How I roast
Roast potatoes and vegetables are nothing new, but here are a few things that I do that elevate the good to the great. Everyone has their own little secrets, through experience from many, many roast dinners, that generate those looks of delightful surprise from happy eaters.
- I used to cut my pieces into inch sized pieces, but I’ve opted for slightly larger to offset the amount of oil used – I actually prefer the higher potato-to-crispy-bits ratio flavour wise too.
- Boil them until they’re mostly cooked – a sharp knife should slide in easy.
- Heat up the oil (a generous amount of it) in the preheated oven (200C, or 400F) for at least 3 minutes before chucking the potatoes in. Make sure you toss them around in the oil to coat them before putting them in the oven. This also helps prevent them stick.
- While some people wax lyrical about potato varieties, I’m not so fussy. My favourite varieties are the fluffy, floury kind for roasting, but everyone needs a little diversity.
- My favourite method for potatoes involves skinning them and almost shallow frying them in the oven (around 180 for a nice long time, with multiple turnings), however this is a bit unrealistic to do on a regular basis.
- Use the bottom rack, especially for the first twenty minutes. This ensures quick heat transfer and prevents sticking. It also creates a really nice crispy side on the piece of vegetable.
- Re-toss after half an hour or so. Do not try to move any pieces that are severely stuck to the pan. This usually means they haven’t fully cooked on the bottom. If you’re worried they have, they should come off easily with a metal spatula.
- Add herbs and crushed singular garlic cloves in the last 20 mins so they don’t burn, same applies to ground spices. The garlic cloves can be easily removed from their skins after roasting for spreading or for chucking in some oil for a roasted-garlic-infused oil.
- For whole garlic bulbs, chop about 1cm off the top. You can dump this cut side down in the oil when it’s preheating, and it will flavour the oil a little. the main part of the bulb can go in with the potatoes. Afterwards, just push the base of the bulb down with a knife and push the mushy roasted cloves out. These can be spread onto toast with butter.
- Try not to overcrowd your pan, and definitely have everything on a single layer. Otherwise everything will take forever. If you’re doing lots, split into two batches (on on the uppermost rack, the other on the bottom rack), then switch over half way through.
- Potatoes require the longest time – 40-50 minutes even after being boiled. Most other veges only need about 20 minutes.
- Par-boiling/steaming some kinds of vegetable helps them from drying out too much (and the skin from going all leathery). Just remember to coat in oil. Alternatively you can cover the roasting tray with a baking sheet/tray (doesn’t have to completely cover the roasting dish) and roast for ten minutes before roasting uncovered (don’t use this method with potatoes though). I generally do this for pumpkin, and beetroot. Not for very moist veges like kumara though.
- Many veges are easier to peel once roasted: beets, kumara, pumpkin. Others don’t need peeling: carrots, for example (although some like theirs peeled). Yet others taste better peeled before roasting, like parsnips (to be precise: par-steamed, then roasted).
- Experiment! Try roasted cauliflower, it’s amaaazing. Roasted swedes, brussels sprouts, even radishes, can be delicious roasted. Plus you’ll have fewer dishes to worry about!
- To test done-ness without burning your tongue, try stabbing a piece with a fork. There shouldn’t be too much resistance, except with potatoes where you’re piercing through a crispy bit.