A suitably grand centrepiece for a vegetarian feast
At this time of year, contrary to popular opinion, there are lots of seasonal vegetables to celebrate, including alliums, brassicas, roots and tubers. All of them roast particularly well. Pumpkins and squash are available, stockpiled from the autumn but still prime. I find them so utterly rich, colourful and satisfying. Romanesco, broccoli and cauliflower flourish in the cold weather and when roasted—preferably with a little charred-ness around the edges—produce the most delicious sweet, sour and nutty flavour.
In this recipe, vegetables are roasted whole, and look suitably grand for a table centrepiece—a perfect replacement for roast chicken or a leg of lamb. The lemon and clementine halves roasted with the vegetables become bittersweet—utterly scrumptious squeezed onto the vegetables on your plate. The leaves from the romanesco are delicious finely chopped and sauteed with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice then served on the side.
1 small pumpkin (500g-750g), cut in half, seeds removed
1 large leek
6 cloves of garlic
2 clementines, halved
1 unwaxed lemon, halved
A few sprigs of garden herbs (thyme, marjoram, rosemary)
A glug of olive oil, plus more for serving
For the pesto:
50g shelled pistachios, crushed or chopped into small pieces
80g basil, stalks and leaves finely chopped
50g parmesan, crumbled or grated
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
150ml olive oil
2 tins of cannellini beans (drained) or
250g dried cannellini soaked overnight and boiled until soft
Preheat the oven to 190C. Stand the whole vegetables in a large roasting pan surrounded by the citrus fruit and topped with the garden herbs. Drizzle with olive oil and season, then cover tightly with parchment.
Place in the preheated oven for 45 mins, then remove the parchment. Return the vegetables to the oven for another 15 mins, or until cooked through. Aim to get a bit of charring on the outside of the vegetables towards the end of the cooking process, adjusting the heat as necessary.
Test that each vegetable is cooked by inserting a knife to check the softness. If one vegetable is cooked and charred nicely before another remove it from the oven until the rest catch up. Return any veg to the oven for a final warm-through before serving.
Meanwhile make the pesto by softly pounding all the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar or by simply mixing them together in a bowl.
When the vegetables are almost ready, heat the beans and season well. Serve the vegetables in their dish with a carving knife in the centre of the table. Serve the beans on main course plates drizzled with olive oil and the pesto in a side bowl for people to help themselves.
ALTERNATIVE: This dish also works well with fish roasted alongside the vegetables. A kilo of fish on the bone (gutted and scaled) will feed four. Whole trout, dab or a piece of hake would work well and are good sustainable options due to their current plentiful stocks.
Recipe: Tom Hunt
Images: John Holdship