Another repost from November 2010, deep in the Rock Salt archives. Again, I’ve reworked it a little to make it at least moderately presentable. It’s an extract from a blog post entitled ‘One Food, Two Food, Red Green Blue Food’ which I still rather like. Nothing wrong with a bit of Doctor Seuss in the kitchen.
The beginnings of this recipe are to be found in Romesco Sauce from Leite’s Culinaria. This really is a lovely creation, very rich and warming without being overpowering or mouth-burning. It was also an opportunity for me to try cooking with hazelnuts, which I’ve never really done before – if you’ve read my past posts, you’ll know I don’t really like nuts, though I’m more and more realising that it’s purely the texture that I have an issue with, because the nuttiness of this sauce is really delicious. I was a little stumped about serving suggestions, though. The suggested use is to spread on grilled bread or to use as a dip, and either would be lovely at a dinner party (however formal, or otherwise) but for just me, little old me who’s back to trying to avoid eating much by way of bread or pasta, it was less obvious what I should do with the sauce once I’d made it.
(Note: HAhahahaha… no bread or pasta. Ha.)
I decided to go with layering the sauce up with vegetables and roasting in the oven, an unorthodox option but one I was glad I had dreamed up. The sauce, Google tells me, is also good to serve with fish, asparagus or lamb. I have some in the freezer, now, so I’ll dig that back out after pay day and try it with one of the above, too. As you can see from the picture, it’s a vibrantly coloured sauce, with slightly rough texture, and the flavour matches its appearance with mingled hits of garlic, spice and sharpness. Really great stuff. The only unfortunate side is that I was making it with my mini jug blender rather than a proper food processor, so it took a bit more work and a lot more mess to get it to come together, but I made it in the end. Lets just say I had plenty of opportunities to taste the sauce. Because I got it all over my hands.
With a base ingredient as flavoursome as this, I didn’t have to work too hard with the rest of the ingredients that I put in the dish. I sliced into rings half a large leek and two thirds of an aubergine, and sliced a courgette long ways. I also thinly sliced enough broccoli florets to give two layers, and I bought a pack of sliced mushrooms – it was cheaper than buying them unsliced and doing the work myself, why would I not? Before using the aubergine and courgette, I put them all in a single layer on the grill pan and put under a high grill for a couple of minutes each side, to soften them up a bit. I layered up one lot of aubergine, one lot of broccoli, one lot of courgette, then the mushrooms and leeks in the middle – there was only enough for one layer of each of these; I ran out of mushroom, and I didn’t want the leek to overpower the other veg with its tyrannical onioniness. I dropped spoonfuls of the sauce over these layers, then poured over enough just-boiled water to thin it to a consistency that would get all friendly with the layers and snuggle up in between them – I used the back of a spoon to help it along its way, and gave the baking dish a good round of shaking and gently tapping against the table to further encourage mingling. I then repeated with another layer of courgette, aubergine and broccoli, covered in sauce, and banged in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes.
The veg was still quite firm after this long, but it was also quite late at night, so I took the interesting decision to turn the oven off but leave the baking dish in with the residual heat. The result was probably overcooked, but delicious nonetheless as all the flavours had mixed together well. Aesthetically speaking, it ended up being a bit of a red mush, if I’m honest, and I probably wouldn’t have served it to anyone else, but spooned over a baked potato it made a really good, filling lunch.
Baked vegetables with romesco sauce:
- Romesco Sauce (you won’t need the full recipe for this, but once you taste it you might want to have some extra to hand)
- one small aubergine, sliced in rings
- one courgette, sliced lengthways
- small head of broccoli, florets thinly sliced
- handful of mushrooms, sliced
- one small leek (or 1/2 large one), sliced in rings
I’ve rarely written the word ‘sliced’ so often in so short a time.
First, thin your romesco sauce to a pouring consistency with some hot water. This is not something I did for the original recipe, but it would have made a LOT more sense than adding water at the end.
Place the aubergine and courgette under a high grill for two minutes on each side, to soften. Then, get a baking dish and place a layer of aubergine, a layer of courgette and a layer of broccoli in the bottom. Add a few heaped spoonfuls of sauce and spread roughly. Add a layer of mushrooms and leek, and more sauce. Finally, finish with another layer of courgette, aubergine and broccoli, and a final layer of sauce.
Bake at 180C for about twenty five minutes, until the veg is tender. Consume with baked potatoes, as a side dish with fish, on its own. You could also top with breadcrumbs before baking to make a more substantial meal.