Cooks love one-pan meals and tray bakes are a good example. (Most of the meal is cooked on one tray, mostly in the oven. The following ideas all happen in a baking paper-lined shallow ovenproof tray, which is the whole point.) Cooks have been doing this sort of cooking for centuries — think of the trays of vegetables and meat that Italians would traditionally put in the baker’s oven after the bread had been removed, or even things like paella or pilaf cooked in the oven. I don’t mind doing a bit of work on easy accompaniments since the major part of the meal is done on the tray so I will add salads, simple sauces and sometimes things like rice and noodles and don’t feel I’ve cheated.
Make 3cm by 5cm diameter patties from minced beef, chopped bacon, finely chopped garlic, a dollop of wholegrain mustard and chopped parsley. Place side by side on a shallow baking paper-lined oven tray and put small ripe tomatoes, quartered capsicums, sliced chilli and red onion in between the patties. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season and bake at 200C for 30 minutes or until the patties are well cooked and the vegetables browned. Serve with sliced avocado, coriander sprigs and warm flour tortillas.
Slice a butterflied leg of lamb into 4 pieces and beat with a meat hammer until about 4cm thick all over. Rub all over with extra virgin olive oil, ground cinnamon, finely chopped garlic and dried oregano. Place side by side in a shallow baking paper-lined ovenproof tray. Add a lot of peeled kumara cut into 4cm chunks. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Bake at 200C for 50 minutes or until the lamb is tender and the kumara browned and tender. Slice the lamb and serve with a bowl of plain unsweetened yoghurt, some 2cm diced peeled cucumber and coriander sprigs. Warm flatbread on the side.
Grate a couple of courgettes, finely chop a red onion and plenty of garlic, add the finely diced peel of a preserved lemon and plenty of chopped parsley. Add plenty of pork mince, season and mix well. Form into golf ball-sized balls and place on a shallow baking paper-lined ovenproof tray. Place plenty of small scrubbed potatoes, some pitted kalamata olives and broccoli florets around the meatballs. Moisten with a little white wine and chicken stock (don't drown it), just enough to make some aromatic steam. Place in a 200C oven and bake 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. The broccoli will be soft — Italian style.
Place lots of 4cm chunks of peeled purple-skinned kumara and peeled 4cm chunks of butternut or pumpkin in a mixing bowl with finely chopped ginger, walnut pieces, large raisins, chopped red onion, thyme sprigs, finely chopped garlic and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Season and mix well. Spread the mixture on a baking paper-lined shallow ovenproof tray and bake at 200C. Remove from the oven and stir in plenty of blanched frozen peas. Serve with grated smoked cheese and coriander sprigs.
Place free range chicken thighs on the bone side by side in a shallow ovenproof tray. Mix 3cm diced eggplant, 3cm diced peeled agria potatoes, the finely diced peel of a preserved lemon, a good sprinkle of dried oregano, plenty of chopped garlic and plenty of extra virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl until everything is evenly distributed. Place this mixture around the chicken and roast for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Cover with foil if it looks like burning at any time. Serve with rocket leaves, warm flatbread and a bowl of plain unsweetened yoghurt.
Place a couple of large whole flounder side by side in a shallow, baking paper-lined ovenproof tray, cover with very thinly sliced leeks, sliced spring onions, the zest of a lemon, finely chopped garlic, some pitted kalamata olives and plenty of peeled agria potatoes diced 2cm. Sprinkle with white wine. Cover with foil and bake at 200C for 40 minutes or until the potatoes and fish are cooked. (Have a look and recover if necessary.) Serve with crusty bread and lemons for squeezing.
Sprinkle plenty of drained canned chickpeas into a shallow baking paper-lined tray and add lots of zucchini sliced 4cm thick, cauliflower florets, green beans with the stalk ends cut off, lemon zest, finely chopped garlic and a few fennel seeds. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and moisten with a little vegetable stock and bake at 200C for 30 minutes or until zucchini and cauliflower are soft. Remove from the oven and serve with yoghurt mixed with a little tahini, chopped mint, salt and lemon juice to taste.
Cut the wing tips off lots of chicken wings and cut each wing in half. Spread over a baking paper-lined tray and add lots of cherry tomatoes, finely chopped garlic, sliced red chilli, a good sprinkle of sweet smoked paprika, chopped roasted almonds, and a cup or two of paella or risotto rice. Add enough chicken stock to cover by 1.5cm, place in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked, the rice tender and the liquid evaporated. Serve with a green salad.
Cut plenty of tofu into 4cm cubes. Spread over a shallow baking paper-lined tray with quartered baby bok choy, sliced spring onions, lots of sliced button mushrooms, some sliced rehydrated dried Chinese mushrooms and the strained soaking water, finely chopped ginger and garlic and a splash of naturally brewed soy sauce. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes at 200C. Uncover, drizzle with a little sesame oil and serve with boiled Chinese noodles.
Place kingfish steaks or fillets side by side on a shallow baking paper-lined tray. Put a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes in a mixing bowl with finely chopped garlic, a little sugar, a couple of cans of drained cannellini beans, plenty of wilted spinach and the zest of a lemon. Mix well, taste, season and pour around and over the fish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and place in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked, the sauce bubbling and the breadcrumbs browned. Serve sprinkled with basil leaves.