I think my favourite way of cooking vegetables is to roast them. I love the delicious slightly burnt, slightly caramel, slightly olive-y (I use olive oil when I roast vegetables) flavour that roasting creates. Although I am happy with a big dish of unadorned, unadulterated roasted vegetables, sometimes it is good to mix things up a bit. Initially, I planned to make this using quinoa – something I love – but unfortunately, the only quinoa I could find in my local supermarket was one of those pre-flavoured ones, whereas all I wanted was the grains so that I could add my own flavour. In the end I settled for bulgar wheat, but this would also work with quinoa, cous cous or even pasta, if you wanted. This makes enough for about 6 to 8 servings and would be great alongside a braaii (or BBQ for those of you who, unlike me, did not grow up in southern Africa!). The cup measurement below is based on a 250 ml mug equalling one cup.
What you’ll need:
1 medium aubergine
1 red pepper
1 orange or yellow pepper
A generous handful of mushrooms
A generous handful of cherry tomatoes
Lots of olives
1 1/2 cups uncooked bulgar wheat
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh or dried herbs, such as thyme or oregano (if fresh, they will need to be chopped finely; I used dried herbs for the roasted veg and then fresh when seasoning the final dish)
Pepper and salt (I don’t always use salt, so just adjust the amount you use, or don’t use any, according to your preferences)
What to do:
1. Cut the aubergine into small chunks and then leave to soak in very salty, cold water for at least two hours. Soaking the aubergines in salty water will draw the moisture out of the aubergine, helping them to cook properly later.
2. Chop the courgettes, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes into small chunks, all about the same size as the chunks of aubergine (I had bite-size cherry tomatoes and just aimed to make everything about that size). Drain the aubergines and give them a quick rinse in a colander under running water and then put them in a large bowl with the chopped courgettes, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes.
3. Put the oven on to pre-heat at gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F).
4. Generously drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the vegetables, sprinkle pepper and salt (if you’re using salt) over the olive oil and lemon juice and then add a large bunch of fresh herbs, finely chopped, or about a teaspoon of dried herbs to the bowl before mixing everything together thoroughly. Feel free to use fresh lemon juice if you’re not as lazy as me (but if you are, the pre-done lemon juice works just as well!). Try to make sure every vegetable chunk is reasonably well coated in the oil and lemon juice.
5. Spread the vegetables in a single layer in a large roasting tray (I ended up using two trays to make sure they stayed in a single layer) and then roast in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about an hour until fully cooked. During this time, you will need to mix the vegetables round in the pans a couple of times to ensure that they all cook evenly.
6. Whilst the vegetables are roasting, cook the bulgar wheat in a large pot of boiling water (just follow the instructions on the packet if you’re not sure) until soft. Then drain the bulgar wheat and put it in a large bowl (apologies for the bad photo – the steam from the cooked bulgar wheat really messed up the many photos I tried to take of this step…).
7. When the vegetables are fully cooked, put them into the bowl with the bulgar wheat, add the olives, and then drizzle more olive oil and lemon juice into the bowl and add more herbs and salt and pepper to taste (if you’re very observant, you may notice that I did not follow this exact sequence when I made this and took photos – in fact, I nearly forgot the olives which I added after the lemon juice). Mix everything in the bowl together thoroughly. Before serving, taste the salad and mix in more olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, pepper or salt according to taste. This is good both hot or cold.