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Side Dish

I’ve always liked beetroot, but beetroot for me growing up was out of a tin. I think beetroot is one of the few vegetables that is actually not too bad out of a tin. It’s pretty close to homecooked beetroot (unlike, say, tinned asparagus, which bears no relation to homecooked asparagus whatsoever). But I’ve been slow to get more fresh beetroot into my cooking and I’m not sure why that is.

Because of that, a bunch of beetroot can last me ages — lucky it stores so well — but now that I’m eating more seasonally, I find that at this time of year, beetroot is one of the main vegetables available so I’m cooking and eating it a lot more. Maybe I’ve hesitated because of the time it takes to cook, but that’s a bit silly now I think about it. All I’ve had to do is plan a tiny bit more and throw some in the oven about an hour before I start to make dinner. As someone who isn’t particularly into cooking, this simple change in thinking has been a small epiphany for me. If I couldn’t be home early enough to get it into the oven in time, I’ve cooked it in the morning, or the day before. It’s revelational, I tell you!

This is one small example of how eating locally grown food can influence how you cook and eat. I don’t think I’ll ever be super into cooking, but just by making this small change, I’ve increased the repertoire of flavours on my family’s plates, I’m exposing my kids to new meals and I’ve supported the local food system by eating what it’s producing.

So, eat more beetroot!

Also: juicing raw beetroot with some other veg and an apple is amazing.

Chard & roasted beetroot salad

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Serves: 2 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 beetroots, peeled, cut into sizeable chunks (not too small)
  • 1/2 bunch chard, shredded, no stems
  • roughly same amount of mixed salad leaves
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 1/2 cup seed mix (we used sunflower, pumpkin and linseed)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (spend the money to get the real stuff)
  • juice of half an orange
  • 1/2 punnet microgreens

Instructions

Start with the beetroot (this can be done well ahead, if preferred)

  1. Preheat oven to about 170deg.
  2. Place in a shallow baking tray and liberally douse with olive oil. Make sure the pieces are fully covered with oil and not touching each other.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, if you like.
  4. Roast for about 30 minutes, but use your own judgement. Check from time to time until they are as firm or soft as you like.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  6. While the beetroot is in the oven, lightly toast the pistachios and seed mix in a dry frying pan (no oil) over a low heat.
  7. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, pour over the vinegar and juice, toss and serve.
  8. Sprinkle with microgreens.

Notes

This recipe will make enough for 2 if eating it as a meal, or 4 if as a side dish.

1 November, 2018 0 comment
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After thinking I might not be able to source any cauliflower for LocalTable subscribers, turns out there’s actually loads of it available. Even though I do love my veggies super simple and I’m happy just to lightly boil or steam, it can all get a bit same-y, so I thought I’d give this growing trend of cauliflower rice a go.

It seems very popular with followers of the paleo diet, which is probably why I’ve steered away. I’m not a diet follower, me. Unless eating locally grown is considered a diet.

Anyhoo, I’m a convert! This was so incredibly easy and quick and it doesn’t even really need a recipe, because the variations for it are endless. Definitely going to do this more often.

This made a great lunch for me (with leftovers) and was almost as quick as making a toastie!

Cauliflower rice vegetable stir fry

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • slurp of rice bran oil (or peanut or any oil that is good for high temperatures)
  • drizzle of sesame oil
  • slurp of tamari (or soy or any stir fry sauce)
  • 1 chunk ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic (or more if you like), minced
  • chilli to taste (fresh or dried), finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped (keep some aside for garnish)
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 capsicum, chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 4 handfuls of snowpea sprouts, optional

Instructions

  1. Whiz the cauliflower chunks in a food processor until they look like rice.
  2. Heat a wok over a high heat. When the wok is hot, pour in the rice bran oil.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, shallots, mushrooms and capsium. Toss in the oil for a minute or two, taking care not to let anything burn or go soft.
  4. Throw in the cauliflower rice and toss.
  5. Drizzle over a small amount of sesame oil and add the tamari. Toss for a few more minutes.
  6. Divide into bowls and plonk the snowpea sprouts on top, if using.
  7. Serve with a few chopped shallots sprinkled over for a garnish.
12 May, 2018 0 comment
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Vegetables when I was growing up were boiled. Or roasted, but mostly boiled. And that’s fine, but they were really, really boiled. And heavily salted. As such, I had no idea what vegetables actually tasted like until I started cooking for myself and discovered that if you don’t boil the life out of vegetables, they taste magnificent!

