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An adaptable choice: Cheesy vegetable bake

An adaptable choice: Cheesy vegetable bake
Family affair: Tony Jackman’s cheesy vegetable bake. June 2024. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Start by roasting carrots and onions to develop some lovely caramel flavours. Then add other vegetables and turn it into a vegetable bake for a chilly night’s supper.

The components of this dish are a variety of vegetables including onions and carrots; a large quantity of béchamel (white) sauce that is turned into a cheese sauce by the addition of grated Cheddar, and a topping of grated cheese.

You can swap out some of the vegetables I have used according to what you have in your crisper. We almost invariably have this and that left over in there, and this is another way to use them up. In fact, in our case, a bunch of sundry vegetables became supper. But do keep the carrots and onions in, and I think it would lose something without the leeks.

I’ve just deleted a paragraph in which I had written that this dish is suitable for vegetarians, because that’s a minefield I have crossed before at my peril. I don’t want somebody coming around again and hitting me over the head with a very large carrot. 

My stance is that individuals can assess the ingredients of any of my recipes according to whatever their food choices are, and decide for themselves whether it’s suitable. There is however no doubt that carnivores are well catered for in almost every recipe I write. 

Except this one.

I haven’t said how many people this feeds, because you may use it as a side dish for a crowd or as the main event for a family supper.

Tony’s cheesy vegetable bake

Ingredients

3 large onions, halved

Olive oil to coat

4 to 6 large carrots

3 or 4 large leeks, sliced

4 garlic cloves, chopped

6 courgettes, sliced in half lengthwise

Vegetable stock, enough to cover the leeks

Half a head of cauliflower, in florets

For the béchamel sauce:

1 litre full cream milk

3 Tbsp butter

1 heaped Tbsp flour

2 bay leaves

Salt and white pepper to taste

Plus:

1 cup Cheddar cheese to add to the béchamel sauce

1 cup grated Cheddar for scattering on top of the dish

Method

Preheat the oven to 200℃.

Blanch the cauliflower florets in boiling water and drain.

Peel the carrots (or not if you prefer) and cut in half lengthwise if very thick, or leave them whole if thin. Peel the onions, slice in half and put them in an oven dish with the carrots. Drizzle oil over, toss, and roast for 30 minutes.

Add the whole (topped and tailed) courgettes to the pan and roast with the other vegetables for another 20 minutes.

Slice the leeks and garlic and sautée in oil in a pan until softened. 

Add vegetable stock to cover and cook on a moderate heat for a few minutes. When half of the liquid is left, thicken with cornflour and season with a little salt and pepper.

Add the chopped roasted onions to this and stir through.

For the béchamel:

Bring a litre of milk just to a boil with the two bay leaves in it, and immediately turn off the heat. Remove the bay.

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a large enough pot (1 litre-plus) and, off the heat, quickly stir in the flour.

On a modest heat, while stirring continuously, add the hot milk a little at a time, stirring until combined and smooth. Cook while stirring on a low bubble for about 15 minutes for the flour to cook out. Season with salt and white pepper.

Turn this into a cheese sauce by stirring in a cup of grated Cheddar until melted and combined.

To finish:

Grease an oven dish. Put all of the leeks and onions in, including the leeks’ sauce.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add the blanched cauliflower

Season.

Add half of the cheesy béchamel.

Add the carrots and courgettes in alternate rows.

Season.

Add the rest of the cheesy béchamel.

Topped with grated cheese.

Bake at 200℃ for about 30 minutes or until the cheese at the top has formed a golden crust. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

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