Curried Leek and Squash Gratin

When is it going to warm up?

A couple of days in February were mild enough for me to spend a few hours in the garden turning over soil and pruning back brambles and branches before they begin their spring growth. I didn’t notice it at the time, but the next day my poor fingers and arms were scratched to bits. I was finding little pieces of thorn stuck in them for several days afterwards – must remember to get some thicker gardening gloves :\

So, I have a sniffly, headachy cold right now and want to do nothing but laze around and drink tea. That, of course, just won’t do (And yes, I am going to stop complaining now). I did at least manage to make this…

A dish adapted from The Complete Book of Vegan Cooking  by Tony and Yvonne Bishop-Weston. There are a lot of promising recipes in this book. It’s on loan from the library so I’m going to write out some more of the recipes to make in the future.

Although we are not a vegan family at all, I would very much like to move more towards eating that way. With no pressure. This meal was delicious – so nice I’ve made it twice!  Warm comforting food like this is just what I need right now.

Curried Leek and Squash Gratin

Ingredients:

1lb peeled and seeded pumpkin or other type of squash, cut into ½ inch slices
4 tbsp olive oil
1lb leeks, sliced
1½ lb tomatoes, sliced
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cumin
½ pint coconut milk or coconut cream topped up with water
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander/parsley
4 tbsp rolled oats
Salt and ground pepper

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5
  • Boil squash for 10-15 mins
  • Heat ½ oil in a large frying pan and sauté leeks until soft
  • Layer drained squash, leeks and tomatoes into large ovenproof dish
  • Sprinkle with Salt, pepper, nutmeg and cumin
  • Pour coconut milk into a small pan, add chilli, garlic and mint and warm gently
  • Pour over vegetables and cook in preheated oven for 50-55 mins
  • Sprinkle with oats and parsley/coriander and remaining oil
  • Bake a further 15-20 mins and serve
The meditation of slicing leeks and tomatoes, stirring chopped chilli, garlic and mint into a creamy coconut sauce – well, it’s just what frosty foggy March mornings were made for.

Apparently (I have just looked it up), the word ‘gratin’ comes from the French ‘to grate’ or ‘scrape’ and usually denotes a topping of breadcrumbs or cheese. This recipe has neither, but a crisp topping of oats instead. You could use breadcrumbs or cheese and I’m sure they would go just as well. Interestingly, ‘au gratin’ in French also refers to the ‘upper crust’ of French society.

I may have gone a little overboard with the chilli on this second batch… it certainly helped me breathe a little easier 🙂

x

Quince Jelly and Jam

Last week I ordered 1.5 kg of quinces. I have never seen quinces before except in pictures, so, when they arrived I was surprised to see how large these ones were – only 4 were 1.5kg! I wish I’d taken a photo of them but this is pretty much what they looked like, only bigger…
Quince
Their fragrance is subtle and sweet, they are a deep yellow and covered in a furry coating which had to be scrubbed off before cooking. 
I found this recipe to use as a guideline to make quince jelly.
– I cut up the quinces skin and all – only discarding the few black seeds. They are extremely hard to cut – I had to ‘saw’ them at times in order to chop them up into chunks.
– I put all the quince pieces into a large pan and covered with water. I brought it to boil and simmered for a couple of hours.
– Then I poured the entire contents of the pan into a colander that had been lined with muslin and sat in a large bowl, the golden liquid strained through the fabric into the glass bowl below… clear and golden, like honey. 
– I let it sit for a couple of hours to strain completely, without squeezing so as not to cloud the juice, then after measuring it, I poured it into a pan adding about 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of liquid.
– Brought it quickly to boiling point and continued to boil for approximately an hour and a half until setting point was reached. (Intermittently spending a good while gently stirring with a wooden spoon entranced by the beautiful ambrosial liquid… not because it was necessary… just because I could) I melted a teaspoonful of butter to get rid of the foam on the surface. After the boiling time, you can test a small spoonful on a saucer. If it gels or gets all wrinkly on the surface – it’s ready. Or, test with a sugar thermometer if you have one – it is ready once it reaches about 105°C (220°F).
– I poured the viscous liquid into sterilised jars and left to cool.
– I absolutely could not waste all the rest of that mushy quince mixture even though it did not look appetising at all – all brown and squishy in the colander. I pushed it through a sieve to puree, then put it into a pan and cooked it for a half hour or so with 3/4 cup of sugar per cup of quince.

– Finally I spooned the jam into sterilised jars. It is the most delicious looking peachy colour and of a soft sorbet-like consistency.

Quince Jam and Quince Jelly
 Nine jars from just four quinces! 
Traditionally served with cheese, I like it on hot buttered toast, and I have an idea it might be good with vanilla ice cream. Not so sweet as jam, and yet not so tangy as marmalade. An unusual delicate flavour – well worth making. I will definitely be searching out quinces to cook with again. 
If only I could find some local quince trees to scavenge.