First of all, this is a bit labour intensive, but you can choose when to do it. I like to cook and layer up the bake in the afternoon, after lunch, so I know I have time for a cuppa and then any last minute emails/trips to the shops/housework before I go and get them. I then just leave it on the side to cool down and then slide it into the oven an hour before I want to eat.
I got the idea for the bake from a Neff cook book that I got at the Cake and Bake Show at Earl's Court. There's a recipe in there for a vegetable moussaka, which uses Parmesan and Feta for the sauce. I cast my mind back to my chat with Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board, and he said that Cheshire cheese often makes a good alternative to Feta. And I prefer the nutty flavour of Grana Padano to Parmesan and so used that instead. In short, I switched a few things around. I hope you enjoy the bake, do let me know if you make it.
Roasted vegetable and Cheshire cheese bake
Serves 6-8 (freeze any leftovers in individual portions and reheat for quick dinners or lunch on a cold day)
For the roasted veggies:
2 medium aubergines, washed and sliced into thinnish rounds
2 red onions, peeled and chopped into 4 wedges each
2 red peppers, washed and each sliced into 8 chunky wedges
3 medium-sized courgettes, washed and sliced into fairly thin rounds
For the tomato sauce:
1 red onion, peeled and chopped into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
For the cheese sauce:
100g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
40g Grana Padano, coarsely grated
100g Cheshire Cheese, crumbled
For the breadcrumb topping:
30g Panko breadcrumbs
100g Cheshire cheese, crumbled
Handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped roughly
3 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced
- First of all, prepare the vegetables and toss them in a drizzle of olive oil to coat. Roast (you might want to use two trays) in a 220ºC oven for 25 minutes.
- While the veggies are roasting, fry the chopped onion and the garlic in a little olive oil until softened and then pour in the cans of chopped tomatoes and the sugar. Season with salt and pepper and leave to bubble away for about 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Now make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large-ish saucepan and tip in the flour. Whisk to make a roux and to break up any lumps. Cook for about 2 minutes. Slosh in the milk, gradually, and whisk to combine, cooking over the heat, until you get a smooth, fairly thick sauce. Turn off the heat.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and pour into the white sauce, whisking quickly so they incorporate into the sauce. Crumble in the Cheshire cheese and the Grana Padano and whisk. Don't worry if there are some grainy pieces of cheese left in the sauce, but try and whisk out the large lumps.
- Take out the roasted vegetables and arrange half of them into a large roasting dish. Pour half of the tomato sauce over the top and then arrange the rest of the veg over the top. Pour the remaining tomato sauce and smooth over. Next, tip the thick cheese sauce over the bake, spreading it on like a big blanket. Top with the tomato slices.
- Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley and crumble in the remaining 100g Cheshire cheese. Toss to combine and then scatter it all over the top of the bake. At this point you can leave it to cool for cooking later, or if you're cooking it now, slide into a 190ºC oven for 45 minutes. Serve while hot, with a green salad and some garlic bread.