It’s autumn and the nights are drawing in. Thoughts turn from salads to warming soups and more substantial stews and casseroles. I love a tray bake particularly when I’m a bit pushed for time. I can mix the ingredients, pop it into the oven and just leave it to do its thing. This bake was inspired by my purchases from Ventimiglia’s market at the week-end, plus a few things that I always have in my cupboards.
Ingredients (enough for four hungry cyclists as a main, or 8 hungry cyclists as a side)
- 4 medium fennel, about 1kg (2lb)
- 1kg (2lb) small waxy potatoes, scrubbed, cut into chunks the same size as the tomatoes
- 2 medium onions, roughly sliced
- 500g (1lb) cherry tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1tsp ground cumin
- 2tsp ground coriander
- 3tbsp olive oil
- 500ml (2 cups) tomato passata, plus 250ml (1 cup) filtered water
- 1tbsp tomato paste
- 2tbsp harissa
- 450g (1lb) cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 100g (1 cup) pitted green olives
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1tbsp chopped preserved lemon
- 1tbsp chopped fennel fronds
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark 5.
2. Trim the fennel bulbs of their bases, tops and tough outer layer, reserving any green feathery fronds attached to the stalks. Quarter the bulbs then cut each quarter into 2 wedges. Put these into a large roasting dish.
3. Add the potatoes, onions, cherry tomatoes and garlic. Mix the oil, salt, pepper, cumin and coriander together, trickle over the oil and using clean hands stir everything together. Roast in the oven for 60 minutes, giving everything a good stir after about 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a jug, combine the passata with the water, tomato paste and harissa.
5. When the veg are tender and starting to brown, take the dish out of the oven and add the passata mixture. Stir it in well, deglazing the roasting dish, scraping up any caramelised bits from the base and sides.
6. Add the chickpeas and olives then return the dish to the oven for further 30 minutes or so, until the passata is bubbling and sauce slightly reduced.
7. Check the seasoning, adding more if the dish needs it, and then scatter over the preserved lemon and the reserved fennel fronds – enjoy!
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. You can use other vegetables such as a mix of roughly chopped red, orange or yellow pepper as an alternative to the fennel.
2. Instead of chickpeas, use white beans such as cannellini or butter beans.
3. Eat it with a simple green salad, or a crunchy, Moroccan-style carrot salad.
4. Don’t sweat the quantities, we’re cooking not baking.
5. This dish has a Morrocan flavour due to the spicing but you could easily change this to something you prefer more.
6. This dish tastes better the following day!