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Rainbow vegetable bake with zucchini, tomato, sweet potato and squash

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
The festive season is full of flash-points for many, as far flung family members reunite over roast and crack it over crackers. One particularly painful part is the catering. When will Aunty Joy stop demanding margarine for her dinner rolls? Whose new squeeze comes laden with allergies and aversions? Which kid will take too many helpings of perfect potato salad and then let it sit on their plate while everyone else stares longingly? Well, one thing you won't have to worry about this year is The Vegetarian Option. In fact, so good is this colourful veg bake — known in fancy circles as a 'Tian' for the dish in which it's traditionally baked — you might find your resident herb nerds fending off forks from the carnivorous folk for a helping. Just don't let that grabby potato salad kid near it.
15 minutes


  • 1 brown onion diced
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 patty pan squash see tips for substitutions
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1-2 skinny sweet potatoes golden/purple
  • 400 g whole peeled tomatoes one tin/jar
  • 2-3 garlic cloves at a minimum roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp salt flakes divided, plus extra for finishing
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves or 6-8 thyme sprigs, divided
  • Pinch of caster sugar
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil plus extra for finishing
  • Bay leaves VERY optional, but slightly festive
  • Soft herbs like oregano basil and/or parsley, roughly chopped to garnish


  • Preheat your oven to 200°C.
  • Pop the diced onion into a lidded pan with a tablespoon of olive oil, wait for a sizzle, then chuck the lid back on, drop the heat and set the timer for 8 minutes while you get on with the rest of your prep.
  • Cut vegetables into 3mm thick slices using a mandolin, food processor or sharp knife. Use a serrated paring knife for best results with softer veg like tomatoes.
  • Once the onions have sweated down sufficiently, squeeze the tin of tomatoes through your hands into the pan like a nonna to help them break down. Add the garlic and sprinkle in half the salt flakes (1 tsp), half the thyme (1 tsp) and the pinch of sugar. Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Arrange the vegetable slices into Jenga-like towers while you're waiting, trying to keep the patterns relatively consistent (but also, don't sweat it too much — you have other more pressing things to worry about, like last-minute Christmas shopping).
  • Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, let it cool so it's no longer lava. If using this pan as your baking dish, let it cool even more (like 20 minutes or so). If transferring, once the lava-like steam has subsided, pour your sauce into the base of the baking dish.
  • Arrange veg towers around the baking dish to form a spiral. Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and thyme. Nestle (optional) bay leaves in a corner as though you're decking the halls with boughs of holly.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are slightly golden and softened (especially any root veg, see tips above if you're using different veggies). Feel free to give the thing a quick blast from the grill for extra burnish.
  • Finish with olive oil, salt flakes and any soft herbs in your vicinity. Cheese is encouraged, but also might be worth grating/crumbling and leaving in a bowl or two on the table so people can help themselves without having to enter into long-winded conversations about what they do or don't eat. You're welcome.


Choose your own veg: The vegetable variation is up to you — just be sure to include plenty of different colours and textures.
Changing the cook time: If using fibrous root veg and tubers like sweet potato, spuds, golden beets, turnips and the like, add another 10 minutes or so to the cooking time. If sticking to softer options like tomatoes, zucchini and patty pan squash, feel free to check on it with 5-10 minutes to go.
Make it cheesy: Cheese is an optional extra, but highly recommended! Grate on some parmesan or crumble on some feta just before serving, YUM! Or have it as a side so guests can opt in.
Baking dishes: This was baked in a 20cm round dish. For bigger dishes, up the veg (and use any leftover sliced veggies for extra roast veg and/or snacking).

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