This winter vegetable bake is like a baked bubble and squeak. Winter root vegetables, with cabbage and cheese makes for a delicious vegetarian dinner or a hearty side dish.
I got the idea from a couple of sources – the first was when I returned from my honeymoon. We came back from warm, sunny shores to November in England. It was cold, wet, windy and after two weeks of well, not great food in the hotel, I was craving warm, stick to your ribs, comfort food and although I didn’t know it then, I was also pregnant with my second son.
The first day back after we had unpacked, I didn’t feel like cooking dinner, so we went out to a lovely little pub – The Otter, which is on the banks of the River Soar in Kegworth. There was a real fire burning in the hearth and I remember ordering a hearty stew that came with simply mashed vegetables (because it was the winter menu). It was a lovely comforting meal and really hit the spot after all the Euromush we had been suffering in the hotel! Although, to be fair the Greek salad and yogurt were great…!
The second source was when we went up to Yorkshire to visit relatives later that year on Boxing Day. My brother in law made these sort of vegetable patties from the Christmas dinner leftovers. They were great – actually the best part of the whole meal! I never did find out how he made them, but pregnant and craving veggies, I decided to try and recreate them at home.
However, my version did not work! They just fell to pieces as they were too soft. I gave up and ended up shoving the whole lot in a baking dish, sticking it in the oven and cooking it like a casserole. The result was a lovely vegetable bake and I decided to abandon the patties and make it that way from then on.
I have altered that recipe in that I now put slow cooked onions into it and I usually add cheese too. The dish can be made from leftovers, but I normally cook the vegetables from scratch in order to make this. The proportions are open to variation, but I normally do two thirds potato, to one third swede and carrots. The veg can be boiled or steamed until tender.
1 medium sized swede/rutabaga – peeled and cut into small dice
3 medium sized carrots – peeled and cut into small dice, the same size as the swede
5-6 medium sized potatoes – cut into chunks
1 small savoy cabbage or kale, thinly sliced
3 or 4 medium sized onions, peeled and cut into semi circles
Comte cheese – any cheese can be used, but the sweet, nutty flavour of Comte really compliments the sweet vegetables
Salt and pepper
Sauté the onions slowly in 1 tbs of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter with 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on a low heat for around 25 minutes until golden, soft and sweet.
While the onions are cooking, boil the carrots and swede/rutabaga in salted boiling water until the chunks are tender – around 25-30 minutes. In another saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water until they are tender – around 15-20 minutes. I do them in separate pans as the potatoes cook more quickly.
Steam or boil the cabbage for around 3 minutes, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking, refresh and set the colour. I sometimes do this in the potato water after I have taken out the potatoes to save on the washing up. Squeeze out excess water and set aside.
Drain and mash the potatoes. Then drain the carrots and swede and mash separately. I find they tend to hold onto the water, so once mashed, I stir them over the heat until some of the moisture has evaporated. This is just my preference.
Beat the potatoes, swede and carrots together using a wooden spoon with lots of butter and plenty black pepper, stir in the onions and cabbage and transfer to a large baking dish.
Sprinkle cheese over the top and using the wooden spoon, push in some of the cheese into the mixture so that you have little areas of melted cheese in the finished dish. Smooth out the top and bake at 180°C/350°F for around 30 minutes or until the top is golden, crisp and bubbling.
This is perfect as a side dish to any roast meat or fish and can be made ahead of time and baked when you want to serve it.