Friday, 20 December 2013

Roasted Root Vegetable Gratin

I was writing out menus and shopping lists for Christmas the other day when I found myself mulling over the question of what to do with the leftover veg from lunch on Christmas Day. Sure… there’s always bubble and squeak; we’ve all been there and done that. But what about something a little different to have with your cold nut roast next day…such as a roasted root vegetable gratin? Ha, now there’s an idea!

Well, in the interests of research and not having any leftover veg about my person, I cooked a small pile of roasted roots yesterday and made a damn fine root veg gratin which we had for dinner last night. It was delicious; in fact, it was so good that we shamelessly polished off the lot between us before I'd even cooked the sausages that were supposed to go with it! Fact is, this can be used as a one-pot main course or, in smaller quantities, a side dish to a 'main event'.

The veg kept their individual flavours nicely and underneath the crispy topping there was just enough mustardy creaminess to bring the whole thing together; I will definitely be doing the same again on Boxing Day.

Actually, I’m really looking forward to Boxing Day, I always enjoy it a lot more than the whole palaver of Christmas Day – it’s so much more relaxed once all the fevered expectancy of the big day is over. A plate of nibbles, a bowl of nuts and a DVD and I’m a happy bunny. I'm easily pleased.

250g carrots
250g parsnips
200g celeriac
200g small new potatoes
2 medium onions
2tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
ground black pepper
4 tbsp crème fraiche
1 dsp grainy mustard
60g breadcrumbs
75g mature cheddar
25g pine nuts

Peel the carrots, parsnips and celeriac; cut into bite-size chunks. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters if they’re a bit big. Peel the onions and cut into eighths through the root.

Put all the veg into a large freezer bag with the olive oil, thyme and a few grinds of black pepper; hold the end securely closed and shake to coat the veg all over. Tip into a large roasting tin and roast at 200C for about 25 minutes.

(Obviously, if you're cooking this with leftovers, you can skip the instructions above)

Mix the crème fraiche and grainy mustard together in a large bowl then add the cooked veg and mix well to coat. Tip the mustardy veg into an ovenproof dish; grate the cheese then mix the breadcrumbs, cheese and pine nuts together and scatter evenly over the veg.

Bake at 200C for about 15 minutes until golden and crispy.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Fruit & Nut Christmas Pudding Loaf

It’s the 1st of December! I’ve opened the first door on my Advent calendar and the outside lights are up, although they haven’t been turned on yet. We couldn’t get Jessie J to do our switch-on, she’s too busy apparently (!), so the honour will fall to Mr Simply Veg.

I’m only cooking for the two of us on the big day this year and I’d already decided I was going to do Cranberry and Apricot Sponge Puds for our dessert… then I saw this recipe on one of the regular email alerts I get from GoodFood which threw my decision out of the window. It seems such a good idea to cook a Christmas pudding in a loaf tin that I wonder why I’ve never seen it done before.

I didn’t want to be disappointed so I had a dry run yesterday. I roughly halved the recipe and cooked it in a 1lb loaf tin; I also changed some of the ingredients. I’m not keen on glacé cherries but I love preserved ginger and nuts; I also dropped the amount of mixed spice but added ground ginger and a touch of  ground cloves to warm it up a little bit.

It cut into eight decent slices, six of which were put in the freezer, and we had a slice each with custard after dinner last night. Well, we had to try it out, didn’t we?! I’m pleased to say it was just right, not stodgy and much lighter than the traditional pudding, fresher tasting and really fruity. I have a feeling it will form part of many of our Christmases to come. I didn’t make the accompanying sauce from the original recipe – it would have been a sweetness overload for us but I leave that up to you.

200g dried mixed fruit
2 balls of preserved ginger in syrup, chopped
½ a small Bramley apple (about 75g) grated
grated zest of an orange
75ml apple juice
2 tbsp brandy
70g butter
50g dark muscovado sugar
1 large egg, beaten
45g self-raising flour
50g white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp syrup from the ginger jar
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
20g toasted mixed nuts, roughly chopped

Put the dried fruit, chopped ginger, grated apple, orange zest, apple juice and brandy into a largish bowl; give it a good stir, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.

Next day, cream the butter and sugar then stir in the rest of the ingredients including the soaked fruit and any remaining juice. Put the mixture into a 1lb loaf tin lined with bakewell paper then put the loaf tin into a roasting tin.

Turn the oven on to 180C or 160C fan. Boil a full kettle. Put a foil ‘lid’ loosely over the loaf tin, scrunching up the sides a bit to make it stay put, then pour a couple of centimetres of boiling water into the roasting tin. Place the whole thing carefully in the oven.

Having halved the recipe this is where I had to use a bit of guesswork. I cooked mine for 25 minutes at 160C fan then I turned the oven down to 140C and cooked it for another 55 minutes. No two ovens are the same, so test with a skewer to make sure it's cooked through.

Serve with cream, custard, brandy butter or whatever takes your fancy.

Makes 8 slices