A friend of mine was renovating her home recently and removed the oven from her kitchen, to give herself more room.
I was really surprised that she thought it so unnecessary.
On quizzing her she said, “I never bake or do roast dinners; what do I need it for?”
I almost burst trying to refrain from listing out all the wonderful things that she will be missing out on; sticky roast chicken wings, whole onions wrapped in tin foil with a sprinkling of sugar and roasted until they are soft, sweet and sticky, not to mention trays of biscuits and the smell of freshly baked bread in the house.
I went home, turned on my oven and roasted a big tray of sweet potato sticks with red onions and lots of herbs sprinkled on top.
I did not peel the sweet potatoes because keeping the skin on allows more nutrients such as fibre and potassium, as well as vitamins to stay in the vegetables.
When sweet potatoes are boiled the water dissolves more of these nutrients which are then poured down the sink.
I roast food because roasting leads to a lovely caramel flavour, the natural sugars in vegetables and meat turn nutty and richly sweet, giving them a golden colour and crispy exterior.
I also choose to roast dishes out of laziness.
Once something is in the oven and you know how long it will take you are free to potter about the house doing other things.
The plum and red onion chutney recipe provided is great.
It does not need to be cooked as long as if it were on the hob, as the heat hits it more evenly.
When you have the bubbling liquid in a saucepan you need to constantly stir, as the bottom is getting very hot and the rest is not exposed to the heat at all.
As I sat and ate my nicely caramilised, beautifully golden sweet potato I thought of all the things my friend will miss out on without her oven.
Sweet potatoes with red onion, feta and fillets of fish
4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into chips
2 red onions, sliced
a dash of rapeseed oil
2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of chilli powder
150g of feta, cheese crumbled
4 fillets of whiting
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
8 slices of chorizo
a bunch of parsley, chopped
Toss the sweet potatoes and red onion in some rapeseed oil, seasoning, cinnamon and chilli powder.
Place into an oven heated to 200 degrees and roast for 35 minutes, shaking the tray every now and then.
On another tray place the fillets of fish and lay the slices of lemon and the slices of chorizo on top of the fish.
Season and place into the oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
Flake the fish and toss it and the chorizo through the sweet potatoes. Crumble the feta on top and sprinkle with some parsley.
This dish consists of eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce. The toasted cumin and chilli give it depth and a little spice.
A dash of rapeseed oil
1 onion, finly chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp of paprika
1 tsp of cumin seeds
2 tsp of ground cinamon
2 tsp of honey
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
200g of feta, crumbled
4 pita breads, toasted and sliced
Heat a dash of oil in a large pan and salute the onion until it is turning translucent.
Add the garlic and chilli and continue frying on a low heat until the garlic is about to change colour.
Add the paprika, cumin and tomatoes to the pan, half fill the empty tomato tin with water and add this too and leave to simmer away for about 15 minutes.
You can make the sauce ahead of time and leave it an hour or two or even over night. The flavour improves dramatically with a bit of time.
If you are a lazy chopper you can also roughly chop the onions and garlic then blend the sauce at the end.
It is often a quicker alternative but gives you a slightly textured different dish.
Crack an egg into a small bowl, then gently slip the egg into the tomato sauce. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Crumble the feta over the whole lot.
Place the whole pan into the oven and bake at 200 degrees until the egg whites are firm and the yolks have thickened but are not hard.
Scoop the eggs onto a warm plate and serve with the tomato sauce and pita bread. Sprinkle with parsley or coriander or a little of both.
Roasted red onion and plum jam
12 medium plums, stoned and quartered
4 red onions, finely sliced
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
a small bunch of rosemary, chopped
2 tsp of caraway seeds
125 mls of cider vinegar
zest of 2 lemons, then one of then sliced thinly
200g of brown sugar
Put everything except the sugar into an ovenproof dish and mix well.
Place in the oven and roast for an hour then add your sugar and seasoning and cook for another 35 minutes.
Gently pour the chutney into sterlised jars, label and allow to cool.
Lemon and caraway sweet bites
110g of butter, at room temperature
110g of caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
220g of flour
5 tsp of caraway seeds
zest of 4 lemons
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
Line a baking tray.
Beat the butter and sugar until pale in colour.
Slowly add the egg.
Sift the flour and add it with the lemon zest and four tea spoons of the caraway seeds, beating until well mixed.
Roll into balls about the size of a walnut and place apart on a lined baking tray. Press with a fork.
Sprinkle the rest of the caraway seeds on each and press with a fork in the opposite direction.
Bake for 10 minutes until golden.
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