Perhaps it’s because of this discovery relatively late in life that I genuinely enjoy vegetables that have simply been steamed or lightly boiled, just beyond blanching. As such, I don’t do fancy things like sauces or bakes for veggies very often.

However, when children entered my life, they didn’t appreciate the magnificence of vegetables nearly as much as me (go figure) and so I discovered the wonder of pouring cheese sauce over just about everything in order to get it into their bodies. It’s such a simple thing to do that will turn anything into a comfort food that no one ever seems to tire of.

So even though I could eat boiled cauliflower all season, that doesn’t make for a very interesting recipe to share, so here’s my super basic cauliflower cheese recipe.

Feel free to add other vegetables to it (of a similar type, so they cook at the same rate) and use any type of mustard and cheese combination you fancy. Then cosy up to this family favourite as the days continue to shorten.

Cauliflower cheese

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 1 small cauliflower head, chopped into medium-large florets
  • 2 large blobs of butter
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (approx)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup sharp vintage cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200º.
  2. Boil the cauliflower florets in a saucepan until they’re about half cooked, then drain well.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat.
  4. Add the flour and mix well with a small whisk to remove any lumps. Let that cook gently for about a minute.
  5. Pour in the milk a little at a time and whisk in well as you go, keeping the heat very low. You want the mixture to be quite runny, so add as much milk as you need. Don’t feel you have to be precise about the amount, just don’t add it too much at once.
  6. When it’s well mixed, add the mustard (to taste) and stir, stir, stir with that whisk.
  7. Then add about 2/3rds of the cheese and stir, stir, stir.
  8. If the mixture looks too thick, then add small amounts of milk and keep stirring. Season to taste, if you like. Simmer for a minute or two, then remove from the heat.
  9. Meanwhile, tip the cauliflower into a shallow baking dish, then pour the cheese sauce over the top, making sure you cover it all.
  10. Sprinkle the leftover cheese over the sauce, then bake for 20-25 minutes. It’s done when the top is golden brown.
26 April, 2018 0 comment
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Sad but true, I also have not very fond childhood memories of eating cabbage. Look, the fact is, I grew up in Anglo Australia in the 70s and 80s and cuisine was still pretty much stuck back in The Empire Days. Boiling and grilling with a bit of baking was about it.

But that’s why I’ve been enjoying making the dishes for these recipes. Some of them are favourites of mine since I started working out how to cook stuff that I liked and some of them are new to me. Cooking something new can be a bit of a gamble, which is what this was. I wanted to cook something using cabbage, potato and leek. I found a Hungarian stew called Kelkáposzta főzelék (warning: DO NOT do a Google image search on that) and it made me strangely curious, because it’s basically boiled cabbage, but better, so I chose it.

I didn’t have the right spice in the pantry, so I improvised a bit and even though I ended up overcooking it and it didn’t look much more appealing than the photos of it on the interwebs, it actually tasted pretty good! I also pan-fried some chicken breast coated in dukkah and they went well together. Now I’ve cooked it once, I’d change a couple of things, so I’ve written the recipe to incorporate those changes, which means it’s not fully tested. But I reckon it would be better the way I’ve described it below.

Fraser (Flood & Drought) grew the Savoy in this recipe. He said he grows two types of cabbage: one that’s good to eat raw, the Sugarloaf, and this one that’s good for cooking. So here it is, a really good rainy night comfort food sort of dish that’s not quite a Hungarian cabbage stew (and yes, it was cold and raining when I ate this, hello autumn).

Savoy & potato stew

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 big blobs of butter
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2kg potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • half a Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1l water
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 2 more big blobs of butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons sweet paprika powder
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter over a low heat in a soup pot.
  2. Gently sautée the leek and garlic until soft, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add the potato, cabbage and water and stir through. You can reduce the amount of water to add, if you like, but this dish is meant to be quite liquidy. I drained some off when I served it.
  4. Stir in the cardamom and cumin, salt to taste, then simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

While the stew is cooking, prepare the roux (basically a thickener).

