Words are slippery things. Metaphors become meanings. So let me drop all metaphors to talk about the roasting of food. In this lockdown I’ve been working at efficient use of an oven. When you think about it, an oven is highly wasteful of energy. It can take ten to fifteen minutes to warm up, especially if you need a high temperature. Then most cooking in an oven requires a half hour or more. So you spend a kilowatt-hour of energy on cooking, much larger than what you typical microwave oven, induction heater, or gas stove would take. My response is to use an oven for multiple things at the same time. I’ve begun to use the whole volume of the oven, using as many trays as I can fit in. I also keep in mind a graded cook, where different things use different temperatures. I start using it after a quick warming to a reasonably low temperature, and then warm in steps to the highest that I need.

Eggs cook in about 10-15 minutes at 150 Celcius. You can start to slow dry tomatoes on another rack while you do this, and you can add in a rack of karela (bitter gourd, if that made up name helps) at the same time if you want. You can push the temperature up to 175 Celcius in the middle of this cook. Then you take it up to 200 Celcius for the next stage. Chicken breasts take about 30 minutes at 200 Celcius. A couple of trays of vegetable can cook at the same time: carrots, radish, cauliflower, pumpkin, onion, beetroot, aubergine (brinjal), potato, are what I’ve tried. If you are started on the tomato, then let it continue inside the oven from the earlier stage for these 30 minutes. Then comes the last stage at 225 Celcius. Take out the chicken breasts and continue to bake the other pieces for another 15 minutes at this temperature, after turning them over, in order to brown them well. Continue the root vegetables and onions for the same time at this higher temperature.

All this may sound finicky, but it is actually simple if you arrange things in trays which need to be taken out or inserted at specific times. I made the graphic that you see above to help me plan. Arranging different parts of the cook into separate trays (or sections of trays) makes it much less of a chore than any other way of cooking.

I’ve reserved my Sundays for oven cooking. I love the fresh roasted plate of veggies to go with chicken. The roasting brings out an amazingly sweet taste from the vegetables. When you eat well-roasted onions, roasted to a transparency greater than in any of the photos here, the taste changes totally. I was reminded of a Hyderabadi dish called anokhi kheer, a sweet made of onions. The great upside is that at the end of the cook we also have a fridge stocked with meat and vegetables that we can use through the week, whenever we are short of time.