Random thoughts of a rapidly ageing Englshman who wishes he was retired and living in Fance

Saturday, 2 May 2009

What can I do with a leftover carrot?

Even if its cooked, a leftover carrot can be fun.

Well perhaps that is overstating things a bit, but you can at least use them and even make something quite tasty. Over the years, I have to admit to having generated quite a lot of leftover carrots, potatoes, beans, leeks, and the odd cold brussel sprout........

One of the great joys of being on holiday is that it forces you to improvise in the kitchen. No longer can you rely on the same old stuff..its Tuesday so its....routine. Each day is a culinary adventure, especially as you get towards the end of your stay and Eating Up becomes the order of the day.

And so many years ago we found ourselves with a load of cooked and uncooked but definitely un-eaten vegetables, half a ton (sorry tonne) of cheese plus a packet of lardons fumé in the fridge, all facing extintion the next day when we were due to head home, and so it was that Veg Gratin (pronounced vej gr-rat-an with a stressed chef untill he's the right side of half a bottle of
cooking sherry).

So how do you make this culinary masterpiece? Simple really...

First you take a selection of veg..whatever you have will do

Note the mystery ingredient in the glass...(hint, you don't put it in the cooking).
Chop your veg up and put the oven on to warm up and a pan of water on to boil. If the veg are cooked leftovers, forget the pan.
Par-boil the slower cooking veg - the main cooking is in the oven but for veg that need a bit of boil time like swede and potatoes, you need to get them 2/3 of the way in boiling water whilst other stuff - broccoli, peas, french beans, etc., you can leave raw. The trick here is to balance the cooking of the veg so when you've finished the dish all are to your liking.
Whilst the veg are cooking you need to make the sauce. Fry up some smoked bacon (or pancetta if you're posh) in a saucepan and maybe some garlic, etc. when browned turn the heat out, allow to cool a bit and then knock up a mix of Delia's white/béchemal sauce in the pan with the bacon, to which I always add the first of my 2 mystery ingredients....
Yep... I put mace in my white sauce. You only need a pinch - maybe 1/8 teaspoon - but it just adds a little something that goes with a cheesy sauce so well. Since I fancied it I also chucked some smokey paprika on the bacon bits as they fried this time.
Having tried this "recipe" (its really more a method) with lots of different cheeses, the best for this kind of thing its got to be Reblochon. Its a bit like Brie but has its own mild creamy cheesy flavour, and it cooks wonderfully.

Luckily I just happened to have one to hand!

You can add as much or little cheese to the sauce as you like at this stage. Make sure your veg are not cooked to death by the time your sauce is ready. If you've any doubt, make the sauce then put the veg on.

When they are ready drain the veg well and artistically dump them in an oven proof (daft phrase) dish. Its better if the veg really don't carry much water at this stage so drain well and remember timing here is important e.g. the broccoli is still raw at this stage, it'll get all the cooking it needs in the oven.

Pour the sauce all over the veg and add some slices of Reblochon and if you like, tomato or whatever - choriso works well. Art is important here, so take your time arranging - sorry I meant dressing the dish .....

Then into the oven for 20 - 30 mins and.....hey pretso, diner is served!!!

Easy, innit? Who says they can't cook?


Jean said...

I feel hungry now. Must remember to produce leftover veg tomorrow.

wcs said...

Looks delish. And what the heck is swede?

NickL said...

Its the lumpy thing with purple skin in the first photo between the leeks and butter.

Its a hard root veg (you see them in French markets)which you peel and eat the orange blond flesh. They go very well mashed with carrots (but take a little longer to soften)or as an alternative to potatoes. Apparently they're probably called rutabaga in the US which explains why they are called swedes everywhere else, since rutabaga is swedish for, errr swede or some such nonsense.


wcs said...

Oh, yes, of course. As they say in the US: D'oh!