Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

We’ve had liquid dinners since last March. Stop smiling. It’s not that. A large bowl of soup has been our dinner on most nights for a year. But a couple of days ago I asked The Family, “Why not some roasted veggies instead?” I’d not done something like this for a few decades. So, like the newbie that I now was, I looked up cooking times. If you set the oven at the usual 200 Celsius, then there is a group of veggies that takes 30 to 45 minutes: squash, carrots, onions and potatoes. Probably all roots. (Also corn. I don’t consider corn a vegetable; I think of it as a grain.) Then there is the other group that takes 20 to 30 minutes: Shimla mirch (bell peppers), cauliflower and broccoli, pumpkins and squashes, green beans and tomato. Basically most other things. I suppose the reasonable thing would have been to put the first group in the oven, and then after ten minutes bung in the rest. But I refuse to be reasonable in the kitchen. I decided that the roots will be cut smaller than the rest, and everything will go in and come out together.

While in uffish thought I stood, The Family with eyes of flame had found the herbs. “Not that song again”, I muttered. “No peas” she ordered. I fussed with the oven as she tossed the veggies with rice bran oil (her current favourite) and the herbs. I arranged them in the baking tray with the stipulated care to keep the pieces separate from each other. In twenty minutes everything was done. The Family had exhumed two pavs from the fridge, and heated them on a tava; nice to have some bread with roasted veggies. The onions and carrots were nicely caramelised. The beetroot and tomatoes were passable, but could have improved in another five minutes. The beans and bell peppers were wonderful. We have to do something different with the baingan; it was a little bitter. “Not bad for a first attempt”, The Family told me patronisingly. “Just you wait,” I thought, “I’ll have my response ready when you do the fish next week.”

But the thought of a liquid with dinner wouldn’t leave me. So I dug up a bottle of Smirnoff vodka so old that if it had been a wine it would have soured by now. There was about one shot remaining. Chill a beer mug. Drop a spoonful of honey from mustard flowers (same vintage as the vodka) into the glass. Watch as if hypnotized by the sight of the honey oozing to the bottom. Recover. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Add the vodka, give it a good stir. There was no ice in the fridge, so fill the mug with chilled water. Bung in a bag of Earl Grey. Nice aromatic drink, which gets more flavourful as you slowly sip it and the water warms. The Family said that some crushed mint leaves would be a good addition. I agreed, but was too lazy to pick them from the balcony, and clean and crush them. Still, a nice pairing with the roasted veggies.