An autumnal medley, root vegetable tian with cheese, is a fittingly seasonal feast. Carrots, parsnip, sweet potatoes, beetroot – anything goes.
It is amazing what fantastic dishes you can prepare that will cost you just about a pound! And it doesn’t have to be the middle of summer when everything is plentiful. The humble root vegetables, those gnarly, mucky bulbs and tubers are far too infrequently considered a worthy ingredient.
What is a tian?
Tian is a Provençal dish and the dish for that dish – in case you thought I lost it, I rush to explain. It’s a vegetable bake or gratin made in a special clay or terracotta dish also called ‘tian’.
If you’ve ever seen Provençal markets, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Bright and colourful, in all sizes and shapes, they are shallow oven containers displayed on the stalls amongst equally bright and colourful tea towels, table cloths and olive bowls.
Tian the food is a type of bake, not usually as creamy as au gratin. Its main ingredients are vegetables, layered or arranged in concentric circles, much prettier on Instagram than in Provence. It sometimes contains rice, often eggs and frequently cheese.
Back to the roots
This is a wintry version of tian, massively comforting, filling and satisfying. And it features the underdog group of vegetables – roots.
Carrots are probably the leaders of the pack because they make a mean cake, apart from being served at dinner. But parsnips, turnips, beetroot, celeriac and swede only ever turn up at Christmas in the roasted vegetable mix, if they’re lucky.
Potatoes, both white and sweet fare better but they always have the second-division filler status. This recipe gives all the poor underground dwellers due respect – and it’s beautifully cheap too.
I spied it on Food52 YouTube channel, where Samantha Seviratne caught my eye, gracefully arranging the veggies and showering them with Cheddar.
How to prepare the tian?
If you have a mandolin or an appropriate slicing attachment to a food processor, it will make short shrift of the cutting. Otherwise you need to showcase your knife skills. The vegetables should be sliced quite thinly, 2-3mm.
You can use whichever veggies you like as they will all be delicious in the mix. I didn’t even find myself picking any out or looking for any favourites on my plate – they all work together.
Beetroot is important because it adds vibrant shades to the dish. Sweet potatoes are a must for me, and ordinary potatoes need to be of the waxy kind.
They could be just packed into the vessel and covered with cheese but the garlic and herb butter drizzled over turns it into a complete, flavoursome dish so don’t skip that stage.
What cheese for the tian?
Cheddar was Samantha’s original choice but I have since used whatever I had in the fridge and a random mix including some Brie and Stilton on one occasion was probably the loveliest. Anything melting and strong in flavour will do.
Tian is ready in just under an hour, baked in a hot oven, initially covered with foil and then bubbling and browning away for the last ten minutes. It’s a delightful feast.
More mixed vegetable recipes
Vegetable parmigiana is a similar dish to tian and it’s also a great way of using up slightly tired-looking vegetables from the fridge drawer.
Another medley, anchovy braised vegetables, is a good side and really great as a toast topping.
Plenty of vegetables and a little protein in the form of feta cheese – that’s a complete and balanced dish of roasted vegetables with feta.
More root vegetable recipes
Fennel is delicious in a salad with oranges but mind-blowingly good caramelised.
Turnips are perhaps an acquired taste but when they’re cooked well and tender, they sing. Like in this smoked fish and turnip salad.
Beetroot, figs and pomegranate, that’s a lot of crimson! And one of the best beetroot dishes I know.