Sunday, 18 December 2011

Cheese-baked Vegetables

This is an apology for the mushroom-chicken tetrazzini. I made the afternoon of the evening we had guests, some of whom are vegetarians. They saw and smelled the delicious melted cheese, and the toasty crisp-topped chicken and mushroom, but they couldn't taste it. So, as a way of saying sorry, I made this a few days later. I'm not sure what it is, except that it includes lovely winter veggies, and a perfectly piquant cheese sauce.

Chop mushrooms, capsicum (green bell pepper), a quarter of a small cauliflower, and any other vegetable you might fancy in a casserole. Boil a couple of potatoes. I kept their skins on, but you mighn't want to. Finally, soften some cheese (same old cheddar for me), and chop some shallot stalks for the sauce.

Sauté cauliflower in melted butter, and when they change colour, add the capsicum, then the mushrooms. Add a little salt, and any herb or spice you'd like. I leave out spices altogether on this one.

Add chopped tomatoes as a final touch, for piquant crunchiness. Let them stay on the flame for less than a minute.

Set the vegetables aside.

In the same wok, add a cup and half of water. Bring to a slight boil, scrape up the drippings, and then add some fresh/heavy cream. Simmer.

When the cream is evenly mixed, add the cheese. Fold it in well. Add a little more water if required.

Flavour the sauce with ground black pepper and shallots (plus any herb of your choice).

Remember the boiled potatoes? Grate and mash them, with a little salt and butter. Actually, the grating is an unnecessary complication. Just mash them into a tight, buttery lump.

Line a greased earthenware bowl/baking dish with the mashies.

Pour the veggies into the bowl. And admire the colours. Ah, winter. Such produce you bring.

Top with the cheese sauce.

Seal the top with the remaining mashed potato, and then, on a whim, top with the veggies that wouldn't fit inside the potato-lined pie. Pour some olive oil on top, or pat with softened butter. Bake at 240-50C for about thirty minutes.

And this little pot of deliciousness is what you'll get. Crisp vegetables on top, golden-browned potato beneath, semi-baked cheese-wrapped vegetables under that, and a buttery layer of baked potatoes at the bottom. Perfection!

Eat it hot, scooped out on a plate.

Or on warm toast, as a sandwich filling. It's a perfect steaming winter meal, in way you look at it.

Bon apetit, my vegetarian friends. I promise you won't regret the twenty minutes you invest in this ;-)