Quick fixes

Anna’ Jones’s veg­gie tray­fuls

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Anna Jones

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.

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