Many new arrivals to the shores of Aotearoa will ask, ‘what is a traditional New Zealand meal?’ Oftentimes the reply will be Roast (lamb, beef, chicken…) that is, the slow roasting of a large piece of meat in the oven, with a supporting cast of various root crop vegetables and one or two steamed greens – always with gravy and sometimes with popular accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding and horseradish, mint sauce, apple sauce, mustard or fruit jellies depending on the type of meat roasted.
Roasted meat was traditionally served as a Sunday lunch because it could be left to cook in the oven while attending Church on a Sunday morning, then ready in time for lunch. A roast dinner can also have a celebratory feel and in today’s busy world it can and does solve many a weekday meal dilemma. With smaller cuts of meat available, a roast can be prepared from zero to hero in under an hour.
Moving away from the traditional meat and vegetable roast, moderns cooks take roasting to another level. Roasted vegetables create a depth of flavour that is hard to recreate using other cooking methods. Roasting seals in the flavour and then caramelises the sugars – hence the sweetness of roasted vegetables. Roasting is an easy way to add an indefinable wow! factor to dishes.
Aside from the usual root crops here are a few vegetables that really lend themselves to roasting:
Asparagus: Creates succulence and flavours are really concentrated – 15-20 mins @ 200 deg C, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper and a little lemon juice or balsamic.
Brussels Sprouts: Much maligned, but nutty and delicious when roasted. Slice in half, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, cut side down 15-20 minutes @ 200 deg C
Cauliflower: An aromatic nutty flavour is created when roasted, cut into bite sized chunks and drizzle with oil, ground cumin and coriander, salt and pepper for an Indian flavoured side dish. 15-20 minutes @ 200 deg C – turn once when cooking.
Garlic: I wrap a whole head in tinfoil, including a tsp of oil, and roast @ 200 deg C for about 30 minutes – then unwrap and roast another ten minutes to caramelise – I often do this after I have baked – utilising the already hot oven. Roasted garlic is stunning in salad dressings.
Eggplant: Roast the eggplant whole in a small ovenproof dish – prick little holes on the surface of the skin, then roast for around 35 minutes until collapsed and easily pierced with a fork – the meaty, creamy flesh is then perfect mashed with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and a touch of cumin.
Roasted or Char grilled Capsicums are a case in point, once roasted they are the ideal addition to any antipasto, beautiful in a salad, perfect in pasta and an amazing base to many beautiful sauces, soups and stunning dips. Roasting increasing versatility and flavour to capsicums and increases their range of uses, one of my favourites is a simple Frittata Muffin recipe, very like small crustless quiches.
Without having to char grill beforehand, a platter of oven-roasted vegetables is a wonderful dish to serve as part of a mezze, this Roast Vegetable Couscous dish highlights the magnificent sweetness of roasted vegetables and can be prepared very quickly for a nutritious vegetarian dish or as a side dish to lamb or chicken. The chickpeas add lovely texture and valuable protein.
A bowl of Herb-Roasted Olives is a good option to offer with drinks or as part of a shared meal. Nothing could be easier than tossing this all in the oven and letting the aromatic herbs and zest speak for themselves. Ten minutes to prepare, fifteen to roast, and no special trips to expensive exotic food stores required.
Even less exotic is an extremely simple dessert that utilises pantry staples and those past-their-use-by-date granny smiths sitting forlornly in the fruit bowl. Dressed and roasted, Baked Apples are delicious, nutritious and budget friendly. But why stop there? Many, many plant foods are roast-ready, and several dishes can be roasted simultaneously once when your oven is heated, making a clever energy conscious contribution.