Roots manoeuvre


Despite my kids’ pernickity attitude towards food (see previous post), they have always been pretty good at eating their veg. ‘Veg?’ I hear you cry, ‘how can you call them fussy when they eat green stuff? You TOTAL FRAUD!’ I know, I know, I have been lucky in this respect. I confess too, that they have always eaten fruit, have never rejected food on the basis of it not being beige, or beginning with the letter ‘B’, and have never insisted that their gravy touch only the meat on their plate, lest it contaminate the whole lot (they just refused the gravy outright).

But everything’s relative right? I know some people have it much, much worse, but I’m here in the role of empathiser not competitor. Anyway, the fact that my kids managed an occasional carrot stick or grape doesn’t detract from the fact that the entire repertoire of what they deemed acceptable food-wise for the first eight years of their respective lives could have easily fitted on the back of a postage stamp.

There was and still is a large caveat to their veg eating: it must under no circumstances be messed about with. Vegetables must be boiled or steamed, that’s it. No roasting, stir frying, pureeing, God forbid no ratatouille. My husband’s just as bad in this respect. When presented with honey and thyme roasted carrots with his Sunday lunch he will say, as he pokes them around his plate like a petulant pre-schooler, ‘I prefer the normal ones if I’m honest.’ I once served up French beans that I’d tossed in olive oil and grated parmesan and roasted so the cheese went all crispy. Terrific. Or so I thought. Apparently not. ‘Cheese, yum, beans OK, together, not so much,’ were the considered words of my 9yo food critic. I can’t even bring myself to write about the scathing reaction my sweet potato chips received.

I on the other hand am a bit of a closet vegetarian and am more than happy with any progressive treatment of plant matter. Courgette fritters, parsnip rosti, braised fennel, kale chips, BRING IT ON. I am particularly fond of roasted root veg, but no longer bother trying to convince my conservative bunch that it tastes good. I make and eat great trays of the stuff, often for lunch, sometimes to share with a like-minded friend, but usually all by myself.

Spiced roasted roots with tahini yogurt dressing

This is best served slightly warm, but can be eaten cold or hot. Sprinkle over some toasted pine nuts too if you want extra crunch.

Serves 2 (if it must)

  • 6-8 small carrots, peeled and sliced in half or quarters if they are large. Use fewer if your carrots are big mothers
  • 2 parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthways and woody core removed
  • 1-2 fennel bulbs, sliced from root to tip
  • 1 sweet potato and sliced into slim wedges
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  •  1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch chilli flakes (I use Turkish ones which are much milder than the normal ones)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed under the flat blade of a knife
  • juice of 1/2 an orange
  • handful of flat leaf parsely, chopped
  • 1 tsp nigella (aka black onion) seeds
  • enough olive oil to coat the veg (about 2-3 tbsp)
  • salt and pepper
  • feta cheese to crumble over

Tahini yogurt sauce

  • 50g Greek natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • juice of half a lemon
  • pinch salt
  • water to loosen
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan).
  2. Mix all the spices except the nigella seeds in the oil and orange juice with a decent amount of salt and pepper.
  3. Put the veg including the smashed garlic on a large baking tray, pour over the oil and spice mixture and toss everything with your hands so it is well covered. You want the veg to be in a single layer so they roast rather than steam.
  4. Bake in the oven for about 40-50 minutes until the veg is soft and starting to caramelise.
  5. Serve the vegetables with a crumbling of feta (goats cheese would be good too), a scattering of chopped parsley and nigella seeds, and a drizzle of the yogurt sauce, which you make by stirring all the ingredients together. (I forgot the nigella seeds when I took the photo because I am a chump.)



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