Roasted mix of peppers, courgettes, mushrooms and tomatoes, served with a drizzle of lemon and balsamic and a generous topping of crumbled feta cheese. Healthy and delicious.
I have recently re-discovered feta.
Cheese, any cheese is something I could give up with the most difficulty, I think. Let’s say I suddenly developed a dairy intolerance or the whole world decided to turn vegan, I’d be totally gutted.
I have not frequently encounter cheese I would not like. There are lesser favourites with me, like goat’s cheese (but baked is lovely) or the weird Norwegian brown cheese (but perhaps if I lived in Norway) and I would definitely think twice before tasting the Italian live maggot cheese, casu marzu (it is illegal now anyway).
I prefer continental cheeses to the English ones and the stinkier they are, the better. Epoisses, Munster or Stinking Bishop might smell unappealing but taste divine.
We did once bring across from our France vacances a large selection of specimens unattainable at home: the suitcase was a write-off and the car became almost unsellable, but we were well stocked up for a while.
Feta not just in Greek salad
Feta is Greek, which isn’t the first country you think of when it comes to famous cheese producers. However, they do few but do them well in Greece: think halloumi.
Feta is one of the cheeses easier to make, from sheep milk curds and aged in salty brine. It is soft, forms no skin or rind and it’s relatively low in calories and fat.
You probably know it mainly from the ubiquitous, not just in Greece, Greek salad, but there is much more to do with feta than sit it on sliced tomato and cucumber.
I used to be boring and crumble it into my mixed salad all the time, but I have recently started to put feta to better uses.
This is an example: a whole main course created in one roasting tray, vegetarian but wholesome, and a fountain of flavours.
Where’s my protein?
Whenever I plan to make a vegetarian meal, the question of a protein element arises. You can eat roasted vegetables on their own but the downside is you’ll be hungry again in about twenty minutes.
Plants are all very well but it’s the protein in our meals that satiates. All those vegetables will only make us crave dessert.
But if you add feta to the plate, it suddenly becomes a full and balanced meal. It is low in calorie content as compared to other cheeses, but it is a nutrition bomb when put next to courgettes.
A 100g portion of feta is 250 calories, with 16g of protein so that plate of vegetables starts to look more like dinner.
How to roast tasty vegetables
I like to roast a Mediterranean mix of vegetables, but a floret of cauliflower or broccoli won’t go wrong and nor will mushrooms (more protein!). It is also a fallacy that vegetables do not need to be marinated.
Salt, paprika, garlic powder (because it won’t burn as raw garlic would) and cinnamon is a wonderful combination for the Med factor, with lots of olive oil and a little maple syrup or honey.
That means there is going to be quite a bit of liquid on the roasting tray, which in turn means the vegetables will steam a little before they start charring. The liquid will cook off and that’s usually the sign that the dish is ready.
And what about the feta?
You can simply crumble it over the tray and serve, but I like to season it with pepper and olive oil and smash it with a fork before topping the plates.
What else can you do with feta?
Long before salted caramel was invented, the Greeks ate feta drizzled with honey. It’s the ultimate sweet-and-salty snack.
Apart from baking vegetables, you can bake feta. It is served in Greece thus, in little dishes called saganaki, their counterpart to Spanish tapas. Crispy feta makes an unbelievably moreish topping.
And you can whip feta into a gorgeous dip, which is a complete dream when served with ripe tomatoes.
More roasted vegetables recipes
Who needs Mediterranean vegetables when you can roast beetroot? Soused with honey and balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with thyme and tarragon, the humble beet tastes better than you’d think.
Savoy cabbage, the posh cruciferous is not only delicious roasted, but it might also actually reduce the risk of cancer.
And the classic roasted carrots and parsnips, the traditional Christmas or Thanksgiving side dish, are worth a mention.