Nothing says autumn quite like a traybake. They work in other seasons, too, of course, but to me they make most sense when filled with the root vegetables of autumn. Piled into a large oven tray and roasted with all manner of sweetness and spice, these robust vegetables – celeriac and beetroot, say, carrots, swede and squash – soften, mellow and take on the flavours of everything they’re cooked with. In doing so, they become the definition of comfort food. As we pile around the table in an effort to gain similar comfort, there’s also something reassuring about being able to put one dish in the middle of the table from which everyone can help themselves.
Five-a-day toad-in-the-hole (pictured above)
Here I’ve replaced the traditional sausage “toads” with hearty root vegetables. I love that this dish ticks the “five-a-day” box, but if need be use either celeriac or swede, rather than both. Whatever vegetables you end up using (parsnips and carrots also work well), just keep the total net weight the same as listed here. The mushroom gravy is well worth the effort, but if you want to save time, by all means use shop-bought instead.
Prep 30 min
Cook 1 hr 40 min
For the batter
4 large eggs
2 tbsp English mustard
230g plain flour, sifted
4 tbsp sunflower oil
200g cherry tomatoes, left whole
2 sprigs rosemary
For the filling
½ large celeriac (480g), peeled and cut into 6 wedges (450g net weight)
2 beetroot (350g), peeled and cut into 8 wedges each (300g)
½ large swede (350g), peeled and cut into 12 wedges (320g)
75ml olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp maple syrup
For the mushroom gravy (optional)
30g dried porcini
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped (220g)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2½ tbsp flour
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1½ tbsp (5g) chives, cut into 1cm lengths
Put the porcini in a heatproof bowl and pour over 800ml just-boiled water. Cover with a plate and leave to steep for at least 20 minutes, while you get everything else ready.
For the batter, in a large bowl vigorously whisk the eggs, milk and mustard for about a minute, until good and foamy. In a second large bowl, combine the flour with a teaspoon of salt, pour in the egg mixture and whisk again, until smooth. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put all the root vegetables, the olive oil, tomato paste, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and good grind of pepper in a large, roughly 34cm x 26cm roasting tin. Toss to coat and combine, roast for 20 minutes, then gently stir through the maple syrup and roast for 15 minutes more, until everything has softened and is nicely coloured. Transfer the vegetables and their flavourful oil to a bowl and give the roasting tin a rinse and a dry.
Add the sunflower oil to the wiped out tin and put in the oven for six minutes, to heat up. Working quickly and carefully, remove the hot tin from the oven and pour in the batter. Top evenly with the roasted veg mixture, the whole cherry tomatoes and rosemary sprigs, then bake for 20 minutes. Turn down the heat to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and cook for 25 minutes more.
Meanwhile, make the gravy. Put the oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for seven minutes, until softened and browned. Add the garlic, tomato paste and rosemary, cook for a minute more, then stir in the flour so it coats everything. Slowly pour in the porcini and their soaking liquid, stirring constantly to avoid lumps, then add a teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of pepper, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium, leave to cook for 12 minutes, then add the vinegar and cook for five more minutes, or until thickened to a gravy. Keep warm on a very low heat until you’re ready to serve.
Stir two-thirds of the chives into the gravy and sprinkle the rest over the toad-in-the-hole. Serve warm from the tin, with the gravy in a bowl or gravy boat alongside.
Curried butternut and coconut gratin
This tastes a bit like a katsu curry in gratin form, and needs only a crunchy salad alongside.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
1 x 400ml can full-fat coconut milk (reserve 2 tbsp to serve)
1 banana shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
15g piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 plum tomatoes
1 tbsp medium curry powder
¾ tbsp tomato paste
1 large butternut squash, halved, seeds scooped out and discarded or saved for toasting, then cut widthways into 2-3mm slices – use a mandoline, if you have one (850g net weight)
30g coconut flakes
1 tbsp maple syrup
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
For the topping
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large chilli, cut into thin rounds
15 fresh curry leaves (ie, from 1-2 sprigs)
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put the first six ingredients in a blender with a teaspoon and a half of salt and blitz smooth. Arrange the squash slices in a round, 28cm cast-iron pan or baking dish, then pour over the curry coconut milk mixture.
In a small bowl, mix the coconut flakes with the maple syrup and a good pinch of salt, and set aside.
Cover the cast-iron pan or dish with foil, bake for 60 minutes, then remove the foil, drizzle over the oil, cover with the coconut flake mix and bake for 10 minutes more. Turn the oven to a high grill setting, then grill for four or five minutes, until nicely browned on top.
While the gratin is baking, make the topping. Put the oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chilli and fry for 90 seconds, swirling the pan so it doesn’t catch, then add the curry leaves and fry for another 30 seconds, until the leaves are crisp (careful, they might spit). Strain the chilli and curry leaves through a sieve set over a heatproof bowl to collect the oil.
Drizzle the aromatic oil and the reserved two tablespoons of coconut milk over the gratin, then sprinkle on the chilli and curry leaves and serve with the lime wedges for squeezing over.
Berbere-spiced chicken, carrots and chickpeas
Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend with a fair kick, so use less here if you’re not that into heat. This is a complete meal in a tray, but you could also serve it with some cooling yoghurt and fluffy white rice.
Prep 25 min
Cook 1 hr 25 min
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped (220g net weight)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
45g coriander, stalks (25g) and leaves (20g) separated, and both roughly chopped
2½ tbsp berbere spice (I use the Bart’s brand)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2½ tbsp runny honey, plus a little extra to finish
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
90ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
800g carrots, peeled and cut into 4-5cm lengths (680g)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained (480g)
8 medium skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs
2-3 oranges – 1 left whole, the others juiced, to get 100ml
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put the onion, garlic, coriander stalks, berbere spice, tomato paste, honey, a tablespoon of vinegar, four tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon and three-quarters of salt and a good grind of pepper in a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste.
Scrape this into a large, roughly 34cm x 26cm roasting tray and add the carrots, chickpeas, chicken, orange juice and 150ml water. Toss everything together to coat and combine, then arrange the thighs skin side up on top, so they’re just nestled in the mix.
Tightly cover the tray with foil, bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 40 minutes more, rotating the tin once halfway, until everything is cooked through and nicely coloured. Remove from the oven and leave to settle slightly for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, segment the whole orange and roughly chop the flesh. Put this in a medium bowl with the coriander leaves, the last two tablespoons each of vinegar and oil, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and mix to combine.
To serve, spoon the coriander salsa all over the top of the chicken and serve directly from the tray.