Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Multi-layer vegetable bake

In our last organic box, we received four small, purple turnips, a veg I wouldn't normally buy because not having grown up with it I wouldn't know what to do with. But I couldn't let it go to waste. After doing some internet research and not finding an appealing recipe I raked around in the fridge some more and unearthed courgettes, pointed red peppers, boiled potatoes, tomatoes, red oak leaf lettuce and beautiful red speckled broad beans, the latter also from the organic box, the rest just ordinary shop bought veg. Still unsure what to do with all this, I started washing and peeling, chopping onions and garlic, letting my mind wander, thinking about a vegetarian courgette moussaka I made in the past...ending up with this hearty, warming, not to forget tasty vegetable bake topped with a wholemeal béchamel just for the fun of it.

It's a bit time consuming but can be prepared in advance so you have more time for your dinner party guests.

Vegetables for the bake:
3 small courgettes, cut diagonally into slices (about 5mm thick)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
5 tomatoes, cut into 4 slices each
4 small turnips, peeled and sliced
500g boiled potatoes, sliced, skin on or removed
2 pointed red peppers, cut into strips
extra virgin olive oil
dried basil or oregano
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Béchamel Sauce:
extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp wholemeal flour
200ml semi-skimmed or whole milk
50g parmesan, coarsely grated
1(free-range organic) egg yolk
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Optional topping:
50g parmesan, coarsely grated

Preparing the veg:
1. Peel and slice the turnips while boiling some water. Place the turnip slices into a saucepan and boil for about 3 minutes. Drain into a colander and leave to cool. They'll just still be parboiled.

2. Slice the courgettes, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

3. Chop the garlic and onion.

4. Heat some oil in a non-stick pan and start frying the courgette and turnip slices in batches until golden adding oil as needed. Transfer onto layers of kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil. Lastly, quickly fry the pepper strips over a high heat until they start to brown. Not all of them have to brown and the pepper should still be crisp. Drain them on kitchen paper as well.

5. Assemble the bake by layering the vegetables in an oven-proof dish starting with the turnip. Season with pepper and salt.

6. Next, add the tomatoes. Season with pepper and sprinkle with dried basil or oregano, the chopped onion, most of the garlic and chilli.

7. Follow with the courgette slices seasoning them with pepper.

8. Then add the pepper strips seasoning them with pepper.

9. Lastly, top with potato slices. I didn't add any seasoning to the potatoes as I'd boiled them in salted water to which I'd also added black pepper.

Set aside while you're making the béchamel.

Preparing the béchamel sauce:

1. Heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick pan.

2. When the oil is hot, sprinkle in 1 tbsp of wholemeal flour. Stir the flour into the oil and wait till it bubbles.

3. Slowly start pouring in the milk while constantly stirring to avoid lumps.

4. Keep stirring, bring to the boil, then turn off the heat.

5. Stir in the egg yolk and the parmesan. Season with black pepper and keep stirring until you have a thick smooth sauce. Taste to check the seasoning, you may not need to add any salt.

Putting it all together:

1. Pour the béchamel over the potatoes. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes at gas mark 5-6/200-220°C.

2. Remove the tin foil and bake for a further 10 minutes.

3. Then optionally sprinkle with the remaining cheese and place either under a hot grill or back into the oven until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown.

Serve with a crisp salad as a main course for four or as a side dish with meat or fish for six to eight people.

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