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It all started with long vegetables.

Courgette, aubergine

I felt I had to do these beauties from Keelham Farm Shop, a haven of foodie delights, full justice. Aren’t they glossy and glorious?

I wasn’t in the mood for pasta, and didn’t want to just chop and fling them into a sauce.  Nor did I want to make a curry or roast them.   They deserved more than that.

So I got a bit creative with the potato slicer, and the next thing I knew I was making pseudo-lasagne with griddled vegetables.  I used the vegetables instead of pasta to divide the tomato sauce, and layers of mozzarella rather than white sauce.  The recipe below sounds complicated, but really, I promise you that it’s not.

Grilled vegetables, tomato sauce

I’ve called my tomato sauce here Simple Tomato Sauce. I’ll post it separately, as I use it in so many things and it’s a bit of a staple.

I rather ruined the effect by chargrilling the peppers and onions, but that’s because the oven-which-isn’t-quite-broken had a little hissy fit when I took my eye off it to have a word with a man about a dog.

And then we sat down and flicked on the tellybox, for it was the sort of an evening which called for a sofa supper.  There were the Hairy Bikers doing much the same thing, but with unrolled leeks in place of pasta.  

It matters not a jot which one you try. But try one. I can only speak for my version, which was frankly flippingly gorgeously tasty, in spite of the additional charcoal, and the dish was scraped clean. Substitute what vegetables you wish to make up the layers – and if you don’t have a griddle, either oven bake or flash fry them to get a similar sort of texture.

Vegetable bake

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow courgette
  • 2 medium green courgettes
  • 1 aubergine – cut into circles 1cm thick
  • 1 red onion – cut into 8 ‘wedges’
  • 2 peppers – I used red and yellow – cut into strips
  • 2 handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 balls of mozzarella, finely sliced
  • Handful of grated cheese for the topping – I used a mixture of grana padano and cheddar. Shoot me.

For the Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Splash balsamic vinegar – about 2 teaspoonsish
  • Splash olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Handful of Herbes de Provence / mixed herbs

Method

Pre heat oven to 180°C.

Pop your peppers and red onion into the oven to roast. Splash a smidgen of oil over them and top with a pinch of herbs.  Put in oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Do not go off to talk to a man about a dog. Or if you do, salvage the vegetables by cutting the really burnt bits off.

Then make your sauce in an attempt to distract from the smoky smell.  I always use a frying or sauté pan to make this sauce to give it space to slowly reduce.  Over a medium heat sauté your onion in a splash of olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic and allow to heat through for a couple of minutes before adding all the other ingredients. Turn the heat down until it’s barely bubbling.  Leave it to work some culinary magic, blending and reducing. Stir occasionally, until thick and reduced.  Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Whilst the sauce is cooking, and your peppers are cooking not burning, griddle or dry fry your aubergine.  If you find it easier to do so, use the ‘spray’ type of olive oil, or just quickly brush the aubergine with a smidge of olive oil – it really doesn’t need a lot.  Always apply your oil to whatever is going into the pan, not the griddle pan itself.  Cook until either marked or lightly crisped, depending on cooking method.

Whilst the aubergine is cooking, peel your courgettes into strips. I found it easiest to take a couple of layers off on ‘either side’ to remove the skin and then peel down to the juicy pippy middle of the courgettes, before turning it over to peel the other side.  The first couple of peels are all skin, so discard these.  Then griddle, in the same way as the aubergine.

Once all your component parts are ready, it’s time to assemble. I kept the vegetables together in layers for maximum effect when plating up, but you could mix them if you wished.  Spread a little of the tomato sauce on the bottom of your dish, then place in the aubergines, a little tomato sauce and a thin layer of mozzarella. Then the green courgettes, sauce and mozzarella, followed by the peppers and onions, sauce and mozzarella, then the mushrooms etc etc.  You get the idea.  You really don’t need much of the sauce in between – a spoonful to a spoonful and a half will do each layer.

Top with the remainder of the sauce and grated cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and lightly brown.

Serve with either crusty French bread or a green salad.

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