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What’s cooking today: The pros and cons of roasting vegetables in your air fryer

What’s cooking today: The pros and cons of roasting vegetables in your air fryer
Tony Jackman’s roast vegetables cooked in an air fryer. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Not all vegetables are equal. If you chop up a variety of vegetables and put them in the air fryer at the same time, you’re going to end up with a half-baked meal.

When considering their relative cooking times, if you bung every vegetable you can find in your crisper into a pot and expect them to be cooked evenly half an hour later, you’re in for a disappointment.

Like many things in a human life, such as waiting for Mr or Ms Right to come along or yearning for the inspiration to write that novel, some things just need more time. 

Even baby potatoes, though small, nevertheless take longer to become tender than other vegetables. Butternut needs more time too, as do carrot, turnip and beetroot. Softer vegetables such as baby marrows or cauliflower and broccoli florets will be ready sooner.

Onions, whether whole baby alliums or quartered bigger ones, sit somewhere in between. I’d put them in with the root vegetables or even up front with the potatoes.

So, stagger their cooking times in the air fryer, starting with the potatoes, then adding root vegetables, and only adding marrows and the like later.

Some people like to include mushrooms in a roasted vegetable mix. This is problematic. If you want to include mushrooms, take into account that as they cook they release the great amount of water that is inside them, and this risks making your vegetable mix mushy.

If I were including mushrooms, I would cook them in a little butter or olive oil in a pan on the stove until they release their juices and then continue to cook until the liquid evaporates and they turn brown and nutty, and only add them to the vegetables as soon as the air fryer dish is ready. Just stir them in at the end.

I find that 200℃ is a wise temperature for roasting vegetables in an air fryer, and you’ll need about 20 minutes. Many recipes call for 15 minutes, but an extra 5 should make them nice and nutty and golden brown in parts.

So, when assembling vegetables for an air fryer roasting, divide them into categories first. The recipe below can vary according to whatever vegetables you wish to cook. Just follow the advice as to when to put what in, and don’t forget to add seasoning and aromatics. The latter includes things such as fresh garlic, herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary, dried spices such as smoked paprika or cumin, perhaps whole star anise, and any oil or other moistening agent.

A roasted vegetable mix does need oil, whether olive, canola or other, but only enough to coat them. You can also add an astringent ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice, but again, go lightly. You want their flavour, not a pool of liquid that will turn your vegetables to mush.

Here’s a generic recipe for roasting vegetables in your air fryer, leaving you to make your choices as to which to use. The quantities depend entirely on the size of your air fryer and the amount you wish to cook.

It should take about 20 minutes for all the vegetables to be done and nicely browned.

Ingredients

Potatoes, preferably baby ones, peeled or unpeeled (or larger potatoes, quartered) and/or sweet potatoes (the kara variety, the ones with orange flesh)

Root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, turnip, parsnip, radish

Alliums (baby onions or large ones, in wedges; whole garlic bulb, leeks, spring onions)

Hard squash (butternut, hubbard, pumpkin, gem, marrow, courgette), peeled and cubed

Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower), only the florets, ignore woody stems

Peppers (bell pepper/capsicum, sweet peppers, chillies)

Herbs (thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, fennel, dill, coriander leaf)

Spices (cumin, fennel, star anise, cinnamon)

Vinegar (savoury or sweet balsamic, Rozendal botanical fynbos vinegar, but avoid harsh vinegars)

Oil (olive, canola, sunflower, avocado, grapeseed, peanut, coconut), but use sparingly

Salt and pepper

Method

Prepare your vegetables. Peel potatoes (including sweet) or scrub them under a tap if unpeeled (use a scourer), and dry them on a kitchen towel. Cut larger potatoes into chunks. Peel root vegetables and top and tail them. Leave radishes whole. Peel onions but leave the root ends intact to stop them from falling apart while being cooked (cut larger ones into wedges). Cut brassicas into florets. Peel squash, discard seeds, and cut into chunks. Cut peppers into julienne strips, discarding stems, seeds and pith. Baby courgettes can be left whole but topped and tailed. Larger ones would need to be cut into chunks.

Pour a little oil into a deep bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes and sweet potatoes in this, transfer to the air fryer basket (you can remove the rack for roasted vegetables) and cook at 200℃ for 5 minutes. Shake the basket.

Pour a little more oil into the bowl and season. Add the chopped root vegetables, brassicas, alliums (onion, leek, spring onion, whole garlic), cubed squash, toss, add to the basket and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add a tad more oil to the bowl, add the courgettes and peppers. Add to the basket, toss everything, and cook for 5 minutes.

Add sliced garlic and finely sliced chillies if using, add any spices and herbs of your choice, add a splash of vinegar or lemon, check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed, toss the basket, and cook the whole mixture for 5 minutes more. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

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