Real Meaning In A Tray of Organic Vegetables

Roasted Root Veg

Roasted Root Veg

I made these for a Saturday lunch this week-end and thought I must share this with you. It is so easy to make a gorgeous dish of delectable sweet and crispy root vegetables.
They take minimal work, other than the initial cutting up and even that is only about a 15 minute job which you can do while something else is in the oven.
Mindfully done too, it can be a sort of meditation. I mean it! I used to shy away from cutting butternut or pumpkin or any vegetables, especially the hard skinned ones but once you’ve gotten over being intimidated by it and tried it once, you’ll actually come to enjoy, the process of cutting your vegetables into shapes that look gorgeous to you.
It’s part of the creative process. I know that we’re all pushed for time and trust me I have my own ongoing issues with learning how to find balance amongst the endless to-do list that seems ever insurmountable and is the corner stone of modern day life. Maybe you find it hard with everything on your plate to justify time spent chopping vegetables. And yet, the more time you find to dedicate to cooking and to nourishment, the more connection you find to the earth and to nature , if you’re eating sustainable food especially. That nourishment will carry you through the hard stuff. It really does. Especially if you use it as a tool to relax mindfully.
When everything seems topsy turvy and your priorities are inside out and you’re carrying just too heavy a load on your shoulders, nature is one place that doesn’t let you down and that you don’t have to question. You also don’t have to control her or be on top of her, without you, she gets along just fine. In fact she gets along much better if you don’t interfere with her, and will still be there for you unconditionally when you need her.
When soil is rich and fertile like organic soil is, a seed will grow into a plant and will grow something to feed you, to keep you alive. Nature too will grow grass and plants that will feed animals, that too will feed you. When you die, your body is meant to decompose back into the soil and the nutients from it are meant to enrich the soil who uses it to grow plants and so it goes on. That is magical. This is the sacred cycle of life. If you drive outside the city and away from your burdens, and turn to nature, she will have a tree for you that stands still and offers you shade. And comfort. She has water for you. She has oxygen for you. She is there for you. When you tap into that, you feel blessed. No matter how ratty I am at the table, sometimes disillusioned, sometimes confused, sometimes heavy, often happy, I feel blessed consciously most evenings to be eating the food that we do.
When the beef arrived yesterday, I felt it again, I knew that we are sitting with meat from some of the healthiest cattle off the most balanced eco-system and well nourished veldt I have ever seen. I know that this is beef from cows who have only eaten their natural diet of veldt and grass. Their lives have been nurtured by Keith Harvey’s commitment to serving as a custodian of the earth. I feel blessed. This is how conscious eating can be a daily prayer.
It’s a daily thank you to nature and to our lives and to the farmers who do things properly serving as custodians of the earth. Considering eating is something we do at least 3 times a day, how rewarding could our relationship to it be if we engaged it more consciously? This is how much meaning goes into one dish for me and if you only end up feeling a tenth of what I feel when I cook food from farms of this calibre, it’s enough to transform your experience of food and your place in the world for the good.
Once they’re basted and in, you’ve got a good 40 minutes to get on with something else, they take care of themselves.
The trick to get children especially to love these and eat up all that beta carotene with glee is to roast them in a way that they caramelise and of course to do this without using refined sugar. I use one of 2 trusty sweeteners that I view as ‘whole’ foods and not refined and thats honey or organic maple syrup. Organic maple syrup though is a food miles disaster so raw, local  and organic honey is a better bet. By organic in this sense, I mean that the hives come from a farm that isn’t using pesticides or from wild hives. We do have maple syrup in stock and I’ve got a tin of that and I thought I’d use it this week-end to ring the changes.
So I’m going to urge you to find a beautiful serving dish – it’s just such a joy to present food cooked with love and care on worthy plates. I actually will often go on a mission to buy a new dish or plate for a recipe, I found this one at the Bryanston Organic Market on Saturday and joyfully invested in it because I thought the orange of the butternut and carrots would look beautiful on it this colour! That’s how much I treasure my ingredients:)
It’s criminal, I think, (sense of drama flaring again) to not show off the beauty of food by throwing it into some ugly container when much of the appeal and effect of the meal has to do with how it is presented and how it appeals to everybody’s senses. You want people to drool over the plate. That is the start of the seduction of food and the pleasure and comfort of it, the anticipation which becomes a celebration.
I promise you, that if you take a recipe and look forward to making it and treasure the quality of the ingredients and cook it with conscious appreciation for the miracle of it – and all real food is life and all life is miraculous – you will transform your connection to the kitchen and to nourishment. If you think before trying a recipe about a platter or dish that you want to serve it on, you will add to your own enjoyment to the creative process of cooking and nourishing yourself and others. I promise.
You can trust me I’m a green grocer….
Simply do this:
Take a variety of root vegetables and other that are suitable for roasting and will work well roasting at the same time, cut into similar size pieces – I used sweet potatoes – carrots – butternut and brinjals. Note in the picture that I attempted to cut them all in similar sizes. Not exact, because I like rustic homely presentation more than perfect cuts, so this works for me but make it work for you in accordance with whatever gives you pleasure:)
Try pumpkin too, turnips, parsnips, orange sweet potatoes and potatoes if you wish.
Lay them out on a large roasting tray and make sure to not let them touch. If they touch, as they cook, they will steam at that point, lose water and go mooshy – exactly what you don’t want with roasted veg.
Roasting Root Vegetables

Roasting Root Vegetables

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.  Do this before you cut your veggies up so that while you’re chopping your oven is heating.
Brush olive oil over each piece. Then put some honey or maple syrup into a little bowl and brush this over each piece too. Sprinkle then with some sea salt and pepper – if you want to, you could also throw over some thyme here or rosemary but I’d keep it less herby if there are children involved.
Pop into the oven and leave! Don’t touch, don’t turn them over – don’t fiddle with them – just walk away and come back in 40 minutes to check on them. Check them at 40 minutes and if they’re ready, remove or leave for a bit longer, just don’t open the oven for the first 40 minutes or you’ll lose heat, especially in Winter and they won’t crisp as well.
Get out that pretty dish, and stack them onto the plate. Serve!
I made these to go with roast lamb and potatoes and a warm roast pepper, garlic and tomato salad on Saturday so they were ready long before the rest of my meal was. I simply put some foil over the dish and left them, when I was ready to serve – a good 2 hours later, they were still warm which is what you want – you don’t want these hot, hot…and just right…enjoy!
Another word of advice – I used to stress my nut off about getting food to the table, all hot, hot….what a mistake. Firstly because it makes entertaining without nearly dying of stress in the kitchen (drama queen again), impossible and then your guests arrive and you’re a strung up wreck from hell (taking dramatic to extreme proportion), entirely counter productive. Secondly I learnt that if you keep some dishes covered in the right spot (not in the oven where it will dry) with foil, the flavours actually develop and taste better – warm not out of the oven – hot!
You do not need every dish piping hot at the table and if you try to achieve that, I think you end up sacrificing flavour as well as your nerves.  Most people actually prefer food warm-hot – not piping hot.
Right, that’s my 2c worth for today….
I want to also send you my best recipe for roast tomato soup but I’m out of time now, I’ll try and get it done for tomorrow…
Have a great Autumn Tuesday…I’ve loved chatting to you as always…
Warmest Regards, Debbie

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