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Roasted Vegetable and Brown Rice Gratin

This is obviously a supper dish for non-meat-eaters, but I have served it to the most dedicated carnivores who, after initial apprehension, have loudly sung its praises. Vegetarians might like to know that a vegetarian parmesan-style cheese is available from Bookhams


This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book One.


For the vegetables, begin by cutting the squash, celeriac, swede, carrots and parsnip into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes. Place them and the red onions, each cut into six through the root, in a large bowl, along with the herbs, garlic, a good seasoning of salt and pepper and the olive oil, then toss them around so they get a good coating of oil and herbs.

Now arrange them evenly all over the baking sheet, then place this on the highest shelf of the oven to roast for about 30 minutes, or until they are nicely brown at the edges. As soon as they are ready, take them out and reduce the oven temperature to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

For the rice, begin by warming the frying pan over a medium heat, then add the oil and the onions and let them cook for 3-4 minutes, until lightly tinged brown.

Next stir in the rice – there's no need to wash it – and turn the grains over in the pan so they become lightly coated and glistening with oil. Then add the boiling stock, along with the salt, stir once only, then cover with the lid, turn the heat to the very lowest setting and cook for 40-45 minutes. Don't remove the lid and don't stir the rice during cooking, because this is what will break the grains and release their starch, which makes the rice sticky.

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce by placing the milk, flour, butter and a pinch of the cayenne pepper into a medium-sized saucepan, then whisk it all together over a gentle heat until you have a smooth, glossy sauce. Let it cook on the lowest heat for 5 minutes, and after that add half the cheeses.

Whisk again and allow them to melt into it, then season the sauce with salt, freshly milled black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. When the vegetables and rice are cooked, arrange the rice in the ovenproof dish, then the vegetables on top of that, followed by the sauce, pouring it over and around the vegetables as evenly as possible.

Finally, scatter over the remaining cheeses with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, then return the dish to the oven and give it about 20 minutes or until the sauce is browned and bubbling.


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