  1. Melt the extra butter in a pan and stir the flour to make a paste. Mix well and constantly.
  2. After a couple of minutes, start adding some of the water from the stew to the paste, a tablespoon or two at a time, stirring constantly until it reaches a nice saucey consistency, not too runny and not too thick.
  3. Take it off the heat and stir in the sweet paprika.
  4. Pour the roux into the soup pot and simmer for another 2 minutes.
  5. Serve as a side dish, or as a stew on its own.

Notes

A waxy potato would be best in this recipe, but I only had Sebago at the time I made this one. They were OK, but I overcooked them slightly and Sebagos are less forgiving.

22 March, 2018 0 comment
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Thanks to LocalTable subscriber Sue N for this one. It’s just baked pumpkin, but baked pumpkin done soooo well.

I think my greatest shortcoming as a cook is my blandness. I just can’t be bothered, but when you can make something as basic as baked pumpkin this good for not much extra effort, I feel motivated to start thinking about the everyday a little differently.

Baked dukkah pumpkin

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 1kg pumpkin, peeled and chopped into large-ish chunks
  • 2 tablespoons dukkah
  • a hunk of lard
  • sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Steam the pumpkin chunks for about 20 minutes or until about half cooked.
  2. While the pumpkin is steaming, preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  3. Let the chunks cool enough to handle, then roll in the dukkah to coat.
  4. Throw the hunk of lard in a baking dish. Put the baking dish in the oven just long enough to melt the lard.
  5. Place the dukkah-covered pumpkin in the baking dish and coat with the lard.
  6. Bake the pumpkin for about another 30 minutes, or until pumpkin is fully cooked.
  7. If you’re using the pine nuts, lightly roast them in a frying pan on the stove while the pumpkin is in the oven.
  8. Serve as a side dish, sprinkled with pine nuts and with sour cream.

8 March, 2018 0 comment
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There are potatoes in the LocalTable boxes every week. Firstly, because they’re always available, but secondly, who doesn’t eat potatoes?? Well, apparently, some people aren’t big potato eaters. I know! I was shocked too!

A subscriber mentioned they didn’t really know what to do with them. Well, potatoes do EVERYTHING. They go with EVERYTHING. Best of all… kids LOVE THEM and they’re filling. Unless you have some kind of dietary problem that excludes you from eating potatoes, you will find a way to eat them that you love. I grew up on floury, peeled, boiled potatoes that sometimes had black bits in them. I hate boiled potatoes, so I don’t eat them boiled. Maybe sometimes, but only if they’re small and with the skin on. I often mash them, though. Don’t like mash? Make chips. Don’t like chips? Bake them. Don’t like them baked? Dice them and chuck them in a casserole. And that’s just the very basics.

So here’s a potato recipe and it’s a bit more interesting than the basics. I almost never peel these spuds. They are grown from organically certified seed potatoes that Mick drives down to Victoria to collect. He’s not a certified organic grower himself, but he does grow following organic principles, so eat the peel. A good scrub is enough.

Creamy potato & ham bake

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes, scrubbed, thinly sliced
  • 2 big tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground (grating it yourself from the nut is better)
  • 1/4 cup leg ham, diced (get the good stuff from Dewsbury's Pork or another good pastured pork producer)
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped (or any herb you like)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup tasty cheese, grated (or any cheese you like)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.
  2. Grease a shallow baking dish that is just big enough so the potatoes aren’t piled too thickly.
  3. Roughly layer the potatoes in the dish. Sprinkle the ham and chives over the top.
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a very low heat.
  5. Gradually add the flour while whisking to form a paste. It will probably just turn into a squishy ball.
  6. Gradually add the milk, continually mixing with the whisk, then do the same with the stock. You can add some salt at this point, but I find store-bought stock is salty enough.
  7. Mix in the nutmeg. Keeping the heat very low, let the mixture thicken, while stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
  8. Pour the creamy mixture over the potatoes, ham and chives.
  9. Bake for around 30 minutes, perhaps longer depending on how big the dish is and what it’s made of, until the potatoes are soft.
  10. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese. Place it under the griller until it browns on top.
  11. Serve as a side dish.

Notes

This works just as well without the ham, or you could add other vegetables to it for a variation.

22 February, 2018 0 comment
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Not a great fan of cabbage, me. But this Sugarloaf variety might just turn me around!

