Meat free menus – a heap of veg!

This post isn’t so much a recipe as an idea – that a heap of roasted veg can take you in all sorts of delicious directions! We’re still on the theme of trying to make eating a more plant-based diet delicious but straightforward. One of the most versatile ways to use veg as the basis for a meal is to take whatever fresh veg you have in your kitchen and roast them, giving you oodles of very straightforward ways to create a meal.

But first, the roasting. The knack is all in chopping your veg and adding them to the roasting tray in the right order.

You will need:

  • A heap of veg
  • Chopping board and knife
  • Roasting tray/tin
  • Veg oil
  • Seasoning: Salt, pepper, maybe some cumin, ras el hanout or five-spice. Whatever you fancy.

First turn on your oven and heat to 180-200°C. Your choice of temperature will depend on how many veg you have to process and how much peeling and chopping is involved. If you don’t have much, crank it up to 200° and get it done quickly. But if you have quite a lot then dial it back to 180° or so and you will have time to prepare each veg before it’s time to add it to the roasting tray.

Put a tablespoon or 3 of vegetable oil into your baking tray ready for the veg.

Next, peel and chop your veg in the right order:

  • Carrots and/or beetroot first, always. These take longest to cook. Peel and chop, then chuck them in the roasting tin, toss in the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put them in the oven. Baby ones can be left whole.
  • Next – other fairly ‘solid’ veg such as parsnips, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, celeriac etc. Peel and chop, then take the roasting tin out of the oven and add them. Give them, and the veg already in the tray, a toss in the oil and add any additional flavours you might want. Ground cumin works well for most dishes. Here you might want to skip ahead to see what we might be making with these veg before deciding! Then return the tray to the oven and continue with your veg prep.
  • Next – leeks, courgettes or other softer squash. The same process. Prep and chop and add to the roasting tin, making sure to toss everything together so it all gets some oil and seasoning and cooks evenly. Add more oil and/or seasoning as required.
  • Finally – peppers, fennel, onions and any other veg that are quick to cook. Prepare and chop these by size depending on how well-cooked the veg are that are already in the tin. Small if they are nearly done, bigger if they still need a while! The best way to chop onions for this purpose is to peel but leave the roots in place. Then chop into wedges through the root, so that your wedges stay together.
  • The veg are done when they are cooked through with a little colour.

What now? That’s up to you!

  • Make a veggie tart – spread pesto or tomato sauce over some rolled puff pastry. Scatter the roasted veg on top, and add feta/olives/grated cheese according to your preference. Bake according to the cooking instructions for the pastry – usually 30-45 mins at 180°
  • Stir the roasted veg through some tasty cooked lentils. You can buy ready-cooked for a speedy supper or cook your own, but make sure they are well-flavoured. Maybe stir through add a spoonful of crème fraîche if you’re not aiming for a vegan dinner.
  • Stir through hot pasta with tomato sauce for a satisfying dinner. Or leave to go cold and eat as a pasta salad the next day
  • Spoon the hot veg over mash…and even the mash options are endless! You can choose traditional mash and some veggie gravy (standard Bisto is vegetarian!) or mash your spuds with vegan pesto for a delicious twist, or even go for sweet potato mash. Try a sprinkle of chopped nuts over the top for extra protein and crunch.
  • Mix with couscous and top with toasted flaked almonds, either hot or cold as a salad

I’m often prompted to roast off a load of veg because something in the veg bowl is looking like it needs using up soon to avoid wasting it, so this seemed an appropriate blog for Food Waste Action Week which runs to 13th March! To avoid wasting veg you can roast them, chuck them in the fridge and then worry about what to do with them the next day. If you want them hot again, the microwave works just fine. I usually roast more than enough for one meal and keep the remainder in the fridge to do something different with the next day. They only keep well in the fridge for a couple of days though so you need to use them up with reasonable speed.

And of course you can keep your veg seasonal and even local too.

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