Humble vegetables get the royal treatment when you roast them. It draws out their natural sweetness while caramelising any crisp, burnt edges for extra flavour.
Roasting is also an excellent way to prepare vegetables that are a little past their best as the high heat concentrates their flavour and makes them extra tasty. For those after-dinner sweet cravings, serve roasted roots with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream to bring out their sweet flavours.
Tips for successful root vegetable roasting:
1.Choose tender-skinned vegetables
Choose tender-skinned vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potato and pumpkin for best results. Tough-skinned root vegetables such as potatoes need a long cooking time to become tender so plan on roasting them separately from other roots.
Even-sized pieces will cook evenly on the outside and retain some crunch on the inside, while smaller pieces may end up overcooked. Cut firm roots like sweet potato, parsnips and carrots into 2cm (¾in) cubes; cut fleshy roots like pumpkin and swede smaller – about 2.5cm (1in) cubes will do the trick.
Use a light hand when tossing your vegetables in oil as over-oiling can lead to greasy roots that don’t crisp up nicely. Season with salt and pepper and, if you like, some fresh thyme or rosemary. A little honey added to the mix will help bring out their natural sweetness and encourage more caramelisation while they cook.
Toss your vegetables with oil, salt, pepper and any other seasonings you like (and maybe some honey too), then spread them in an even layer on a tray ready for roasting.
Overcrowding your roasting pan means the vegetables will steam rather than roast, which will affect both their flavour and texture. Spread them out in a thin layer so they have plenty of space between each other.
Turn with tongs, not a spoon
Tongs are much better than spoons for turning or moving your vegetables around as they won’t pierce the flesh and let all the good juices out. If you’re roasting a lot of vegetables, invest in a couple of good quality metal tongs.
Root vegetables are best served al dente – with a little crunch to them. To check if they’re done, remove one piece from the tray and pierce it with a sharp knife or skewer. If it goes in easily, the vegetables are ready to come out of the oven.
If you like your vegetables golden and crusty, increase the heat to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7) towards the end of cooking time. This will help them crisp up nicely before they go in for their final blast under a hot grill or in a frying pan. If they start to brown too quickly, place a sheet of foil lightly over the tray to deflect the heat.
It’s tempting to throw your roasted roots around in the roasting pan as they come out of the oven but resist this urge as tossing them will lead to mushy vegetables – and nobody likes mushy vegetables.
Drain the vegetables well before serving. If you like, use this liquid to make a light sauce by bringing it to the boil and reducing until syrupy. Pour over the vegetables or serve on the side as an accompaniment.