When Fraser from Flood & Drought came up with snake beans and Sugarloaf cabbage (as well as his consistently delicious carrots) for the boxes, I figured it was best to ask him what to do with them.

He sent me a photo of his dinner that night and a rough method. He’d used an Ottolenghi recipe as a guide. I then put a slight twist on it, because I had a couple of different ingredients available. You will probably put your own twist on this version, depending on what you have available.

That’s the right way to cook: ingredients first, recipe second. Don’t have an ingredient? Use something else! Just keep it simple and you can’t go wrong.

I reckon you can split this between 2 for a meal, or between 4 as a side dish. I lightly marinated and pan fried some steak to medium rare (actually got it right this time), sliced it and plonked it on top of the stir fry. Delish.

It’s also really quick. As Fraser said: the brown rice takes about 45 minutes to cook, but after that it’s only 10 minutes for the rest. You can put the rice on and go shower/shave/hang out the washing, so it’s essentially a 15 minute meal if you use black bean sauce from a jar. That gets my vote.

Stir fried snake beans and sugarloaf

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Serves: 2 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • generous slurp of rice bran oil (don't use olive oil, as it will burn and smoke)
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 Sugarloaf cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch snake beans, cut into 10cm lengths
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and cut into thin 10cm strips
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional, the black bean sauce I used is garlic-y enough)
  • generous dollop of black bean sauce (get a good one)
  • 2 green onions, chopped for garnish (or coriander or anything you feel like)

Instructions

  1. Heat a wok. Make sure it’s HOT.
  2. Add the oil, swish it around.
  3. Working quickly, chuck in the rice, cabbage, beans and carrots and garlic if using. Keep it moving, keep it moving… stir, scrape, flip, mix.
  4. Plonk in the black bean sauce, keep stirring, scraping, flipping and mixing for a few minutes. Don’t let the cabbage lose its colour. If it’s starting to look grey, get the wok off the heat.
  5. Serve with a sprinkle of green onion on top.

Notes

I don't even have a wok. I used a big saucepan and it still came out great. Whatever you use, just make sure it's really hot. We're not after a gentle, slow sizzle here. It's quick and frenetic.

8 February, 2018 0 comment
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Bushfire pumpkin is a beautifully savoury variety, making it popular for cooking the American favourite, pumpkin pie. Most people here tend to go for the good ol’ Butternut, but it’s a very sweet vegetable, better suited to soups.

The size and shape of this pumpkin also lends itself really well to stuffing. This is a recipe that Tim from Queen Street Growers gave me and just over half a pumpkin fed three of us. The skin is thin and also great to eat. There was nothing left on our plates, which in itself is a small miracle, as my kids often reject pumpkin.

This recipe uses quinoa, but you can use any grain you like. Rice is a go-to choice, but give any grain a go. You can also use pretty much anything else to go in the stuffing. I just grabbed whatever I had in the fridge, so that’s what I’ve listed in the ingredients below. Tim says he’s mixed through some sliced pork sausages and it was terrific. Really, you can do anything with this recipe.

Stuffed Bushfire pumpkin

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 1 x Bushfire pumpkin, topped and bottomed, halved laterally, seeds removed
  • some olive oil
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 silverbeet leaves, well chopped, including stems
  • 2 medium mushrooms, chopped
  • sprinkle of dried mixed herbs
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
  • more olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Coat the pumpkin halves with the oil and season with the salt and pepper. Place them cut side up on a baking tray and bake for at least 40 minutes. The skin should be starting to brown and the pumpkin should be very soft, but not mushy.
  3. While the pumpkin is baking, thoroughly rinse the quinoa, then cook similarly to rice, gently boiling with twice the quantity of water until it is all absorbed (and don’t go outside to water the garden and forget about it on the stove like I did).
  4. When the water has been absorbed, take the quinoa off the heat and use a fork to lightly fluff it as it cools.
  5. Boil the kettle.
  6. Put the silverbeet in a large pot or bowl. After the kettle boils, pour the hot water over the silverbeet. Give it a bit of a swoosh around until the leaves are wilted and take on a rich colour. This should only take a couple of minutes, max. Strain the silverbeet and rinse in cold water. Let it drain.
  7. Combine the silverbeet and other ingredients, except the olive oil, in a bowl.
  8. When the pumpkin halves are cooked, remove them from the oven and spoon in the stuffing. Generously drizzle with olive oil. If anything, I found the dish a bit dry, so use as much oil as you like. Maybe make a dressing!
  9. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes to warm through the stuffing.
  10. Serve with a fresh garden salad.

