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If it’s purple and you know it…

March 20, 2011

…make this crispy-cheese-and-onion-topped-vegetable-bake!

If it’s purple and you know it…

…and you really want to find it…

…then head along to your nearest Farmers Market! My weekly shop at the local Christchurch Farmers Market, set in the surrounding grounds at Riccarton Bush, never fails to leave me excited about eating for the rest of the week. No question about which farmers market I’ll be voting for in the Taste Farmers Markets New Zealand Awards. Lyttelton Farmers Market is also fantastic though, and I know Grown stock there as well.  If you’re in New Zealand and you have a favourite farmers market, don’t forget to vote for them! You can also nominate stallholders. I’m helping promote the awards and there are heaps of other NZ cookbook prizes we arranging in addition to the trip to Singapore, so go ahead and vote!

This week I stumbled across the above pictured Asian eggplants/aubergines (even Wiki can’t decide if they’re Chinese or Japanese), which are incredibly tender and smell delicious when sauteed. I also found that bright purple cauliflower from the people at Grown, who stock them quite regularly I’ve noticed. Love the weird and wonderful stuff you can get from farmers markets! Just for the sake of novelty I wanted to make a purple produce ‘splosion that night. So I did.

…except it didn’t end up all that purple. However, it did end up lip-smackingly delicious, because I covered it in a crunchy, cheesy crumb topping. That tasted a bit like a cheese and onion sandwich, only crunchier and tastier. Yes, tastier than a cheese and onion sandwich. Crazy. EDIT: Also just found this “savoury crumble” from the gorgeous blog Always With Butter. The crumb topping is made like a fruit crumble only with cheese in it. Sounds delightful!

It helped that I used these potatoes (that randomly started growing in our garden) dug up that day. Oh lordy they were good, but if you’ve ever had super fresh potatoes you don’t need me to tell you…right? Seriously, if you’ve never had fresh-dug potatoes, now is the time. If no potatoes have miraculously and randomly popped in your garden, farmers markets are also abundant with very fresh potatoes, just ask when they plucked them from the earth. If you find purple potatoes, all the better! Wish I had thought of this at the time, since my parents’ load is constantly delivering. To sort of bind all these glorious veges together, I added some tomatoes from the garden, but any properly red tomatoes would be fine (low-acid roma tomatoes work a treat).

A word of warning: for what is essentially a very homely sort of a dish, this does require a bit of effort. The reward at the end is totally worth it of course, with the meaty aubergine and tomatoes providing richness, the cauliflower lending a contrasting flavour and texture, the potatoes to temper the saltiness of the sauce and the crispy cheese topping to add…er…yum. The light at the end of the tunnel is the 20 minutes where it just happily goes crispy in the oven. This is when I pack up the mess in the kitchen, but no one says you can’t enjoy a glass of wine for your efforts instead.

Vegetable bake with crispy cheesy crumb topping

serves 4 on its own

  • about 4-5 medium potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
  • handful of cauliflower florets
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly, divided into two lots
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 regular aubergine or 3 skinny Asian aubergines, sliced about 1cm thick then cut into approx 1″ long/wide pieces
  • about 400g fresh diced tomatoes, or 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • optional: juice of half a lemon, or splash of wine vinegar (use with low-acid tomatoes)
  • about 2c grated cheese (I used regular and parmesan)
  • about 2c breadcrumbs
  • plenty of cooking oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cover potatoes with cold water, place on high heat. Prep other ingredients while potatoes come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until a small knife slides into a piece easily and the skins have started to uncurl from the flesh. Once cooked, drain and set aside, covered.

Preheat oven to 200C, with a rack on the top third of your oven. While potatoes are cooking, heat plenty of oil in a deep frypan (not a wok) or wide saucepan (enough to fully coat the bottom of the pan), on medium heat. Once oil is hot, stir in aubergine to coat in the oil, then shake the pan to distribute them on an even layer. Let cook a minute to lightly brown the undersides, then stir the lot. Sprinkle over some salt. Let brown again, and continue  stirring/letting brown/stirring again, until the edges start to lose the purple colour. Remove to the baking dish you’re going to use (make sure it’s rather large). Add a little more oil to the pan, then stir in cauliflower and one lot of the red onion. Add a splash of water, cover, and let cook for a minute before uncovering. Add garlic, cover again for another minute. Uncover, add tomatoes and lemon juice/vinegar. Stir through, then add cauliflower and cooked potatoes (which should be done by now). Remove from heat, cover, and let the veges do their thing while you prep the topping. It’s ok if the cauliflower is still a little underdone, as it will continue cooking in the oven.

In an ice cream container, add cheese, breadcrumbs, the second lot of onion, and a splash of oil. Cover and shake around to mix the lot. Set aside. Taste a piece of potato from the veges in the pot, and stir in more salt if necessary. Pour into baking dish, then sprinkle over the crumb topping. Bake for about 20 minutes, until topping is golden brown and crispy.

When serving, cut the dish into however many servings you want, and slide a spatula under one serving and try to keep the crumb topping on top when popping onto a plate or it will lose crispiness almost immediately. Serve on its own or with a dollop of sour cream.

EDIT: To reheat tastily the next day, first microwave until nice and hot, then stick under the grill for a few minutes (or “broiler” if you’re in the US). Again, try to cut then pick up a “slice” of this. You’d be surprised at how well it stays together!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. ginblossoms permalink
    March 20, 2011 10:18 am

    i ALSO bought those eggplants at the market! I went italian with them (because I am subversive) and cooked meatball stew with sauteed eggplant

  2. March 20, 2011 11:23 am

    Aren’t they amazingly tender? I figured that was a half-truth but no, they really do melt in your mouth.

  3. March 21, 2011 1:07 am

    Love the sound of this vegetable bake. The colours of all those vegetables are gorgeous – and the freshly dug potatoes look awesome!

  4. March 21, 2011 10:36 am

    L: They are preeettty, although last night I realised I should have used purple potatoes Doh. My parents have heaps of them too.

  5. March 25, 2011 9:42 am

    Ooh so pretty! I am loving purple these days. Plus the casserole bake looks delicious!

  6. April 21, 2011 1:08 pm

    I love all those purple veggies but I bought purple beans the other day and was really disappointed when I cooked them and they turned green. I never imagined they’d do that. Does this happen to other purple veg (asparagus, carrots etc?)

  7. April 21, 2011 2:22 pm

    Purple cauli doesn’t go green, and obviously the aubergine stays purple as well. But yes purple asparagus and beans go green once cooked, which is helpful when you’re picking and cooking them, but yes, a bit sad when you wanted a purple element in your dish. Purple carrots go orange but at least you can easily eat them grated in a salad and they’ll stay purple!

    Also, great to meet another NZ blogger! Will link to you in my NZ bloggers page :)

  8. April 21, 2011 2:46 pm

    I will do the same. Did you know when you parboil muddy-brown kelp it goes a really vivid green?

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