Hearty comfort is on the menu with these flavoursome, nutritious traybakes and roasting tin dishes.

As we hurtle towards October, we find that we’ve hit our autumnal stride in the kitchen (if nowhere else). And the great thing about the season’s food is that its whole purpose is to provide beautiful warming stodgy comfort, all while being wholesome and – broadly speaking – good for you. As the months march on – and as we increasingly like to slip into our slippers immediately upon crossing the home threshold – we’re more and more inclined to seasonal indolence, which means we’re especially taken with anything that is delicious, easy and requires minimal washing-up after devouring.

Savoury tray bakes – not to be confused with their cakier sweet cousins – have swiftly become our hearty and delicious staples during this season. The beauty is that you can throw anything in – from sausages to greens to our seasonal favourite: butternut squash – for a reliably nourishing, plentiful crowd-pleaser, packed with goodness. If you’re feeling proper, wash it down with a glass of good red at the kitchen table; if you’re in a more pyjama-ish state of mind, heap it into a bowl, get the fire crackling or some candles going and settle down with your big warming bowl of comfort and a cosy film. Perfection.

Baked Lemon Chicken


Olive Magazine


Roasted lemony chicken is the hearty crowd-pleaser of a meal we return to week-in, week-out all through the year, ensuring it suits whatever season we’re in by dint of the sides we rustle up to go alongside. But every now and again, we like to mix it up, while cleaving close to our theme. Amanda James’ one-pan tray bake does exactly that, using thighs rather than the whole bird to ensure crispiness, and a beautiful creamy lemony sauce for rich but citrussy deliciousness. For a flavour of the Med, serve it with rice.

Chilli Spiked Greens In Coconut Milk


BBC


A lot of the one-pan dishes listed here tend towards lovely soothing stodge. But even through autumn and winter, there are days when we’d prefer to keep things a little lighter. Enter this fragrant and wonderfully verdant recipe, which is stuffed full of goodness. Featuring broccoli and courgette, the whole affair is given a warming seasonal twist with the addition of ginger and turmeric – thus hitting all the nutrition and flavour high notes – while layering in comfort courtesy of the coconut milk and cashews.

Greens Mac N Cheese


Jamie Oliver


Tray bakes are not exclusively about root veg, either alone or alongside a medley of meat. Also falling under this brilliantly broad category is the good old classic pasta bake – of which mac n’ cheese remains surely the reigning king. We love Jamie’s rendition, not least for throwing in some broccoli and spinach, thereby making it look pretty and allowing us to feel virtuous while chowing down on this cheesy little number.

Roast Seabass and Potato Traybake


Delicious


How’s this for a wonderfully simple feast? Wild seabass cooked with crushed fennel, roasted crispy potatoes, rocket and fresh pesto. Delicious, no? It works with bream or hake too, although we’re especially keen on the lovely, fleshiness of the sea bass. This is the perfect fling-together traybake any night of the week, but it also makes a great easy-yet-impressive dish to rustle up if you have friends over too.

Croque Monsieur Bake


Nigella


This one may not lay claim to being especially nutritious, but it certainly scoops all the tasty comfort food points. Nigella is the unrivalled reigning queen of indulgent recipes that we want to mainline through the colder months, and with this obscenely delicious innovation, she has outdone even herself: Croque Monsieur as a bake to be made ahead of time is a dangerously winning and more-ish combo. As she writes, ‘Like many good brunch recipes, this is also just the ticket for an early evening supper, the sort you eat in your dressing gown before sophisticated adults feel it is entirely proper to dine. The joy of this is that you make up the mustardy ham and gruyere sandwiches and cover with beaten eggs the night before, and just let them sit in the fridge melding into one savoury, gooey pudding overnight. The next morning goes as follows: oven on, egg-and-bread dish in; brunch effortlessly served.’

Pumpkin, Lamb and Feta Traybake


Delicious


Butternut squash and feta make a reliably flavoursome combination. Throw in gorgeously tender lamb, za’atar spice mix, macadamia nuts and, finally, salsa verde to lighten the whole affair and you have a dish we’ll be making all through autumn and winter. One to feed the troops on chilly nights.

Butternut and Cannellini Gratin


Anna Jones


Anna Jones is one of our favourite-ever cookery writers, reliably packing a big flavour punch – and all without a shred of meat. This recipe, with its comforting sweet butternut squash, woody rosemary, balancing citrus, hearty cannellini beans and crispy cheesy top, is filling, delicious – and one we’ll go back to again and again. If you’re vegan, Anna suggests substituting the cheese for chopped almonds.

Chicken and Sausage Traybake With Harissa, Mushrooms and Chickpeas


BBC


Perfectly cooked sausages on a cold night are the stuff hearty comfort is made of. But if you want an alternative to the ubiquitous – though admittedly wonderful – mash, this is it. Chicken and sausage make much-extolled easy bedfellows, and we love the wholesome sweet potatoes, the crumbly chickpeas, the earthy mushrooms, the heat of the harissa and the cool of the yogurt to serve. You had better be hungry for this one, but if you are, it’s unbeatable. The ideal dish to serve after a long wintry walk. (Even more ideal? Allow the person in your party who secretly hates long walks to stay at home and bung it in the oven just in time for a mouth-wateringly aromatic homecoming.)

Pork, Apple, Sweet Potato and Stilton Roast


Delicious


Sweet potato, alongside squashes, are a recurrent theme in our autumn kitchen. We often pair them with feta, but we love the addition here of even more tangy Stilton alongside pork and the balancing sweetness of the apple. Pure joy in a roasting tin.

By Nancy Alsop
September 2020

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