A quick autumnal tray-roast

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It’s time for a roots revival after a summer of lightly-prepared frilly green things and fruit which can be eaten straight from the tree or bush. Some root veg such as carrots, celeriac and daikon can be consumed all year round but as the nights draw in and the frosts nip faces and the newly dug-over clods of the vegetable patch, the thicker and less delicate roots come to our attention as their starches are converted to sugar by the cold, making them perfect for roasting and slow braising. Winter carrots, parsnips, swede, celeriac and scorzonera stand up well to such treatments when their summer cousins might not.

This is an easy way to cook parsnips, either on their own or with the hasselback potatoes shown in the photograph which used up the last of our late-summer potatoes from the allotment. They’re par-boiled then sliced and basted with a marinade made up of chile-honey, maple syrup, salt and olive oil. A quick roast in the oven until golden and you’re good to go. The hasselback technique originated in Sweden and is named after Hasselbacken, a Stockholm restaurant which first served these potatoes in the 17th century. By slicing potatoes and root vegetables like parsnips only part of the way through along their length, you end up with a soft creamy centre with lots of caught, crunchy edges and a super-luxe roasted root vegetable which tends not to dry out even hours after cooking.

So to make them….

Wash as many parsnips as you need and peel them if the skins seem super-tough, leaving them in one whole piece. I’ve left the skin on here as I like the extra goodness. Pre-heat your oven to 180C and then place the parsnips in a pan of salted boiling water and par-boil until the tip of a knife just pierces their skin. Drain them well and place in a shallow roasting pan which has been coated with olive oil. Using a sharp knife, make shallow cuts widthways across each parsnip down its length, taking care to not cut them all the way through. Baste them with more olive oil and roast for fifteen minutes then remove them from the oven.

For every kilo of parsnips you will need to mix one tablespoon of honey, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and a small pinch of chile powder and sea salt in a bowl. Once this is mixed, brush it over the entire surface of each parsnip and then place them back in the oven. Keep an eye on them because you don’t want them to burn and roast for another 25-30 mins or so until darkly golden and caught in places. Don’t worry if they catch a bit, it adds to their flavour.

If you want to make the hasselback potatoes, it is basically the same process without the honey-chile and maple syrup baste. Par boil your potatoes in salted water and drain then after they are cool to the touch, slice them widthways part of the way through. Baste with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, then roast in the oven at 180C until they are golden. You may need to baste them with more oil as they cook.

Roasted Cauliflower

And what a revelation this is….Hot, crispy salt slicked cauliflower florettes, roasted with paprika and lemon with a slow hit of chile. After decades of boiled cauliflower and macerated (abeit delish) cauliflower cheese, this method of preparing it feels super modern and it is THE most moreish thing to eat. Perfect finger food and kids wolf it down too. The roasting, and the flavours used override all of that expected school lunch hall brassica smell. Try it and see and don’t worry if you lack chile or paprika- it is just as delicious without them. While we are on the subject of lemon, I’ve yet to meet a vegetable that didn’t benefit from an added squeeze of its juice, brightening up the tiredest and rawkiest of vegetables. Try adding a teaspoon to mashed or roasted potatoes, to a bowl of green peas or plate of broad beans, slipped from their pods. Tuck razor thin slices of lemon among fennel roots before roasting, drizzle all over with olive oil then squish the lemon slices down into the roasting juices to make a lovely sauce.

Enjoy!

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  • 1 head of cauliflower, outer green leaves removed, broken into bite-sized florets
  • 2 cloves of finely minced garlic
  • 1 small de-seeded and finely minced red chili
  • 1 tsp sweet Spanish Paprika
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • juice of 1 and a half lemons
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

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Preheat the oven to 425F, 220c or gas mark 7. Blanch the cauliflower in salted boiling water for about 2-3 minutes then take off the hob, drain off the cooking water and pour cold running water over the florets to stop them from cooking further before draining again. When it’s completely dry, add to a roasting pan. Season with salt.

With a pestle and mortar, smoosh the chili, garlic and a little salt into a rough paste. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil & the paprika then mix and cover the cauliflower with it, working the paste into any crevices.  Pour over the juice of 1 lemon, and save the rest of the juice.

Roast uncovered for 25-30 minutes, mixing once or twice to ensure it browns evenly. It doesn’t matter if it ‘catches’ a little around the edges. In fact this is what we want. Those are the best bits!

Remove from oven and sprinkle immediately with the rest of the lemon juice, the capers and more sea salt if you are a salt hound like us. Grind some pepper over it too.

This is even better served with grated Parmiggiano Cheese scattered over it but it does need to be eaten hot with salty, olive oil slicked fingers. Think of it as super posh Popcorn.