RECIPE: Pumpkin wedges with pomegranate-dressed beetroot
OKAY, I admit it.
I do have a bit of a thing for beetroot and pumpkin at the moment - and carrots and celery and leeks and cauliflower and fennel and cucumber. (Well, actually I've always had a thing for cucumber.)
I think it is because these are all very meaty vegetables that take spices well and which, when cooked right, make you forget about missing expensive cuts of meat in a diet that's driven by quick-cooking. In fact, a dish like this makes steak-and-three-veg seem like a very pedestrian option.
2 beetroots (about 200g each)
4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs pomegranate molasses
1 tsp ras el hanout
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
700g kent or jap pumpkin, skin on, cut into 2cm wedges
1 handful of mint leaves
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
juice of ½ orange
40g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped.
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200C. Rub the beetroots all over with a bit of oil, then wrap each one individually in foil and roast for 60-70 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven.
When the beetroots are just cool enough to handle, peel them or rub off their skins with the foil you cooked them in. Cut the beetroots into irregular-shaped chunks and place in a bowl. Pour in the pomegranate molasses and toss gently.
While the beetroots are in the oven, mix the ras el hanout with the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Toss the pumpkin wedges in the spice mix and about two tablespoons of the oil. Spread on to a baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes, or until cooked.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the fresh herbs with the orange juice and a final tablespoon of oil.
Dollop the tzatziki on to a large serving platter. Lay the roasted pumpkin wedges on top, followed by the beetroot chunks, holding back any juices. Scatter on the herbs in their orangey dressing, then throw on the pistachios and drizzle over any pomegranate/beetroot juices that are left. Serves 4.
CHEF'S SECRET: Steam is the enemy of golden crispiness. This is why the height of the sides of your roasting trays is so important: high sides tend to contain the steam, so go for trays with low sides.
Matt's top tips
(So blindingly obvious we are often blind to them)
Read and follow the recipe - Sure a recipe can only ever be a guideline, but it's better trying to drive to Gympie with a map than blind intuition
If you must substitute, think about what the role of the previous ingredient was - for example, if you don't have lemon, use vinegar instead (in savoury dishes) or another citrus in sweet dishes but pull back on the sweetness as the lemon would have brought more tartness
Don't substitute in pastry and baking
Keep it simple. Always - every ingredient you add to a salad, pasta sauce or braise increases the risk of things getting out of balance
Use ingredients at room temperature
Prep ahead; be organised - I like to lay out all my ingredients in order of use before cooking to make sure I have everything and enough of everything
Clean as you go - this doesn't just make you look like a kitchen star, it will also help you feel in control and see where you put down the bloody basil
Clean things properly - Don't "boy wash"; be meticulous, do the job properly.
Always preheat the oven or grill before using
Check the temperature of your oven - buy an oven thermometer and make sure your oven is running at 180C when it says it is
Measure things out rather than guess.
Cook by weight, not volume