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I can’t say this is fast and easy.  It’s a long slow Sunday afternoon recipe, and it creates quite a bit of washing up!  But there’s a good return on investment – for an hour or so of Sunday afternoon baking, you can have several very healthy dinners and lunches made ready for the week.  And you won’t get sick of eating it.

There are three parts to this recipe:  the vegetables, the tomato sauce and the bechamel sauce.

The Vegetables:

Turn the oven on to warm up.

You can use a variety of vegetables in season. For this version I used an orange sweet potato,  half a pumpkin, two large eggplants, 400 grams of mushrooms, and a bunch of baby spinach, but feel free to substitute.

The eggplants are the slowest process, so start with them.  Slice into centimetre thick slices, sprinkle with salt, and put in a colander in the sink to drain.

Next the sweet potato.  It needs a bit of a head start cooking, so slice it into centimetre thick slices, massage with olive oil, spread out on a baking tray and bake to half cook, so the slices are just starting to get tender.

Slice the mushrooms and pumpkin into centimetre thick slices too.  Leave the spinach leaves whole.

By now the eggplants have drained enough.  Rinse and pat dry, massage in oil, and add to the sweet potato in the oven.

The Tomato Sauce

Saute a large onion, diced, in a little olive oil.  Add two or three cloves of garlic, chopped fine, and a diced capsicum, then half a dozen large tomatoes, diced (or a can of tomatoes) and a good handful of basil chopped.  Simmer gently to reduce to a fairly thick tomato sauce.

The Bechamel

In a saucepan, cook four good dessertspoons of plain wholemeal flour in 6 desertspoons of olive oil till it foams.  The idea is to explode the starch in the flour without browning it.  Add two cups of low fat milk and half a cup of low fat ricotta or cottage cheese and two bay leaves.  Cook, stirring, till it thickens. Fish out the bay leaves and add salt and pepper.

The Assembly

Oil a baking dish and place the partly-cooked sweet potato in a single layer in the bottom of it.  Cover with half the tomato sauce, then half the bechamel.  Spread a layer of pumpkin slices on top, then a layer of mushrooms and a layer of spinach leaves.  Cover with the other half of the tomato sauce, then the partly-cooked eggplant slices, then the other half of the bechamel sauce.  Sprinkle the top with grated parmesan.  Pop it back in the middle of a moderate oven and bake for about 25 minutes till the cheese is golden on top and the vegetables are tender.

It’s good hot or cold.

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Tonight’s dinner is kangaroo rissoles with onion and mushroom gravy, parsnip mash and beans and carrots. Doesn’t look like health food does it? But this is one of those sneaky meals that is a Witches Kitchen version of the kind of comfort food that takes me back to the days when neither global warming nor watching calories were in my consciousness at all. It’s not a great photo because I wasn’t going to blog about it.  But it was so good I had to!

The kangaroo mince comes from South Australia, but I’m hoping if we keep buying it at the supermarket we’ll encourage a more local supplier. Kangaroo is by far the most environmentally friendly of the red meat choices, better as far as greenhouse gasses go and also in terms of limiting soil erosion. They are wild harvested and ethically killed. And it is lean and a good source of some valuable nutrients – see the links for more. It’s my Witches Kitchen red meat of choice.

Everything else meets the 100 mile rule: parsnips, beans, carrots, onions, chili, capsicum, and garlic out of the garden. My own eggs. Mushrooms from the farmers market. Local olive oil, organic plain wholemeal flour and ricotta. Worcestershire sauce is an unknown, but it fits in my don’t sweat the small stuff category.

Parsnip mash is a great alternative to potato mash, with half the calories and glycemic load, and works just as well to soak up gravy. Parsnips are a lot slower and harder to grow (and therefore more expensive if you are buying them). But the substitution adds such a tiny overall amount to the household expenses.

Kangaroo Rissoles

To make 6 large patties, mix ½ a kilo of kangaroo mince, one finely chopped onion, lots of garlic, a finely chopped chili and/or some finely chopped capsicum, a good swig of Worcestershire sauce, 2 eggs, a couple of tablespoons of ricotta and a couple of tablespoons of plain flour. Use your hands to squish it all well together. The mix should be sticky but not sloppy.

Use a large kitchen spoon to drop spoonfuls into a little bit of olive oil in a pan and fry till browned and firm. Use the same pan to fry some finely sliced onion and mushrooms, and then add a bit of flour and brown it. Add the cooking water from the vegetables that have been steaming meanwhile and make gravy. Taste and add a touch more Worcestershire if it’s too bland.  Serve with steamed parsnips blended to a puree with a little milk and steamed vegies in season.

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