Saturday, December 13, 2014

Easy vegetable moussaka

Moussaka-style dishes, with meat or otherwise, involve quite a deal of labour. You have to slice aubergines, paint them with olive oil, and fry or bake them. You have to prepare any other vegetables individually, because they have different cooking times and you don’t want to end up with a vegetable mush. If you’re eating meat, you have to prepare a ragout. But for a dinner for two, at the end of the week, I could not be bothered to go through this palaver. How bad could it be if I baked the vegetables together, topped them with a bechamel, and baked the dish further? Not bad at all.

I put 2 chopped cloves of garlic, a sliced aubergine, 2 chopped red peppers, and a sliced courgette, with salt and pepper, into a heavy casserole dish. I tossed the vegetables with a generous quantity of olive oil, and put them into a gas mark 8/220C oven for half an hour, stirring regularly. By this time, the aubergines were tender. I stirred in a drained tin of chickpeas. I turned down the oven to gas mark 5/190C.

Meanwhile, I had made a tomato sauce, simply tipping a tin of tomatoes into a saucepan, adding salt, a few pinches of cayenne, and a tsp of sugar. I mashed the tomatoes with a potato masher, and simmered them until they were thick. I stirred the tomatoes into the vegetable mixture.

I made a bechamel (see this moussaka recipe) with about 30g butter, a tbsp of flour (I used gluten-free), and just under half a pint of milk – it made a thick, pasty sauce. I stirred in a couple of tbsps of Parmesan, and seasoned the sauce with salt and nutmeg. Now that it was cooler, I stirred in a beaten egg – it causes the sauce when baked to puff up, souffle-like.

I spread the sauce over the vegetable mixture, sprinkled a couple of tbsps of Parmesan on top, and baked the dish for 25 minutes. Then, I browned the top under the grill.

This was a meal by itself.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Mashed potato with an electric whisk

In Don’t Sweat the Aubergine, I had the nerve to question Delia Smith’s method of making mashed potato, with a hand-held whisk. Overworking mash turns it gluey. Surely the whisk would bash up the starch granules and release their contents?

I did add - conscious of my temerity - that I was sure that Delia had never served a plate of gluey mash in her life; but I am embarrassed to admit that only now, 10 years after I wrote those libellous and sacrilegious words, have I tested the technique.

I was prompted by my discovery that a hand-held whisk produces more flavoursome hummus than does a food processor (this post). And, as you would expect, I learned that Delia was right.

The mash I made with the whisk was not impeccably light and fluffy; but its slight glueyness – which you often get from enthusiastic stirring with a wooden spoon – was a quality that I rather like. Delia’s recipe is here.

Instead of crème fraiche, I used a little milk with about 50% more butter than the recipe recommends. (And I did not bother with the business with the tea towel.) I warmed the butter and milk in a small saucepan before pouring them over the potatoes.