My love for continental food knows no bounds. Every multi cuisine buffet spread that I have engaged in, will vouch for the magnetic chemistry between me and the Continental food counters. The herb grilled chicken, the fish and chips, the steak, the crispy chicken, wedges, baked vegetables in Marinara sauce, broccoli and cheese bake, the potato leek soup, the puddings, the Blueberry Pie, the shortcakes and tarts – all beckon me indomitably to relish their alluring flavours and richness.
My passion for this cuisine (I call it passion, but some of my close friends are sure that it is a fixation!) goes a long way, so much so that on a particular long haul international flight with these friends of mine, I was unable to hide my disappointment when I was offered an Asian meal that was apparently booked on my ticket. I did not mind repressing my hunger till the entire aircraft was served and there finally was a continental meal that was still available for me. Sounds crazy, isn’t it? But that’s me!!
A particular continental dish that I particularly cherish in my foodie mind space is the Vegetable Au Gratin. This preparation is the reason for my inimitable fondness of Continental cuisine.
Vegetable Au Gratin… the dish always creates an intriguing aura of sophistication around it due to its enigmatic name and its use of some classy ingredients so reminiscent of its European lineage.
A gratin is basically a topping of cheese and seasoned bread crumbs that is baked or broiled to a golden brown. It derives from the French word “Le Gratin” which implies “Upper crust”.
Veg Au Gratin works as a very versatile preparation; it can serve as a comforting one dish meal or it works equally well as the coveted main from a wider continental menu.
It typically comprises of layers of a wide variety of veggies intertwined with layers of a creamy white sauce that is finally topped with the Gratin.
Here’s my take on the Veg au Gratin….
To get going, you need…….
2 medium potatoes; boiled & mashed
7-8 spinach leaves
2 cups chopped, parboiled veggies (carrots/ babycorn/ French beans/ Mushrooms/ Cherry tomatoes/ Black Olives/ Bell peppers)
½ cup Bread crumbs
1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
½ tsp Chilli flakes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme)
1 tsp ground black pepper
Salt to taste
For the white sauce…..
2 tbsp Unsalted butter (I use home churned white butter)
1 ½ cups milk
4 tbsp Refined wheat flour
1 tsp garlic paste
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
To make the sauce, melt butter in a pan, sauté garlic paste, add flour and roast it on butter for 2-3 mins on low flame. Add milk little at a time stirring continuously so that there are no lumps. Add cheddar cheese once the mixture boils and keep stirring till it forms a smooth creamy pouring consistency. Adjust the milk you add to ensure correct consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, mix and allow it to cool.
Meanwhile, add some salt and chilli flakes to the mashed potatoes and spread them evenly across the surface of a square flat baking dish. Cover it with a bed of spinach leaves and top it with the veggies mixed with some salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Pour the white sauce to cover the veggies layer evenly. Next, add a layer of bread crumbs and finally top the dish with mozzarella.
Bake for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated at 175 degrees Celsius. Remove from oven once the crust is golden brown in colour.
Serve while hot with a slice of garlic bread.
For those who love a tangy twist to this dish, especially kids, add a dash of tomato ketchup on the top while serving.
If you like, you can substitute bread crumbs with a layer of flattened bread slices (soaked in water and then pressed to remove all water) drizzled with olive oil for the same crust effect.
Enjoy your meal and Yummy Expressions! See you soon with more….