcel of soft cheese and aromatic veg to dig into. You could also make a little parcel and drizzle the cheese with honey and thyme, as I do in the oven, or place the cheese in a barbecue-proof dish and melt slowly on top, serving lots of crusty bread alongside. Good ones to try are Camembert, Tunworth, semi-soft goat's cheeses and Brie. Try feta too, (again, there's a British version) - loosely wrap in foil before barbecuing and eat with pittas, olives and salad. 

Do you have any favourite cheeses for barbecuing or any tips for cooking and serving them?