Sunday, May 15, 2011

RECIPE: How To Get Perfect Roast Vegetables

A lot of the recipes that I put on this site require a bit of prerequisite knowledge and extrapolation. When you start cooking, one of the hardest things to overcome is vagueness, so I want to try and put some of the simpler recipes that I know up here. Firstly for my memory, and secondly so I don't scare of people that are just learning to cook.

Roasting vegetables was one of the first things that I learned to cook well. And while many of the things that I first learned well and then improved on as my skills grew, my technique for roasting vegetables has remained pretty much unchanged.

Before starting to roast vegetables you need to prepare them. The prep will be the same regardless of what method you decide to use.

For sweet potatoes, should peel away all of the skin.
For potatoes, cut out any bad looking bits.
For carrots, it's your call. I usually peel them if the carrots look "rough" but just wash them if not.
For pumpkin, I generally take the skin off, but it isn't necessary.
For parsnip, I recommend peeling.
For garlic, I prefer to take the skin off and just keep the clove/edible bits.
For tomatoes, onions, green beans, just wash and leave untouched.
For beetroot, I prefer to peel.

If the vege is large it will take longer to cook. Consider cutting it in halves or quarters if you want to reduce cooking time. If you are cooking multiple vegetables at once, try and keep everything roughly the same size (no need to be pedantic).

And always wash after cutting.

Okay, there are two ways to get perfectly roasted vegetables. Each way has it's pros and cons.


The Par-Boil Then Roast Method

Note: par-boiling refers to when you boil something to the point of being cooked or almost cooked as the first step in the cooking process.

This method is best used for the heavier root vege like potato, carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, parsnip and beetroot. It's unsuitable for soft vegetables like tomato, green beans and onion because they don't need to be softened before roasting. While you may feel that garlic isn't suitable, a quick par-boil beforehand will mellow the flavour so you'll get a more mellow end product.

The big pro of this method is that the vegetables will be incredibly crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. It's also a little more foolproof because you do all of the cooking during the first stage, so undercooked vege easily avoidable, as well as the potential to overcook (and dry out) that is there in the other method. It's also the faster of the two methods.

The cons are that you'll be faced with more washing up from this method (a large pot and a colander) and there are a couple more steps (albeit easy steps). Also, I'm not a nutritionist but I'm pretty sure that when you par-boil vege before roasting that you're boiling away the vitamins and minerals in the vege.

1. Put all of your vege into a pot large enough to hold them. Cover with cold water and add a tablespoon or so of salt.

2. Bring it to the boil and cook until the vegetables are cooked. Best way to test this is to get a butter knife and poke it into the middle of a large or thick piece.

3. Turn your oven to around 220c. Put your roasting pan inside.

4. Once the vegetable feels soft and doesn't resist the knife, drain it in a colander. Give it a good shake to get rid of the water and "rough up" the vegetables a bit. The less perfect the vege, the crunchier they'll get.

5. Take your roasting pan out of the oven, cover with some baking paper and put the vege on. Drizzle everything with a neutral oil (tasteless) like grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. You can also add herbs like thyme, rosemary and oregano. Spices like cumin, paprika and sumac also go well. If you're using any vege that wasn't par-boiled (tomato, onion, etc) then add it now.

6. Give everything a mix so all of the vege is coated in the oil/herbs/spices.

7. Put it in the oven and cook until golden brown. It will take around an hour, but check every 25 minutes or so and give the pan a good shake/mix so all sides of the vege is roasted.

The end result will be crunchy and fluffy.

The second method is...

The Straight Roast

I find myself using this method most of the time, simply because it's less effort and there is less to clean up at the end.

It works pretty much for all vegetables, but if you're using a mix of vegetables that need more cooking (ie potato and pumpkin) and vege that just needs some browning (tomato, onion, garlic) then you need to consider adding it in stages.

So the big pro is that there is less effort involved and less cleaning at the end. Also, because you aren't boiling away any nutrients, I think this option is healthier. I find that this method will give you a creamy inside to the vege, whereas the first method gives you a fluffy inside.

The con is that the results aren't quite as good as the first method. If you overcook the vegetables here then they can dry out. Also, if you undercook the vege then it will be hard and inedible.

1. Get your oven tray and cover with baking paper. Put your vege. As I mentioned above, if you are cooking a mix of things that will take a long time and a short time, then add the quick vege later on.

2. Cover with grapeseed oil or a similar tasteless oil (sunflower), salt, pepper and similar spices and herbs as I mentioned in point #5 above. Mix so everything is coated. Put into a 170c oven.

3. The denser vege like potatoes, pumpkin, etc will take around 2 hours to cook, but it depends on your oven. I recommend checking after an hour and then around every 25 mins after that. Each time you check, mix the vege around so every side is perfectly roasted. Vege like tomatoes will only take around 30 mins. But get to know your oven and cook by feel and you'll be fine.

4. The end result will be a dark golden colour. But it's essential that you try a larger piece of the vege to ensure that it is creamy in the middle.

And there you go. Two ways to roast vege with two different outcomes. Hopefully two easy to follow recipes that will let you master roasted vege if you haven't already.

I want this post to be as easy to follow as possible. So if you believe that it isn't, let me know in the comments what parts need more detail.

Also, if you want advise on any other vegetables that I haven't mentioned, let me know.


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Anonymous said...

Good info. When I parboiled my veges (potato, butternut pumpkin, carrot and parsnip) I found that the parsnip soften up much more quickly than the rest so I ended up fishing it out of the pot earlier. Next time I'd put the pumpkin in a little after the potato and carrot, then the parsnip after that.

Anonymous said...

Good advice.
To avoid the disadvantages of boiling that you mention, I recommend microwaving with just a little water in the bottom of a dish. Quick, easy clean up and, like steaming, lose few nutrients.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea they took so long. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

Quite a good article. I prefer to steam vegetables as to boiling them.

The end result is the same, yummy!!!!!!!

Margaret M.M.