“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a MOM.”
When I look back, growing up with so many brothers and sisters I am filled with nostalgia at how the years have gone by. The fond memories I have of mom baking is still so vivid and the aroma that filled the house – we could hardly wait to dig in – be it a full seer fish marinated and cooked with lots of onions and Indian spices or roast mutton, mom used to cut thin slices and serve us all with bread, even a huge casserole of minced meat and mashed potatoes. Meal times were fun times. Childhood memories can’t be taken away from you.
Casseroles are large deep dishes where the meats along with the seasoning and sauce are put together and cooked in an oven, furthermore served in the same dish. It is time saving, substitutions are easy and it is a nutritionally balanced one -pot meal.
After I got married and moved to Chennai, we had a lot of friends who were vegetarian and that is when I started experimenting with vegetarian casseroles. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that most men – folk were not too fond of casseroles as they found it bland, rich and devoid of any Indian spice. I came across this recipe in an old issue of Femina years ago, tweaked it to suit the Indian palate and ever since then whenever I serve this casserole, be it for a weekend family dinner or a special occasion – the quantity is never enough!
I’m happy to be sharing one of my favourite vegetarian bakes with you:
- Cooked diced vegetables-2 cups (carrots, peas, corn, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, mushrooms, potatoes)
- Macaroni -3/4 cup boiled
- Tomatoes- 5-6 (blanched in hot water, skin removed and chopped)
- Onions-2 chopped
- Chilli powder-1 tbsp
- Salt and sugar
Third layer- White Sauce
- Butter – 2tbsp
- Milk-11/2 cups
- Seasoning – salt, pepper, oregano, chilli flakes
- In a buttered dish add cooked vegetables and macaroni/ pasta to the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle salt, pepper and a tablespoon of melted butter, mix lightly.
- In a tablespoon of butter, add chopped onions and fry till brown. Add chilli powder and stir, add chopped tomatoes, salt and sugar and stir till thick. Should be spicy, pour on top of the vegetable layer.
Third layer -White sauce.
- Melt butter on low flame, add flour and mix well to form a paste.
- Remove from flame and add 1/2 cup of milk, stir well till a smooth consistency is obtained.
- Add the rest of the milk, heat gently and stir till thick.
- Season with salt, pepper, oregano, chilli flakes etc.
- Spread over the tomato layer.
- For the garnish on top arrange coloured capsicums (cut round) on top.
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs and bake at 180deg c for 30-35 minutes.
- Serve with garlic bread.
- Whenever you substitute the vegetables, keep in mind the measurement specified.
- Vegetables have to be steamed or boiled in water to which a pinch of salt and sugar has been added.
- If using mushrooms, cut into T- shape pieces and sauté in a little butter for 3-4 minutes. Keep aside. Do not boil.
- Do not overcook the macaroni/ pasta, a knife or fork should just cut in, the centre should be fairly firm. After draining under cold water, apply a little oil on your fingertips and run through the pasta so that it does it stick to each other.
- For a rich white sauce, you could add 1/2 cup of cream and grate 1/2 cup of cheese too into the sauce.
- If cheese is not available, add a tbsp of cheese spread to the white sauce.
- Serves 6-8.
This is a very simple, spicy and colourful bake / casserole, you could easily put together after a long day. The thick second layer of spicy tomato adds to the flavour of the casserole and cannot be substituted for tomato sauce.
It’s hard to mess up this bake.
Till my next post