Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas roundup 1: Roasted root vegetables with honey, tamarind and lemon

Christmas has come and gone, and like most of us, you're probably very happy not to have to think about it for another twelve months. We're still eating leftovers here, but I did want to record my experience with this brilliant recipe from a column in The Guardian by veggie virtuosos Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi. If you are into Middle Eastern food, or any food with big, bold flavours, then these guys should be on your radar (I'm so impressed, I've started a new label for recipes of theirs). I suggest you go directly to the link above and click on all sections of this article (links are on the right side of the photo) and get all the recipes for next Chrissie (I know I did!). You might be surprised by what two non-Christian, non-Brits came up with for our big annual feast.

Of course going totally vegetarian is not in the cards for us. I love my turkey, and go to some lengths to ensure a turkey dinner for us at least once a year, even at home in Japan. Visiting my family here in Australia this year made that as easy as pie. In fact Saffron-Papa had already sussed out a good bird before we even arrived!

But I was open to new ideas (please!) for the vegetable portion of the Great Feast, and this is it! While you still have the same old roast root veggies, here they come with a big twist: the sweetness of honey (suggested as a substitute for the original recipe's date syrup: sorry, not in this small town) and tart tamarind. And that is just the cooking juice! After the veggies are roasted up nicely but still a little crisp, they are anointed with lemon juice and zest, finely chopped raw garlic and basil! Mwow! There is enough going on here to keep even the most jaded palate (that would be mine) interested!

I was lucky enough to have lots of fresh thyme and basil straight from Saffron-Mama's well-tended herb garden. It is amazing how much more flavour herbs have when they're plucked right before the using. If I had more sunshine in my (postage stamp-sized) back garden in Japan, I would love to grow my own too, but alas...

So without further ado, here is the recipe, almost as it was found. My one addition was the butternut pumpkin. It's an Australian thing, I know, but a good addition, I feel, especially as we were not having a separate pumpkin dish. I also wouldn't bother about lining your oven tray with cooking paper: the juice soaked right through in my case, and I had to fish it out, in rags, with tongs. That's just one step too much at Christmas for me! Other than that, this is sublime and much too good to keep only for Christmas!

Roasted root vegetables with honey, tamarind & lemon

Serves six.

1 tbsp seedless tamarind paste
70ml warm water
1.5kg (net weight) mixed root vegetables (any combination of carrot, parsnip, celeriac, swede, parsnip, unpeeled sweet potato, peeled butternut pumpkin)
3 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
90ml date syrup
75ml olive oil
12 sprigs fresh thyme
1½ tsp salt
Black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
50g fresh basil leaves

1 Preheat the oven to 210C/425F/ gas mark 7. Whisk together the tamarind paste and warm water, set aside for 20 minutes, then pass through a fine sieve [Saffron: this won't be necessary in the case of tamarind paste].

2 To prepare the vegetables, cut them into chunky wedges (1cm at the thick end), or halve the long roots widthways and then cut each half again lengthways, the fat part into four and the thin into two.

3 In a large bowl, stir together the root vegetables, onions, honey, tamarind mixture, 60ml olive oil, thyme, salt and some pepper. Use a roasting tray large enough to take everything in one layer. Spread the vegetables inside and roast for 40-50 minutes, until they are crunchy yet tender. Taste them - they may well take a little longer.

4 Remove from the oven, stir in the garlic, lemon zest and juice, the remaining oil and most of the basil (save a few leaves to garnish), then taste. Add salt and pepper if needed, transfer to a serving bowl and dot with the reserved basil leaves. Serve warm.



Cynthia said...

Happy Holidays!

Saffron said...

Same to you, Cynthia. Good luck with your book!!