Who said barbecues were just for meat lovers? Ross Dobson turns traditional barbecue recipes on their heads to create colourful and flavoursome dishes that every vegetable fan and vegetarian will love. Drawing on culinary influences from around the globe, including South East Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe, Fired Up Vegetarian features 80 easy-to-cook recipes, with everything from Silverbeet and feta gozleme to Jalapeno jam. Fired Up Vegetarian is a refreshing and versatile selection for anyone who savours good food.
Ross Dobson's love affair with all things food began at a young age under the influence of his neighbours from Italy and Hong Kong. After studying writing and communications, Ross found himself constantly drawn to food and in the food-mad town of Sydney he had his own successful cafe and catering business before venturing into the world of food publishing. Ross has several books under his belt and is constantly searching for accessible, exotic ingredients and exploring different cooking techniques. In Fired Up Ross goes outside to cook on the barbecue in the great Australian style; laid back cooking with flavours from the world over to give a fresh look to barbecued food.
Fired Up: Vegetarian
Author: Ross Dobson
Question: What inspired the creation of Fired Up Vegetarian?
Ross Dobson: Well the first Fired Up cookbook was released four or five years ago and it was really successful and we also released another version, All Fired Up. In both of those books there was a lot of interest in cooking with vegetables on the BBQ, it was very popular and I spoke to the publishers about doing a vegetarian version which was very exciting. I am pretty lucky to be in a position where I got to do three books in a cookbook series which is unheard of in the cookery book world unless you're a big name who releases cookbooks all the time. Fired Up Vegetarian evolved off the success of the first two cookbooks along with realising that people don't just cook sausages and meat on the BBQ.
Question: Which of the recipes featured in Fired Up Vegetarian holds the most memories?
Ross Dobson: I have cooked a lot of the recipes on the BBQ, the recipes I cook most are recipes that people make and eat without realising they are eating a vegetarian dish. There are classic recipes including Baba ghanoush which stands out because of the smoky eggplant flavour which is hard to do unless you have a naked flame and I've been making that for years on the BBQ. Also, another recipe is Potatoes in Jackets which is a classic BBQ recipe that everybody loves and I put a Middle Eastern twist on mine; as I love all the Middle Eastern ingredients.
For a meat-eating BBQ often people cook the onion first because they take longest to cook and that seasons the BBQ and I've done a vegetarian take on that including some nice grilled onions and adding some Japanese flavours including Soy Sauce, lemon juice and Mirin to make it very tasty!
The recipes I cook most are Potatoes in Jackets and of course corn! I love grilled corn and I make a flavoured butter for the corn and in Fired Up Vegetarian I've used parmesan, lime and coriander which is really delicious.
Question: Why was it important to take inspiration from numerous cultures when creating the recipes?
Ross Dobson: These are the flavours that I really like, personally. Luckily the cooking techniques and recipes in the particular cultures I've focused on like Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern really lend themselves well to the hot plate or BBQ. The bread chapter is a good example because it's really great to have the opportunity to have a whole chapter of breads on the BBQ as I don't think it's been done before. I started having several recipes for bread and decided to do a whole chapter including Flatbread, Naan, Pita Bread and they all have their roots in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking.
I really like the flavours and they all cook very well on the BBQ.
Question: Is Fired Up Vegetarian for vegetarians, their families but also for meat-eaters too?
Ross Dobson: Particularly on a Monday and Tuesday, I don't eat meat which isn't a conscious thing and I've spoken to a lot of people whose partners are the opposite in what they enjoy to eat (they either eat meat or they don't) and Fired Up Vegetarian is perfect because all of the recipes can be combined with meat or not!
Question: What originally inspired your love for cooking and creating recipes?
Ross Dobson: This goes back a long, long way but I grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney and our neighbour was Chinese from Hong Kong and at the time there wasn't the food diversity there is now and we used to go into China Town to Yum Cha with their family. We also had other neighbours who were from Sicily and they did their own salami and pasta; it was all passed over the fence for me to try. My Dad was and still is a really good cook who was really interested in technique and I was inspired by his interest in food, even now and his 85!
Interview by Brooke Hunter