Back to Basics – Roast Vegetables

Roast Vegetables

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and remember how things started.  Roast chicken and vegetables was one of the first complete meals I cooked my family at the grand old age of 12.  I felt so grown up then, and super happy to have plated up a complete meal to my family.  I don’t know if Mum appreciated it as much.  I have a feeling I made a mess of the kitchen.  She was nice about it, though, and so the tradition of my cooking one main meal a week (complete with sides) began.  This is obviously not the same roasted vegetables as I had prepared way back when, but the evolution of the dish.

This is more of a general idea rather than a specific recipe.  The vegetable you use will depend entirely on what you have at home, and what you like to eat 😛  Sometimes, I may roast potatoes alone, with just some salt and pepper.  Other days, it will be more like above, and I throw things together and hope for the best.  Incidentally, it was a delicious experiment.  There are a couple of things that you should remember.  Firstly, do not overcrowd the pan, It will stew rather than roast if there is no room for the air to circulate.  Secondly, use enough oil to give all the vegetables a light coating, but not so much so that they are swimming in oil. I use a pastry brush to do this.  Remember to cut your root vegetables into even sized pieces.  As I find potato takes longer to cook than pumpkin and sweet potato, I tend to cut these slightly smaller than the sweet potato and pumpkin.  Also beetroot, which can take a bit longer to cook than other vegetables of a similar size, is another vegetable that should be smaller than its friends in the cooking tray.  I always cut these into much smaller pieces than the potatoes, sweet potatoes or pumpkin.   I always salt this dish before cooking, but you can leave this out if you wish.

Just prior to putting in the oven

Just prior to putting in the oven

VARIATIONS: You are limited only by your imagination.   Don’t just roast potatoes, try cauliflower, pumpkin, zucchini, carrots, even sweet corn! Instead of brushing with plain oil, you could make a mixture of melted butter and oil (I use olive on its own), or cooking spray.  As far as seasoning the roast, the sky is the limit, but here are a few of my favourite combinations – Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika to your oil before brushing over vegetables and sprinkle  some extra over the vegetables just before serving;  sprinkle vegetables with salt, lemon rind and lemon pepper before roasting; add 3 or 4  lightly crushed (unpeeled) garlic cloves to the roast after the first 20 minutes has passed, with some rosemary (lovely with a roast lamb); 1 to 2 teaspoons of cumin powder mixed into your oil before brushing over vegetable (very good with roasted cauliflower).

Happy Eating 😛

Back to Basics – Roast Vegetables

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time:  65 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 serves

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch cubes or wedges
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into pieces consistent with the sweet potato
  • 1 medium beetroot, washed and well scrubbed, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, cleaned, top/fronds reserved, bulb sliced into 1cm/0.5 inch slices
  • 1 sweet red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 20 whole brussel sprouts, cleaned
  • 100g/3.5 oz fresh green beans, cleaned and tailed
  • 1 yellow capsicum, cleaned and sliced into 8 to 10 wedges
  • 1/4 cup/125 mL olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin power
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 °C (355 °F).  Place the sweet potato, parsnip, beetroot, fennel bulb , red onion and brussel sprouts into your baking tray.  Using your pastry brush, brush the oil over the vegetables, reserving 1 tablespoon.  Sprinkle with the chilli flakes and cumin powder, salt and pepper.  Toss the vegetables, then roast for 40 minutes.  In the meantime, toss the reserved fennel top, beans and capsicum  with the reserved oil.  Once 40 minutes has elapsed, add the quicker cooking beans, fennel top and capsicum to the rest of the vegetables, making sure to mix well so that the flavours are well incorporated.  Return the try to the oven and cook for a further 25 minutes or until done to your liking.  Serve alongside your favourite roast, with or without gravy.  Enjoy!

Plated up!

Plated up!



Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

This is something I made a while ago.  The beauty of this lovely extract is that it will keep indefinitely, due to the high alcohol content.  All you need is alcohol and vanilla beans.  I actually used bourbon this time around, but any 35% or 70 proof (or stronger) alcohol will work.  It makes a fantastic gift and can even be used as wedding favours.  You can even print pretty labels to place on the bottles to personalise the gift.

VARIATIONS: I use 5 or 6 vanilla bean pods in my extract as I like it quite strong.  You could always reduce the amount to 3 or 4 if you prefer.  Also, the type of alcohol can be varied to change the taste.   Think vanilla rum extract, or vanilla vodka extract.  Or maybe tequila or brandy vanilla extract if more your style.

