Pretty much all that is left in the garden is fennel & leeks. Due to a busy late summer we didn’t get around to planting winter crops, so this year I plan to hunt some manure down, dig it in and cover the beds, to enrich the soil with much needed nutrients before spring arrives.
In the meantime, we have quite a lot of these 2 vegetables to get through before they are past their best. The leek variety we planted isn’t an overwintering type, so we’ll need to eat up what’s left by Christmas. I’m not sure how much longer than that the fennel will last either, but I can’t imagine it will be delicious much longer.
So, a few weeks ago, with my parents here & The Gardener cooking them a roast, I experimented a little with combining them to create a side dish that I would want to eat, with a few added extras to ensure to round it out as part of a vegetarian or vegan feast, whilst still complementing the roast that was being prepared. ( I’m considerate like that)
The trick to making this dish sweet, savoury and more-ish is to slowly braise the veggies in a casserole dish in the oven with a fragrant broth, before adding a herby, crunchy breadcrumb, pinenut & pumpkin seed topping. The added pinenuts and seeds are nutritious, and are really tasty too.
It occurs to me that it would make a great accompaniment to a Christmas dinner, especially if you have veggie guests who are coming. Even with ‘all the trimmings’ a Christmas dinner can seem a little dull for veggie/ vegan people. I’m used to really amping up the flavour in my vegetable dishes, and at times (whisper it…) the trad roasted and boiled veggies that accompany Christmas dinner I find a little bland. Probably not a problem if you’re going to drown them in meaty gravy, but not my favoured way to eat veggies. Also: Vegetarian gravy is mostly just blah… IMHO. This dish layers flavours, that work as well on their own – no gravy required- as they do as a side for the meat eaters. Win win win!!
A few stand out dishes like this, and the Blushing Beetroot & Potato Boulangere …which I posted about recently, and you pretty much have a feast that will please all comers, whether or not you decide to do a special ‘just for the veggies option’.
Which you should.
But just in case you don’t/run out of time.
I will be. But I’m not quite sure what just yet…..
Now.. excuse me. I have a main course to go and dream up. Goal… to make everyone forget that turkey and just eat the veggies.
- 1 fat bulb (or 2 smaller) Fennel, finely sliced
- 3 small or 2 fatter leeks , sliced into long batons- around 2 cm x 10 cm
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 tsp marigold stock powder
- 1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp fresh parsley
- 1 Tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
- 2 Tbs pine nuts
- 2 Tbs pumpkin seeds
- 2 tsp mild chilli powder
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 Tbs olive oil
Slick a casserole dish with olive oil & layer the leeks and fennel into it in alternating layers. You want around 5 cm of veggies deep.
In a jug, mix together the hot water, stock powder, white wine, half the thyme & oregano
Pour over the leeks & fennel.
Pop in a moderate oven ( Gas Mark 7/220 C) for 15-20 mins
Meanwhile, roughly chop the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds, and mix together with the rest of the herbs, the panko breadcrumbs, chilli powder, a smidge of salt & pepper and the nutritional yeast.
Pull the leeks & fennel out and check to see if there is too much liquid- (some vegetables give out more than others! You want the gratin to be moist, with a tiny amount of liquid in the bottom, about 1 cm) if there too much, carefully pour it off.
Then spread the breadcrumb/pinenut mix over the top of the leeks
Return to the oven for another 15 mins or until golden & crispy on top.