Saltie Cooks with Rukmini
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
Rukmini Iyer’s bestselling ‘The Roasting Tin’ series has been the answer to our cooking woes.
Her cookbooks are full of quick and easy recipes, designed with minimum effort and maximum flavour in mind.
With a new book out, ‘The Roasting Tin Around The World’, we caught up with Rukmini to hear more about her favourite dishes, and the culinary delights that will be on her plate for Christmas.
We love her fuss-free approach, so we’re sharing not one but two of her delicious recipes.
What gave you the idea to do a series of books on roasting tin dishes?
I never quite thought the books would become a series, but I got the idea for the first one from coming home after a day’s work in the kitchen, and realising that more and more I tended to make my dinner in just one roasting tin - five minutes chopping, and letting the oven do the work. Talking to my friends with young children and similarly demanding jobs, I realised there were a lot of people who might enjoy the simplicity of one-tin cooking, enabling you to get a colourful, healthy dinner on the table with minimum effort. The first book had a lot of vegetarian recipes, but as my family are all vegetarian I thought it’d be lovely to follow up with an all vegetarian and vegan book (The Green Roasting Tin), then my editor suggested a Quick version as she herself has young children and thought thirty-minute tin dinners would be helpful for other parents.
Your latest book, The Roasting Tin Around The World, spans all corners of the globe and 75 recipes. Can you give us a little snap shot of some of your favourite recipes from the book?
My favourite dishes include the Creole Crab Tarts (made with tinned crabmeat, so they’re easy on the purse), the miso chicken with aubergines and the peach dulce de leche cake, but really I find it hard to choose when I pick up the book to get some dinner inspiration!
How much have your travels inspired your most recent book?
I’ve loved travelling and eating food abroad for as long as I can remember, so the Around the World book was a combination of recipes from scribbles in travel notebooks and thinking about my favourite flavour combinations. Some of my stand out dishes come from travelling in South East Asia - I love the freshness of flavours in Vietnamese and Indonesian food. One of my favourite memories is going for breakfast with a friend to a cafe in Hanoi which served only one dish - cha ca, fish cooked with dill and turmeric at your table, served with vermicelli noodles - it’s spectacularly good.
Your style of cooking allows you to relax while the oven does its thing. What do you like to do while the food is cooking?
I’d like to say that I’m terribly productive in the time that the food’s in the oven, but pouring a glass of wine and turning on Netflix is more likely! I’ve just started watching the 'Murder in Successville' series on the BBC with my boyfriend - it's hilariously funny - I thought ‘Harlots’ was fantastic too. Reading wise I’m on a loop re-reading Agatha Christie, which is very enjoyable.
We’re sharing your Korean Style Aubergines with Spring Onions and Sesame Rice - yum. Tell us more about the origins of this dish and what you love about it.
Ah now this is another favourite! I ghost-wrote a book on Korean food a few years back and one of the stand out dishes was a very simple side of steamed aubergines with a red pepper dressing. One of the key Korean seasonings is gochugaru - red pepper flakes, just the right amount of heat to them - you can buy them easily online, and combined with garlic, ginger, salt and sesame oil they make a fantastic dressing for all sorts of things. I thought it’d be nice to recreate that dish in one pot, cooking rice underneath it for an all-in-one dish - and it’s vegan too.
To get us in the festive spirit, we’re also sharing your recipe for Spiced Pears with Almond Chocolate Crème Fraiche. What will you be cooking at home for Christmas Day this year? Do you stick to tradition or add some little twists along the way?
As we’re a vegetarian family, we’ll do all the sides (Delia’s roast potatoes, Heston’s glazed carrots, my sprouts with feta, almonds and smoked paprika), but tend to pick the centrepiece in the years leading up to Christmas - in the past we’ve done Ottolenghi, or the covers from the vegetarian BBC Good Food or Delicious magazine - mushroom wellingtons have featured heavily!
It might be fun to do some sort of layered picnic style pie this year, inspired by Calum Franklin’s ’The Pie Room’. As we’re a family of cooks and rarely buy in pre-made food, our Christmas tradition is to buy in a selection of M&S or Waitrose canapés and petit fours for starters and pudding, so all the focus cooking-wise is on the main event.
Now onto those recipes…
Korean-Style Aubergines With Spring Onions & Sesame Rice
Extracted from: The Roasting Tin Around the World – Global One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer (Square Peg) £16.99 HBK Photography by David Loftus.
In the traditional Korean dish, aubergines are steamed for just 7 minutes before you gently stir in the red pepper and sesame dressing. In this version, I let the oven steam the aubergines, while fresh basmati rice and cabbage cook underneath for a simple and filling all-in-one dish. Gochugaru, or Korean red pepper flakes, are easily available online, at specialist shops, and even miraculously on Amazon – they really make the dish, and once you have a jar, you’ll find yourself scattering the flakes on everything (scrambled eggs are my favourite).
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
- 200g basmati rice, rinsed
- 2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 2 leeks, or 1 small Chinese cabbage, thinly sliced
- 400ml vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 aubergines, cut into 1 1⁄2 cm slices
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 3 fat spring onions, very thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 15g Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
- 30ml sesame oil
- 30ml rice vinegar
- 30ml soy sauce
- 5cm ginger, grated
- 1 clove of garlic, finely grated
- Preheat the oven to 210°C fan/230°C/gas 8.
- Tip the rice and garlic into a wide lidded casserole dish or a medium roasting tin, then evenly cover with the sliced leeks or Chinese cabbage. Pour over the vegetable stock and sesame oil, then lay the aubergines over the top in one layer. Scatter over the sea salt, cover with the lid or very tightly with foil (this is important or the rice won’t cook properly), then transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the dressing ingredients together. As soon as you take the tin out of the oven, remove the lid or foil and dress the aubergines with the red pepper dressing.
- Scatter over the spring onions and sesame seeds and serve hot.
Spiced Pears with Almond Chocolate Crème Fraîche
From The Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer, page 178, photo credit David Loftus.
If you make no other dessert from this book, make this. The chocolate in the almond crème fraîche melts on contact with the hot, yielding, syrupy pears – words fail. Try it and see.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
- 4 Williams pears, halved
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 375ml muscat or preferred sweet white wine
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 75g ground almonds
- 250g crème fraîche
- 40g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids minimum), finely grated
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
Preheat your oven to 150C fan/170C/gas 3. Place the halved pears, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom pods and muscat into a roasting tin, then cover in tinfoil.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and turn the pears over. Drizzle with the honey, then bake for a further 20 minutes uncovered.
Meanwhile, mix the ground almonds, crème fraîche, grated chocolate and icing sugar together and set aside.
Serve the pears immediately with the poaching wine and almond chocolate crème fraîche alongside.
Thanks Rukmini for sharing these delicious recipes.