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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Root Vegetable Gratin

This is a warming, oozing, comforting dish that casts the vegetables as the leading character, and gives the pancetta that accompanies it the supporting role. Of course you could leave the pancetta out, should you wish to make this a vegetarian dish. However if you do eat meat, I recommend you include the pancetta: this is an example of how you can make a little meat go a long way. I have used potatoes, carrots and parsnips, but you could choose celeriac, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes or any other root vegetable you may like. This gratin is very rich, so while you could serve it as a decadent side dish, it is certainly bold enough to be a main dish in its own right. In that case, accompany it with a mixed leaf salad, or some steamed greens.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 parsnips
  • 1 white onion
  • 120 gr of diced pancetta
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • 1 handful of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 handfuls of Cheddar cheese
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper
Peel and cut your vegetables (except for the onion) in chunks, then parboil them for 5/6 minutes. Drain well, then transfer them to a roasting tray. Add the onion, sliced and roughly chopped, and the pancetta cubes. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped sage and rosemary leaves.  Roast them at 200° C until golden and caramelised (for about 30 minutes). 

Take the tray out of the oven and cover the vegetables with a layer of cheese. Add a layer of breadcrumbs on top, then drizzle a little olive oil. Repeat with another layer of cheese, breadcrumbs and olive oil. This will form a thick, crunchy, gorgeous cheesy crust that will protect and keep moist the caramelised vegetables underneath. 
Lower the oven at 180°C and bake for a further ten minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden. Leave it to cool slightly, then serve. 

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