Smoked Pulled Shiitake Mushroom in homemade BBQ sauce
Barbecue doesn't always have to be about bangers and burgers, but delicious meat-free alternatives don't always spring readily to mind. So for inspiration we turned to the Alternative Kitchen's Stu Henshall and three plant-based recipes that love a bit of smoke and fire...
Images: The Alternative Kitchen
With more of us exploring or embracing a vegetarian or vegan diet and lifestyle, recipes and cooking methods are evolving to keep up. Some veggie cooks pursue the art of preparing meat free dishes that ape their animal inspirations, while others let the pure, natural ingredients stand on their own. You only have to look at Instagram to realise that, as chefs and home cooks get more creative with vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts and all, so too do the possibilities for dazzling dishes that contain nary a trace of animal protein.
But for some, there remains a kind of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the one mode of cooking that dominates our summer appetites: Barbecue. The idea of burgers, steaks, sausages and chops sizzling, spitting and dripping fat over hot coals, the smoke and aromas wafting over friends and family, is so entrenched that many of us can’t imagine the world of flavours and textures we’re missing out on if we could only think beyond meat. “I think the thing is we are just conditioned to think BBQ equals meat,” agrees former Great British Bakeoff contestant Stu Henshall, “so a lot of non-meat eaters just stay clear and pick at the salad on offer while the rest of the family tuck in.”
Guildford-based Stu Henshall and his Alternative Kitchen is one of the rising stars of a UK food movement that embraces all things edible in the plant kingdom, conjuring radical recipes on his blog, a web TV series and at food shows around the country that ditch the animal but lose none of the bite.
“A few years back I invested in a pretty decent BBQ while I was still eating meat but it had been gathering dust since my dietary shift and one day I just thought ‘Let’s make some wicked BBQ that’s 100% plant-based but ridiculously tasty.’
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am totally addicted to smoking mushrooms at the moment"
“The other advantage of cooking meat-free BBQ is because you’re not dealing with a load of fat leeching out of what you are cooking it is much harder to burn what you are cooking so really you can go for anything you like without a mouth full of carbon.”
So what’s been on his grill lately? “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am totally addicted to smoking mushrooms at the moment. I’ve even shared my go to pulled shroom recipe for you to try. Also, I have just got back from Greece where they loooove their grills and I couldn’t get through more than a few hours without snuffling a plate of grilled aubergines.”
It’s no secret to say that children and vegetables have always had an uneasy relationship, but Stu believes that the smoke and fire and excitement of a BBQ is a great way to turn them around. “Let them at the grill,” he says. “Tools are longer, no open flames; I let my son jump on it with me. It’s the best way to get kids involved. The healthy eating battle is a long one but they are much more likely to give it a go if they have been involved in the cooking.”
For a true taste of the Alternative Kitchen, and to inspire you to rethink the possibilities of barbecue, Stu's given us three of his best BBQ recipes, from mouth-watering Smoked Pulled Shiitake Mushroom in homemade BBQ, fresh and tangy tofu and Mango slaw and unusual yet awesome Watermelon Steaks.
You can find many more astonishing recipes at thealternativekitchen.net, but to experience Stu's astonishing plant-based cooking first-hand, don’t miss the Alternative Kitchen Supper Club at Always the Sun Festival this September. Book at alwaysthesunfestival.co.uk.
Smoked Pulled Shiitake Mushroom in homemade BBQ sauce
Stu says: "So there’s a couple of future proofing elements to this recipe. First the BBQ sauce is ace and makes double what you need. Bottle some up for your next cook out. Also, there should be kimchi spare too. This recipe is so satisfying and you can even do the day before and heat through. Tip: check your sugar is unrefined if you want it to be fully animal product free.
"This will blow you away. So worth the prep. It seems like a lot of mushrooms but the savings and benefits you get by swapping out the meat is so worth it."
1kg Shiitake Mushroom
300ml Vegetable Stock
500ml Pale ale
4 tbsp English Mustard
4 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
4 tbsp Molasses
4 tbsp Unrefined Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 kg (2 lb) Chinese cabbage
140g cup sea salt
5 garlic cloves
2" piece ginger
2 teaspoon caster sugar
2 tablespoon apple juice mixed with 1 teaspoon maple syrup
3 tablespoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Preheat grill to 300 degrees and place 2 cups of hickory woodchips straight on the coals or if using gas you can pick up a smoke box pretty cheap.
After 15 minutes place your mushroom on the BBQ and leave to dry out and darken for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool while you make the BBQ sauce and then shred.
Add liquids to saucepan, then add sugar and garlic powder. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes until it thickens slightly.
Add loosely pulled mushroom to saucepan and heat through.
To make the kimchi slice cabbage finely. Combine salt and water and bring to a full boil and Cool for 5 minutes.
Pour over cabbage in mixing bowl. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse once and drain.
In a separate bowl combine garlic, ginger, sugar, apple juice, and syrup in a blender and puree until smooth. Add chilli flakes and mix.
Place drained cabbages in a large shallow mixing bowl, add puree and toss with sesame seeds.
Blackened Tofu and Mango Slaw
"Simple, light, fresh and yummy. This is a great introduction to getting some flavour into tofu."
2 tsp Smoked paprika
2 tsp Dried oregano
2 tsp Flaked sea salt
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp Black peppercorns
1 tsp Mustard seeds
2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 packs firm tofu. About 800g in total
12 Mini tortillas
1/2 Red cabbage (Sliced thinly)
1 Mango (Cut into strips)
1 Large handful of corriander
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 pinch Salt and pepper for seasoning
First you need to get rid some of the water from the tofu. Place each block on paper towel on the top and bottom and add a weight for at least half an hour
Cut each block into 6 pieces and place in plastic container.
Grind all the spices and oregano in a pestle and mortar
Cover the tofu in lime juice and rub in dry mix and leave to marinade for at least a couple of hours. Best to leave overnight
Pre-heat grill and brush with oil to prevent sticking. Cook tofu for 3 minutes on each side. I use a couple or fish cages to make the turning easier.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and dress with the lime juice, oil, and salt and pepper
Toast each tortilla for one minute on each side storing cooked ones under a tea towel
Take a tortilla, add and slaw, take a squeeze of lime, and if you like add hot sauce. Consume until uncomfortable.
"Okay, so please don’t take this as me trying to pass something off as steak. This isn’t that but chucking slabs of watermelon on the grill makes an awesome addition to your summertime spread. The sugar caramelizes and the sweetness tones done and fibres restrict giving it a satisfying cut. Couldn’t be easier"
One large watermelon
Light olive oil
1 tbsp of dried thyme
Salt and pepper
Simply cut your watermelon anyway you fancy. Pat down with kitchen towel and leave wrapped for a couple of hours in the fridge to dry out
Brush with oil and sprinkle with dried thyme, pepper and salt
Grill on both sides for about 5 minutes