USES:  While we’re not making this to drink, but rather to enhance our baked treats, there is no rule to say you can’t drink it.  A nip of vanilla laced bourbon would hit the spot right about now.  Or maybe a ‘special’ spiked coffee.  Or, OMG, an adults only milkshake…  You can thank me later.

Happy Tasting 😛


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Infusing time: 2 months

Yield: 250 mL/1 cup, 50 serves

  • 5-6 vanilla beans
  • up to 250 ml/ 1 cup 35% (70 proof) alcohol, I used bourbon
  • 250mL/1 cup capacity glass bottle

Split the vanilla bean pods in half 4/5 of the way along its length.  Place the vanilla beans into the bottle.  Fill the bottle up with your choice of alcohol.  Close bottle and invert a couple of times.  Store in a cupboard or pantry for 2 months before using, inverting the bottle every few days.  As the volume decreases to 1/3 of the bottle, top up the liquid with you choice of alcohol.  You can also add spent vanilla beans used in other recipes to boost the vanilla flavour.


Vanilla Bean Facts

Wikipedia’s take on Vanilla Extract

I Found Free Label Templates Here!  Just download and alter at will.

Vanilla and Star Anise Infused Sugar

Vanilla Star Anise Infused Sugar

Vanilla infused sugar has to be the easiest recipe I know.  It is also tempting to eat it straight from the canister, although you probably shouldn’t.  Every time you open the lid, the heavenly smell of vanilla envelops you.  The hardest part of the recipe is waiting the 3 to 6 weeks for the flavour of the infusion to fully develop.  This is another recipe that you can increase the quantities to give as a gift.  An additional bonus to this recipe is that it utilises a vanilla bean that has already been spent.  That is, you have scraped the delicious caviar out and used it for another luscious morsel.  Instead of throwing away the empty pod, you can utilise it and make some vanilla sugar, vanilla extract or even some vanilla syrup.  Some people like to remove or sift out the solid particulate out of the castor sugar, but I like how it looks left in.  At the last minute, I got creative and decided to add some star anise to my vanilla sugar base to add a little je ne sais quoi.  What a fabulous idea that turned out to be.

VARIATIONS:  Infused sugars are not limited to just vanilla, although vanilla is the most well known.  Cinnamon, cloves, glace ginger, rose petals (organic), violet petals (organic), lavender,fresh rosemary, dried orange, mandarin or lemon peel can all make wonderfully different infused sugars, and they make great gifts.  My favourites are ginger & cardamom infused sugar, and vanilla & star anise infused sugar.

USES: Depending on the flavour, there are a multitude of uses for this delicacy.  Scatter over your crepes, have it in your herbal tea or latte, substituted for regular sugar in your baking,  muddle it in a cocktail or rim the glass with it, mix it with butter and smear it on hot toast or rain it over cookies before baking them.  You could even pour it over Crème Brûlée  before flaming it with a blowtorch.  Yum!

Begin by pouring half your sugar into your storage jar.  Now look at the sugar.  Do not eat the sugar.  This is important.

Push the vanilla beans into the sugar.  Try and spread them out so they can more easily share their perfumed goodness into their environment.

Now top up the jar with more sugar.  Leave about a 2.5cm (or 1″) gap so that you can shake the sugar jar freely.

And here is where I decided to add the star anise.  I would have added it in three steps if I had planned to use it – 1/3 on the bottom or the jar, 1/3 when  half the sugar was added, and the rest after all the sugar was in the jar.  As it was, I just inverted the jar a few more times, and used the handle of my wooden spoon to push the pods deeper into the sugar.

Happy Sprinkling   😛

Vanilla Star Anise Infused Sugar


Preparation time: 5  minutes

Infusing time: 3 to 6 weeks

Yield: 4 1/2 Cups

  • 900 grams/28 oz/ 4 cups caster (superfine) sugar
  • split and spent vanilla bean, caviar used in another recipe
  • 9 – 12 star anise
  • 1 kg/32 oz jar, to store

Place 1/3 of your star anise into you clean and dry jar.  Pour half the sugar (2 cups) into the jar.  Insert your spent vanilla pods into the sugar.  Try and spread the pods so they can come into contact with as much sugar as possible.  Scatter a further 1/3 of the star anise on top of the sugar and vanilla bean pods.  Add the remaining sugar to the jar.  Top the sugar with the last portion of star anise.  Shake the jar.  Store in a cupboard or pantry.  Shake the jar every few days, and start using when flavour has developed to your satisfaction.  If desired, sift out the spices at this time.


Types of Vanilla 

Some Star Anise Information

I Found Free Label Templates Here!  Just download and alter at will.