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.
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.
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.
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.