For pretty obvious reasons, I do seem to spend my life thinking about food, planning menus, hosting occasions and of course – cooking – often in extremely large numbers. Hence, sometimes thinking about our own family supper is not always high on the agenda. But even at home – it is always homemade; otherwise the entire ethos of my business would be pointless.
Basically, every now and again or if I am late back from a function – whatever is in the fridge or larder is made into something quick and easy and yet yum, with minimal thought or hassle.
One such meal and a great favourite in my old veggie restaurant – is Crunchy Top Vegetable Bake and even if you don’t have the ingredients– it is worth venturing to my dear special friend and second home – the supermarket – for the ingredients.
Fry a couple of sliced onions, 2 battoned carrots and chunks of a large courgette until soft but not brown.
Meanwhile in a pan of boiling water barely cook some broccoli and cauliflower florets and add a tin of sweetcorn. Drain well (no soggy soft veggies if you don’t mind) and combine them all into an ovenproof dish.
Now these veggies need a tasty sauce. One of Merrow Savouries’ most popular ‘feed a hungry crowd’ dish is Lasagne. It may be a tad 1970s but it is still always delicious, hugely successful and devoured. But it does need a really good homemade cheese sauce. Never ever a bought jar of slimy, greasy E-filled slop. Homemade is fathoms above bought stuff – hence possibly why we are asked to make our Lasages all the time, be it beef, lamb, salmon, seafood, ratatouille, vegetable – you name it…
Anyway, when it comes to making our sauce we use the all-in-one method – much quicker when you have to make copious pints of the thick creamy cheesy stuff and frankly practically fool proof, always works, and lumpy sauce is banished forever.
So, instead of making the traditional ‘roux’ – simply put all your sauce ingredients into a saucepan at the same time, all cold. Proportions are roughly 1pt milk, 40g sifted flour/ and 40g cubed butter (not marg – you will tell the difference!). It also works well with much larger quantities. Now turn on the heat and bring the ingredients to a slow simmer – whisking as you go. It will quite quickly all come together into a thick glossy creamy sauce with no lumps. Magic! Then turn off the heat and leave it for 5 minutes to rest and thicken a little more; then season with salt and pepper and perhaps a pinch of cayenne or nutmeg or mustard. Stir in about 40g of grated strong cheddar cheese, which will melt in the residue heat of the sauce. Don’t add the cheese into the pan whilst it is cooking– it may become stringy. And you don’t want that.
With the magic all-in-one cheese sauce made – simply pour it over the prepared veggies.
Now for something weird…. Using a rolling pin crush some cornflakes (yes, cornflakes!) and combine with some grated cheese.
Top the veggies in the sauce with the cheesy flakes. Or you could actually be even weirder and use crushed crisps.
Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes and serve with a salad.