Hasselback Al Forno, Jamie Oliver, VEG
It’s Wednesday night and Cian’s coming over for band practice (duo practice is probably more accurate). I’m on cooking duties and had my eye on several recipes from the Jamie Oliver VEG book that SPUD got at Christmas. One picture really stood out. It resembled a Thanksgiving gourd – those weird table centrepieces with pilgrim hats and squashes – and was very inviting. Yes, I decided that tonight I would be making Hasselback Al Forno: Root Veg Galore, Wilted Spinach, Lentils & Yoghurt Ripple.
I’d glanced at the recipe earlier that day and it sounded super-easy. But super-easy it was not. Even normal-easy it was not. The prep was painstaking and never-ending as it requires you to slice centimetre incisions into a smorgasbord of vegetables – carrots, onion, butternut squash, potatoes and parsnip. There was also meant to be a beetroot or two in there, but seeing them in Tesco all vacuum-packed and alien, I decided to give them the figurative chop instead.
I drop the needle on James Blake’s Assume Form and get peeling and slicing. There’s a great hack (as in shortcut, not cutting method) you can do here by placing a wooden spoon alongside the vegetables. The spoon handle catches the blade going all the way through making accordion carrots and parsnips. It’s time-consuming but you get into rhythm. Just as I’m starting on the potatoes, Cian arrives!
Since it’s getting on, I ask Cian to pitch in by making the dressing. He takes the pestle and mortar and starts pestling garlic cloves like there’s no tomorrow, adding stripped thyme, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Which should really be white wine vinegar but whoopsie. As he works away I roughly hew a butternut squash before quartering half of it, as well as an onion.
Veggies are arranged in a roasting tin and drizzled with the dressing before being shook to get it all coated. These are placed in the oven for an hour. TBH the dressing looked… odd. TBBH (to be brutally honest), the garlic resembled mucus as a spooned it out over the veg.
At this point I reread the ingredients list and realise I need tinned lentils and not dried, so I immediately start boiling some. Worried that the recipe will miss out on the tinned juices, I reserve some cooking water while draining them and add a tin of butter beans Cian finds in the press (Best until Feb 2020! It’s fate! Beany fate!) and the wine. What type? Red.
Judging by the pan it’s a lot of liquid, so I sieve some at the sink and return it to the boil. I add 100 g’s of spinach and let it wilt but there’s still too much liquid, dammit! More sieving, more simmering. Once the spinach is ready I season with salt and pepper, and tip into a casserole dish. I crack open some natch yog and drizzle it over, attempting the ‘ripple’ that Jamie describes but coming away with giant globs.
By the time the veggies are placed on a suitably rustic wooden board (depressingly also made by Mr Oliver) everyone is absolutely fa-mished. When SPUD and Cian are served no one really says anything as I desperately scan their faces for some sign of approval – it never comes…
We all agree the veggies tasted nice (Cian made the dressing so that’s no consolation to me) and while I loved the hassleback cut and would do it again with saucy or cheesy dishes to catch in the ridges, others who shall go unnamed thought they were more hassle than they were worth. WAHEY! Worse, the lentils were described as “tasting chemical-y” and “a bit weird.” You can’t win ‘em all.