So the festive season is well and truly over. All the Christmas decorations have been taken down, all the gammon leftovers have been eaten, and everyone is talking about good intentions, more exercise, losing weight, drinking less and eating light.
Going out to dinner with friends has become fraught with difficulties as this one won't go to a pizza joint ("I'm off carbs"), that one won't go to a steak joint ("I'm trying to keep vegetarian this month") and nobody will share a bottle of wine with me as half the world seems to by trying to have an alcohol-free January! And having people round for a meal is no less complicated, as endless lists of things friends aren't eating find their way into my inbox while I am finalising the menu.
What's a girl to do??
I am not into culinary self-denial, and I refuse to serve my friends a bowl of bean sprouts when they come to visit, so the search has been on for diet-friendly but still tasty foods to take the edge off January's self-imposed food restrictions. Remember last year I posted about my friend Kalyn's spicy roasted chickpeas? As I said, the spice mix makes a lot more than you need for the chickpeas, so I kept the extra spice and kept finding uses for it – most notably as the perfect spice mix in which to toss vegetable chunks prior to roasting!
Roasting vegetables is almost always my favourite way to cook them as I love the concentrated flavours that roasting produces, and the fact that once the chopping is done, you don't have a lot to do and can focus on other things. The vegetables that you use are open to your interpretation – these are just the ones I happened to have in my fridge on the day I made this. On their own, these Moroccan-spiced vegetables make a delicous side dish; or served on fluffy couscous, they make a vegan (and diet-friendly!) main course for the fussiest eaters. I am repeating the spice mix recipe here and I would highly recommend keeping some of the mix permanently in your spice rack (in an airtight container) to sprinkle on anything from chickpeas to potatoes to chicken. it's the perfect thing to add a little spice to an abstemious, grey January.
MOROCCAN-SPICED ROASTED VEGETABLES (serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish)
1 medium-sized aubergine
1 large red onion
half a butternut sqush, peeled and deseeded
FOR THE MOROCCAN SPICE MIX:
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chile powder (I used Osman's chilli powder that a friend brought from South Africa)
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (I omitted this as I had none)
a pinch ground cloves
1/2 tsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Chop all the vegetables into bite-sized chunks and place in a bowl. Add a good glug of olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons of the Moroccan spice mix, depending on how spicy you want your vegeteables. Using your hands, toss the vegetables in the oil and spices until they are thoroughly coated.
Turn the vegetables out onto a foil-lined roasting tray and plae in the centre of the oven. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until the butternut squash chunks are tender. Serve on couscous, or as a side dish with chicken or fish.