My all time, very favourite, can’t be beaten dinner is a plate of roast root vegetables. On their own. Little crispy caramelised bits on the edges and each individual vegetable a star in its own right. With home grown, very fresh vegetables it’s amazing. But even with bought vegetables it’s pretty good.
It really should be done long and slow in a hot wood oven. But this half-hour midweek version is nearly as good, and it meets the rules of the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge.
It’s not as easy as it might sound to get perfect roast vegetables fast. It’s all in cutting things small and the right size in relation to each other, having the pan hot before you put them in, not crowding the pan too much, and keeping the moisture level down.
Put the oven on high to heat up with a big heavy roasting pan in it. You want a hot oven and a hot pan.
While the pan is heating up, put a swig of olive oil in a big bowl. Peel and cut some pumpkin and/or sweet potato into medium-small chunks, and some onions into quarters or eighths, depending on how big they are. If you leave the root end on the onions, they will fan out a bit but hold together. Toss in the olive oil, and quickly, so as not to let the heat out, put into the roasting pan in the oven.
Now put a pressure cooker with a very little bit of water on to heat up. (You can use a pot and steamer – it will just take 5 minutes longer.)
While it is heating, scrub, peel if you need to, and chop some carrots, parsnips and beetroot. You need them fairly small with a big surface area. I chop them lengthways rather than into chunks – small carrots into quarters, parsnips into 10 cm lengths then into eighths, and beetroot into quarters or eighths depending on how big they are. You could add some turnips or swedes too, or celeriac. If parsnips aren’t a regular for you, now is the time to try them. Parsnips this time of year are very delicious.
Cook for just a minute or two in a pressure cooker or about 5 minutes in a steamer. You are looking to just heat them all the way through, not actually cook them.
While they are steaming, add to the olive oil in the bowl:
For each person:
- half a teaspoon of fresh thyme finely chopped
- half a teaspoon of fresh rosemary finely chopped
- two cloves of garlic finely chopped
- a teaspoon of lemon zest
- good pinch of salt
- fresh ground black pepper
You want enough herby oil to coat the vegetables.
Drain the vegetables well and allow the steam to evaporate off, then toss in the herby garlicy oil.
Quickly, so as not to let the heat out, add the vegetables to the pumpkin and onions in the baking tray, giving them a bit of a toss to turn.
Bake for 20 minutes on high.
While they are baking, make the caper mayo, for which you need an egg, lemon juice, capers, and a neutral oil like grapeseed oil. I use my Two Minute Mayonnaise recipe, but leave out the mustard and garlic and put in extra capers – about 3 teaspoons of them. If you have a sweet tooth, you could add just a touch of honey. This will make more mayo than you need, but it keeps in the fridge for a week or so and you’ll find plenty of uses for it.
Serve the vegetables with mayo on the side.