What is more studenty than throwing a bunch of freezer food on a tray, sticking it in the oven for half an hour, hopefully not forgetting about it while it’s roasting, and having a nice-tasting meal with just one minute of active time?
With just 15, maybe 20, extra minutes, you can exchange ultra-processed sausages, fish fingers, and chicken nuggets with fries for roast potatoes, vegetables, and protein of your choice.
Personally, I opted for baby potatoes, radishes, and asparagus, as they are in season at the moment, and I topped it off with feta, whose saltiness was complemented by a drizzle of honey.
But the beauty of this recipe is how loose and flexible it is. Every single ingredient can be adjusted and substituted for your current favourite.
Potatoes – the bedrock of the recipe
Some of us have strong opinions about potatoes and have a specific type preferred above all else – Tesco’s Maris Piper potatoes are always a good choice for roasting – but some of us also like to experiment and try new types. We can call buying whatever type of potato is on sale a taste experiment and not just saving money, right?
I prefer my potatoes thoroughly washed but unpeeled. The skin gets slightly crispy and adds a nice texture to the dish. Chop your potatoes small, so that they will be done in 30 minutes, and you won’t have to preboil them. We want an easy meal, proper hour-an-a-half-long peeled, soaked, boiled, and roasted potatoes have their time and place, but it is not during a student’s weeknight dinner.
As for salting them, wait until the potatoes are done and you take the tray out of the oven. If you salt them before roasting, the salt will draw water out of them and onto the tray, spoiling the roasting process. We want to keep all the moisture inside so that the outside gets brown and crispy.
Vegetables – strive for a rainbow
To eat the rainbow might just be the simplest and most effective advice when it comes to picking vegetables. Try to get in as many different colours as you can, and you can’t go wrong. Different colours mean higher levels of specific nutrients and therefore specific health benefits.
Pink radishes are a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C, and they can help with reducing the risk of diabetes. Green asparagus is likewise high in antioxidants and helps lower blood pressure.
As aesthetic as monochrome dishes look, incorporating a variety of colours is the best way to cover a range of nutritional health benefits. Choose anything that appeals to you and is in season. Peppers, aubergines, broccoli, and courgettes are all great options.
Then wash everything and chop into small pieces, toss with oil and any spices you want, and let it roast in a preheated oven on 200°C (gas mark 6) for about half an hour. Don’t forget to toss it halfway through to avoid any burning.
What about protein?
Despite the high and highly beneficial content of fibre, vegetables are not the best source of protein, if you don’t count chickpeas, lentils, and beans, of course.
Here you have a couple of options based on your dietary preferences and how much time you have.
You can crumble feta or cheaper Greek salad cheese over the vegetables for the last 10 minutes in the oven. You can also fry some halloumi cheese on a pan, or crack a couple of eggs and boil them, fry them, or scramble them – anything works.
For a vegan option, you can add tofu to the vegetable mix before roasting it or fry it on a pan.
You can also mix up a yoghurt dip to add extra protein. Simply mix white yoghurt with salt, pepper, a dash of lemon juice, a teaspoon of mustard, a sprinkle of dill and maybe some finely chopped cucumber if you’re feeling fancy and want to evoke a tzatziki vibe.
Any white yoghurt will do here. Try and look for a yoghurt with live cultures for gut health, and high protein. You can get yoghurts containing as much as 10 grams of protein in 100 grams. Soya and coconut are good vegan alternatives.
And there it is – a full meal with lots of fibre and protein ready in 40 minutes with just 10 minutes of active time if you get your chopping skills down.
Leftovers keep well too. Just warm them in the oven for 10 minutes and they will be as good as when you took them out of the oven the day before.
Prep time: 10 minutes.
Cooking time: 30 minutes.
Skill level: ★☆☆☆☆
- Potatoes (choose any type you like)
- Vegetables (for example radishes and asparagus)
- Protein (tofu, eggs, cheese…)
- Olive oil (or any cooking oil)
- Spices (for example mixed herbs and chili flakes)
- Black pepper
- Honey (optional)
- White yoghurt (soya or coconut as vegan substitutes)
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp mustard
- Fresh or dried dill (optional)
- Cucumber (optional)
Preheat your oven to 200°C or gas mark six and prepare a roasting tray.
Wash all your potatoes and vegetables and pat them dry, then dice them into small pieces. The smaller they are, the quicker they will be done. If you’re using tofu, squeeze out excess water from it, cube it, and add it to the vegetables.
Put all the chopped potatoes and vegetables onto the prepared tray. Pour some olive oil over them, then add the spices you’ve chosen and black pepper. Mix it all together so that everything is covered in oil and spices. You can use a spatula for this, but it’s easier just getting your hands oily.
Put the tray in the oven and let it roast for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
In the meantime, prepare your dressing. Mix white yoghurt with a pinch of salt and pepper, one teaspoon of lemon juice, and one teaspoon of mustard. Then add dill and chopped cucumber if using. If you’re frying halloumi, tofu, or eggs, use this time for it.
Five minutes before the vegetables are done, you can crumble feta cheese over them if you’re using it and drizzle over a little honey. Then sprinkle salt over the vegetables and put them back in the oven.
After half an hour in the oven, the vegetables should be soft and crispy. Serve them with the yoghurt dressing drizzled over them or in a separate bowl.
Featured Image Credit: Simi Borovska
Fourth year journalism student at the University of Stirling and Brig's politics editor.
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