Alice Zaslavsky’s cheesy root vegetable bake recipe: start with a cold oven and finish on a high

In her weekly food column, the cook and author Alice Zaslavsky shares her method of cooking the earth’s vegetables, as well as a recipe for Tian grated.

One of the best tips to cook your vegetables is this: if the plant is growing above the surface (stems or leaves! ), Start it off warm; if it’s mostly underground (roots or tubers! ), Start with cold.

This is a good thing to remember when boiling or simmering: broccoli must be placed in boiling water, while spuds should be brought to boiling. It also applies to the roasted vegetables. Your slugs may benefit from a slow start, such as parboil or a cold oven.

It’s because root veggies are more durable, woody, and more durable. It is important to warm the exterior first before breaking down the fibers to ensure that by the time the core has cooked through, the outside hasn’t turned into the consistency of mush.


Rootie Tootie cheesy root vegetable bake

The bake is baked at a cold temperature. This is a good idea because the root vegetable you choose such as carrot, parsnip, swede, etc. – will have the opportunity to soften gently beneath the hot foil ceiling and is then finished with an additional burst of intense heat that causes it to gratinate (that is, turn brown) and crisp a bit on the top.

A traditional tian features an arc of vegetables, but you can play loose in the arrangement if you want. Photograph: Eugene Hyland/The Guardian

The term “tian” refers to the spiral arrangement of the vegetables as well as the earthenware round dishes that they are generally baked in. I prefer to bake my tiTiann in a big cast iron pan that has a handle, and I’m a bit in the arrangement of my vegetables also.

I am in love with how the “tian gratin” looks (and it sounds!) very fancy, yet is extremely simple to create. It’s just about the tessellation process and timing.

When making a tian, remember the two Ts: tessellation and timing. Photograph: Eugene Hyland/The Guardian

The easy addition of a cube of stock enhances the creamy, cheesy sauce. I like “chicken style” ones for convenience and speed.

This is a good recipe to keep in the sleeves for all the root vegetables that are plentiful and reasonably priced in shops currently if you’re getting boxes of veg that are filled with sweet root veg right now.

If you’re in the kitchen on a Saturday, This is the type of food that is a breeze to prepare at the halfway point (up to the point where the vegetables are roasted for an hour) and then served on the following night to have a more quick midweek dinner. Just heat the oven to 180°C (160C fan), remove the foil, and then proceed with that “add the parmesan and gruyere” step.

A pan will hold plenty of heat. However, uncoated castiron will leave a mark on the leftovers (and it’s not the best choice for the pan). Consider using a pie dish made of ceramic in case you’re going to go to the “I’ll finish it later” method, and then transfer the leftovers into a glass container should you require.

Leftovers are great the next day as the gratin sets and soak up all the juices. You can warm it gently in the oven prior to eating.

Makes eight wedgie portions

25 g butter
1kg root vegetables like carrots, parsnip, turnip swede, or radish … be creative!
2-3 waxy potatoes, approximately 400g (sweet potato counts)
One onion brown peeled, cut in half, and peeled again
Two cloves of garlic peeled and then cut finely
Five sprigs of thyme leaves that have been rough picked, plus additional to garnish
50g of parmesan Finely grated
1 “chicken style” stock cube
300ml Pouring Cream (thickened cream that is perfect)
Olive oil to drizzle
100g grated gruyere cheese finely grated

To make the salad with mesclun.
100g mesclun as well as salad leaves, of your you
1 2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Peel potatoes and root vegetables and put these in a bowl with cold water to avoid them from browning. Cut the vegetables in half lengthways and then into 5mm-thick half-circles with a food processor equipped with the blade attachment for slices, or a mandolin or a patient knife. Cut the onion into 5mm-thick half-circles the same way.

Place the bottom in the dish with smaller pieces of bobbly ends of the root veggies and potatoes as an apex, and then sprinkle on half the garlic and the other half of the thyme leaf, as well as the salt and black pepper. Beginning from around the outside of the bowl, place the chopped potatoes and root vegetables laid flat, working in a clockwise fashion until the entire surface of the dishes is completely covered. Set the onion and garlic between the vegetables, spreading equally across the pan. (you don’t want to have a large piece of garlic and onion within one piece!)

Sprinkle half of the parmesan cheese and the remaining leaves of thyme, and sprinkle with salt as well as pepper.

Dissolve the cube of stock in a tablespoon of boiling water. In a bowl, mix the cream and stock. Slowly pour the cream mixture onto the tiaTiannsuring it is in all cracks. Incorporate a few more Thyme sprigs, then drizzle with olive oil, then cover securely with foil.

Put it in a frigorifically cold oven, then turn up the heat at 180C (160C fan) and bake for an hour.

Take the dish out of the oven, peel off the foil, and ensure that the vegetables are tender (if not, then return to the oven until they are cooked). Sprinkle with gruyere as well as the remaining parmesan. Return in the range to bake for about 30 minutes until the bubbling is golden on the top (you could even increase the heat on the grill during the final five minutes to speed up the caramelization).

Take care to remove the tian-gratin from the oven (the edges will become hot) and let it cool for about 15 minutes.

While you wait, make the mesclun salad. Soak the mesclun in water for about 10 minutes, then spin it dry. In the middle of your salad bowl, add the juice of a lemon and extra virgin olive oil. And add salt and pepper according to your preference, whisking using a fork to mix.

To serve, mix the leaves in the dressing, combining them. Pour the pan juices out of the top of the tiaTi and drizzle it over the surface of your dish. Finally, cut it into eight pieces. Serve immediately with mesclun salad.

  • The article was updated on the 28th of June, 2023, to clarify that it is not an all-vegetarian dish.

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