I want you to slip on some imaginary shoes – I am assuming you are already dressed – and walk into town. If you are lucky you will notice trees in leaf, with maybe some flower buds ready to burst or are in full, radiant bloom. There may be gardens to admire – crimson clematis scrambling up walls and fences, cool ferns enjoying the shade, window boxes and flower beds rammed with colour, scent and texture. Pleasant isn’t it? Restful, but also exciting to the eye. Nurturing to the soul.
Now, turn a corner. The ‘gardens’ are bare and unkempt. Browns, beiges and greys dominate. Hard landscaping is completely unrelieved by soft planting or soaring trees. You scurry away quickly from this soulless environment, and back around the corner.
Now transport yourself to a popular steak house. It is jolly, the brickwork is on-trend, the music is pumping, the wait staff quick with the menus and drinks. You are in for a good night. A real treat in fact.
Scan the menu for something mid-price and filling: there isn’t much difference in the offerings other than price and cut. The steak, chips and side salad will do nicely, thank you very much. As you wait you look around at all the other diners who have ordered. You observe, and are slightly taken aback by, a sea of brown and beige, of congealing gristle (you are omniscient in this moment and can see onto the plates from above); some patrons sawing away with serrated knives and deep intent. At least they aren’t on their phones, you think. You order, you eat, you are full. You go home to digest, slowly and possibly painfully. Your sleep is interrupted. The next day, as you dash out of the door, late from too many presses of the snooze button, you crave beyond reason freshness. Greenness. Colour.
One last tortured ask from me: replace that night with a visit to that new seasonal restaurant everyone has been talking about. The one that is jolly, with on-trend brickwork, great sounds and terrific, informed service. In you walk – be careful not to knock over the boxes of citrus and bright hot peppers waiting to be taken to the kitchen. You notice that the space is filled with diners eating and very much enjoying plates of vibrantly coloured, fresh, food. Lots of chatter and forks being proffered across tables.
You are handed the menu and it takes an age for you to decide, even though the menu is a hastily written, one-sided sheet. There is so much to choose from: it reads so well and so thoughtfully. There are some meat and fish dishes, but vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds and herbs dominate – even in the meat choices. As you hem and haw, your dining companions laugh at your befuddlement, take away your menu and order for you. Too many beautiful sounding options, you sigh. You dine, you chat, you dip things, you scoop others: you don’t think much about the food other than it is beautiful and tastes uncommonly good for just a bunch of plants. It is easy, it is restful. You sleep sweetly and digest well, awakening with energy and wellbeing. You eat breakfast calmly and without hurry. Work awaits, but you remember to grab that box of roasted rainbow vegetables made for your lunches this week, adding a wee tub of sriracha-doused hummus for good measure.
Am I over-reaching with my scenario?
I really don’t think so.
Plants rock. Treat yourself.
Roasted Rainbow Salad with a Sassy Dressing
The basics are the vegetables, but the dressing makes this craveable. This colourful and simply-made recipe is easily halved, but because it keeps so brilliantly it is a great choice upon which to base a few weekday lunches; change out the cheese for sprouted seeds or beans, cooked beans, or roasted nuts, or tofu. Add a dash of heat to the dressing, too. I’ve deliberately kept this more of a template so that you can easily make this your own.
And yes, you can roast radishes!
Note: This recipes assumes you will be using the best produce available to you. When you go as simple as this, quality really matters. Wash and scrub the vegetables, but keep the skin on. Oh, and if you are lucky enough to be using just-harvested veg, use the leafy tops as herbs! Hopefully – crossed fingers – I will be able to do that soon myself.
Radishes, topped and tailed
Young beetroot, topped and tailed
Young carrots, topped and tailed
Peppers of all colour
— the above to weigh in the region of 2 kg/4 lbs —
3-4 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp date syrup OR 1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp pomegranate syrup/pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Small clove garlic, crushed with a good pinch of flaky salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parsley or other fresh, soft herb/herbs that you like
Feta or goats cheese; lightly toasted nuts and seeds; sprouted seeds or beans; roasted tofu – any or all to add the necessary protein element.
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
2. Trim the vegetables into even-sized pieces.
3. Put the radishes and the peppers together in a bowl and toss with half of the oil; in another bowl do the same with carrots and beetroot. Decant onto two baking trays and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, keeping the beets and carrots in a little longer – about 10 more minutes.
4. While the vegetables are cooking, mix up the dressing by putting all of the remaining ingredients except the herbs and your protein choice(s) in a lidded jar and shaking like mad. The oil from the vegetables should be enough not to need extra oil, but add a couple of tablespoons in the jar if you like.
5. When the vegetable are cooked to your liking – hopefully still with some bite – pop everything, including the tray juices, into a serving bowl or onto a platter and lightly but thoroughly mix together, saving some herbs and protein for the top. Let the vegetables meld with the dressing for about half an hour before eating. Enjoy this rainbow salad at room temperature.