Anna’ Jones’s veggie trayfuls
Iam learning a new way to cook. Since having my little boy, it’s been hard to find time. No more long evenings in the kitchen: for now, my cooking is sandwiched into a neat window of time before baths and stories. I’ve rediscovered the joy of one pan or one-pot meals – dinners laid thoughtfully into a tray and left to roast and burnish. Cooking this way takes a quick, but careful, bit of preparation and can then be almost left alone for edges to crisp and golden hues to appear.
It requires being practical and organised. Although I am neither, I do find this kind of cooking weirdly satisfying. While I love the feeling of a pan over a flame, there is something very pleasing about knowing your dinner is cooking while you sit down with a glass of something, fold up the washing, catch up on emails, or whatever it may be.
Though the method may be simple, I still want flavours and textures that excite me, as well as bringing some balance – after all, I want everything I’m going to eat to be in that tray – vegetables, herbs, pulses, even baked cheeses. I’ve been playing around with one this week that reflects the season, and it’s become my quick weeknight take on a faded classic.
This principle of a roasting tray dinner works well with almost anything. I work on a basic formula of one or two vegetables, a herb, an accent flavour, such as chilli or lemon, and then something hearty – a pulse or some torn-up bread. Bear in mind that you need a vegetable that softens when it cooks – such as sweet potato or courgette – to add a little stickiness and to stop things burning. If you are roasting something (such as potatoes) that won’t do that, you might want to add a little stock or wine to make sure everything cooks evenly and so the flavours mingle in the best way possible.
Quick courgette ratatouille with crispy haricot beans
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seems that ratatouille got left behind in the 90s – but it’s a great dish that deserves reviving. This is my quick version – the ideal thing to make on a weeknight. I use the grill to get things working quickly and to impart some crispy edges and charred flavour. I cook the onions in a frying pan to make the best use of time, but if you’d rather grill them before the courgettes, please do.