Notes

The pumpkin halves hold their shape well and are easy to cut into quarters (or eighths) to serve either as a main dish or a side.

18 January, 2018 0 comment
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I’m still working eggplant out. So many people I know absolutely love it and relish its summer arrival. I’m dubious, but I’m determined to discover what my friends love about it. I’ve cooked some pretty bleargh eggplant in my time, but as I keep saying: I am not a cook.

But this is community supported agriculture and we must eat what we receive in the box! So I turned to Tim and Tobie of Queen Street Growers (ex-chefs at The River, turned market gardeners) for a foolproof, easy-as way to cook eggplant and this is what they gave me.

The great thing about this recipe is you get to decide how much you want of just about all the ingredients. Add as much garlic, ginger and chilli as you want. No need to be precise, just bung some in and see how it comes out. Adjust it for next time, if you want to.

I’ve also discovered there’s quite a debate around whether or not to salt the eggplant before cooking it. Salt extracts moisture and tenderises, but when I asked Tobie, she said it’s uneccesary and she doesn’t salt eggplant. So I didn’t! And it came out fine.

Stay tuned for more adventures in eggplant.

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Serves: 2-4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants, cut into approx 1 cm pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or finely grated
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • chilli (fresh, dried, flakes... whatever, just add the chilli however you like chilli)
  • small quantity of oil (peanut or ricebran is good, don't use olive)
  • soy sauce or tamari for drizzling
  • coriander, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gently heat the oil in your favourite frying pan. You won’t need much, just enough to thinly cover the pan.
  2. Chuck in the chopped eggplant. It should gently but determinedly sizzle, not crackle, when it hits the oil. Stir or toss to coat all the eggplant and fry until almost cooked and starting to look a little golden, around 15 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat down a little and add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Don’t let the garlic burn.
  4. If necessary, tip the eggplant onto some paper towels to drain excess oil.
  5. Serve with steamed rice and drizzle with soy sauce or tamari (only a little) and a generous sprinkle of coriander, if you like coriander (I didn’t have any when I made this).

Notes

This can be eaten as a side dish, or add some tofu or chicken to the rice and it's an entire meal.

4 January, 2018 0 comment
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This recipe was suggested by another LocalTable subscriber, Mellissa, who also happens to be a friend of mine. A few weeks ago, she sent me a recipe for caramelised fennel, but I never got around to trying it. When she sent this one to me, I said “what’s with you and caramelising stuff?” to which she replied “um hello… sugar and butter”.

Obvious, really.

When I made this, I forgot to put in the cumin. It was deliciously scrummy without it, but I will make sure I try it with the cumin next time.

Again, this is super easy. Again, don’t peel the carrots and parsnips. Just give them a scrub and you’re good to go. Unless stated otherwise, all the food in the boxes is grown without the use of industrial chemicals.

I ate this with a friend for lunch, straight off the plate with our fingers after photographing them. This meant they were warm not hot, which was lovely. If you served them with a little less drizzle, they would make a great finger food at a party, I reckon.

Caramelised carrots & parsnips

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch baby carrots, tops trimmed (or if only big carrots are available, cut lengthways into halves)
  • 4 medium parsnips, tops trimmed, cut lengthways into quarters
  • 2 big blobs of butter (don't hold back)
  • 2 big spoons of honey (can't have too much)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • fresh rosemary leaves to sprinkle

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter and honey together in a medium to large saucepan. Stir in the cumin.
  3. Take off the heat and chuck in the carrots & parsnips. Toss around to fully coat them in the mixture.
  4. Transfer onto the baking tray, making sure the vegetables are in a single layer, and pour the butter & honey mixture over them.
  5. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then check their progress. They should be moist and tender, but not squishy. I did a total of 25 minutes, but everyone’s oven is different.
  6. Serve on a beautiful white platter, drizzled with some of the butter & honey mixture from the baking tray and sprinkled with a few rosemary leaves.
4 January, 2018 0 comment
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