I find the lure of the flames of the grill irresistible in the warmer months. There’s a rhythm to it: the sizzling song that rises when the food meets the hot grates, the twisting and turning of the skewers and the brushing with generous amounts of marinade or oil. I indulge in this serenade year after year. This week, a yoghurt-garlic sauce with the delightful taste of preserved lemons is served alongside a platter of vegetable kebabs and a chilled glass of spiced pistachio milk based on the Indian drink thandai, which helps to balance out that heat. And if you don’t own a grill, a grill pan on a hot stove will get the job done.
Grilled vegetable kebabs with lemon-yoghurt sauce
For the yoghurt sauce, rinse the preserved lemons under cold running water, then scrape off and discard the inner soft flesh, and use only the rinds.
Prep 40 min, plus chilling
Cook 20 min
For the lemon yoghurt
240g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp preserved lemons, minced (see recipe introduction)
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper
For the vegetable kebabs
2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into quarters, or 12 whole button mushrooms
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 2½cm chunks
1 large orange bell pepper, cut into 2½cm chunks
1 medium courgette, trimmed and cut into 1cm slices
1 yellow onion, cut into quarters
12 cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp (30ml) neutral vegetable oil (such as grapeseed), plus extra for brushing
1 tsp dried oregano
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
2 tsp red pepper flakes (such as aleppo or urfa), to serve
To make the yoghurt sauce, put the yoghurt, preserved lemon, mint, dill and garlic in a bowl, and fold to combine. Taste, season, then transfer to a container, cover with a lid and refrigerate for at least an hour.
To prepare the kebabs, set out 12 skewers – if you are using bamboo or wood ones, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using (this will prevent them from burning). Toss the vegetables in a large bowl with the oil, oregano and garlic. Season, then thread the skewers with the vegetables.
Heat the grill and brush the grates with a little oil. Once hot, cook the skewers for about five minutes on each side, until the vegetables start to char a little; brush the skewers with more oil as needed.
Once the kebabs are cooked, transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the red pepper flakes and serve with the lemon yoghurt sauce alongside.
Creamy spiced pistachio milk
When blanching pistachios, cover them with just enough boiling water to cover and leave to steep until the skins soften completely. Drain and rub off the skins between your palms.
Prep 20 min
Chill 4 hr+
140g raw unsalted shelled pistachios, blanched
1 litre almond milk
½ tsp ground green cardamom
½ tsp ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp maple syrup
10-12 saffron strands
Put the pistachios, almond milk, cardamon, pepper and maple syrup in a blender and blitz smooth and with no chunks of pistachios. Taste and adjust the sweetness as required.
Stir in the saffron and refrigerate for at least four hours and a maximum of one day. Serve ice cold.