Oh no, time for a cookery post

As you may have noticed from the minor hints here and there in this blog, I am a rather keen cook and look forward to the making of my dinner even more than the eating of said meal just because the science and art of it it something I find fascinating. In my opinion there is little more satisfying than watching all the various chunks and slices of ingredients slowly meld and mingle into a whole that is almost certainly a lot greater than the sum of its parts; just as interesting is when it goes wrong and you can try to figure out why exactly it did go wrong as you chew your way through a suspiciously sugary stew or weirdly foot-smelling Auflauf. Cooking is the ultimate definition of crafting to live, the process of taking time and developing your skills so that you can produce something creative and pleasing which just so happens to be essential to you getting through the day. Or, to put it less pretentiously, I grew up making cupcakes with my mother and the minute I had to start making full meals for myself I geeked out on it like I do with everything. If, incidentally, you are interested in the mechanics of cooking I heartily recommend the following: Cooking for EngineersCooking Issues and, my favourite, the wonderful American show Good Eats, whose sinewy-faced host Alton Brown addresses one tiny theme each week and talks you through all the various important things you ought to know about that one recipe or ingredient, enacting the scientific bits with sock puppets or men dressed as vegetables. This show is worth watching, if nothing else, for the sheer entertainment of watching him slowly puff up like a baking muffin as he goes through the years of presenting and eating and piling on layers of chub, before suddenly losing them all and, bizarrely, simultaneously recovering from his male pattern baldness. 

However, while I am never averse to spending a good two hours getting elbow deep in a really complicated recipe (thanks a lot, Gary Rhodes), on a weekday after hours of stretching your miserable face into a smile of joyful fun and running around with infants there is not much appeal and what one really wants is something easy, relatively fast and goshdarned lecker. This, my friends, is where my secret weapon comes out: roast vegetables. The most adaptable thing you can ever learn in cooking is to roast veg, and in the rest of this post I will show you how.
You see the photo at the top? That is roast veg and goats’ cheese salad. It looks like I spent ages mincing about the kitchen peeling and marinading and slicing and tossing things to produce a vaguely toffish salad. Actually, the whole thing took half an hour to make and was laughably easy, the only difference between this dish and a bowl of casually thrown-together pasta sauce being that this feels like a treat rather than the results of casually throwing whatever you stub your toe on into a saucepan like I do the rest of the time. Here, then, is how to roast any veg you feel like:
 -chop your veg into evenly sized chunks
-throw the chunks into a mixing bowl
-chuck over a lug of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and black pepper, one crushed garlic clove and then stir the veg about until they are all coated and shiny-lookin’.
-spread out on a baking sheet and roast for about 20-25 minutes at about 210 degrees Celcius until they are soft and a little bit blackened at the edges…mmm…
 As a rule of thumb, you can roast any of the following things and I have given the approximate times they take to roast in this way if they are chopped up: peppers (20 mins), onions (20 mins), butternut squash/pumpkin (20 mins or 45 if simply halved), potatoes (30 mins), sweet potatoes (20 mins), courgette (15-20 mins), aubergine (15 mins), tomatoes (15 mins), whole garlic cloves (20 mins – these are great mashed into gravy or salad dressing), mushrooms (15 mins), carrots/parsnips (30 mins), sprouts (15 mins)…there are honestly too many to list all of them. But in case you don’t think this is worth trying, let me convince you. Roast veg are so super adaptable you could cook with them every day and have something different at the end. Slice them big lengthways and stack them up in a bread roll with halloumi or bacon to make a kick-ass burger. Roast a mix of similar veg and puree them with stock to make an excellent soup. Roast lots of teeny cubes and mix them with couscous to make a tasty side dish. Whisk up an egg with some peas and herbs and pour into 10-min-preroasted pepper halves, then bake for another 20 minutes to have an awesome frittata. Toss them with pasta, mozzarella and pesto. Serve them as fancy-looking antipasti. Roast veg in long sticks to make dippers for houmous or sour cream. Hell, roast fruit and eat with vanilla ice-cream for the easiest pudding ever (though use a different oil here, please!). 

For the minimal effort you put in, you get caramelised, soft and crispy wonderfulness every time. You can use different oils or toss the veg with added pesto or balsamic vinegar for more depth of flavour, use dried herbs or even add in some bits of chicken or meatballs for a really great pita bread filling. Are you feeling hungry yet? Me too. It’s time to graduate from boiled carrots and try something far more deceptively fancy, my friends. Guten Appetit!

Rose T