As you might have discerned, I have no idea what to call this recipe. It’s sort of technically a main course salad, though a salad with absolutely nothing green in it doesn’t seem quite salad-y to me. I know that ‘Bowls’ are the current big thing, but calling it a Bowl just seems pretentious to me. Mélange sounds right to me, but probably sounds pretentious to everyone who isn’t me, so that’s no good.
The important thing to know about this meal is that it is *delicious*. Picture this scenario: it’s the end of a long day at work. The grants have just opened on RGMS. I’ve gotten home late, because I was running choir after work. I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in about a week. I’m tired and I am cranky and I am sulking because basically I want fish and chips or takeaway, preferably something with lots of creamy cheese in it like four cheese pasta, or alternatively all the chocolate in the world, and here I am with stale bread, leftover beetroot dip, a cauliflower and a bunch of slightly elderly carrots.
This is not the stuff of which comfort food is made.
And yet… honestly, I feel like this is the best thing I’ve eaten all week. It was sooo good. Warm and earthy and crunchy and soft and squidgy and aromatic and sweet and savoury and probably nowhere near as good for me as I’d like to pretend, though better than fish and chips, eh, and actually not too much of a pain to make.
So here I am, desperately wanting an early night but unable to rest without writing down just what I did, because I will need to do it again sometime. Sometime soon. And maybe so will you.
(I apologise for the slightly vague quantities and the terrible photos – this is what happens when you are making dinner from the fridge and don’t really have plans to write it up because you are sulking at having to eat vegetables when all you want is cheesy cheesy pasta or maybe cheesy cheesy chips.)
Your Shopping (or leftovers) list
1 cauliflower – fairly large, I’d say
1 red onion
1 tbsp ras el hanout or other moroccan spice mix
6-8 smallish carrots (no idea how many really, more or fewer will be fine, and colourful is good)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
about half a baguette’s worth of sourdough olive bread, or any other good chewy bread
a tablespoon of parmesan (optional)
400g tin of chickpeas
about 100 – 150g of beetroot dip – I had about half a pot of beautiful beetroot and hazelnut dip with dukkah from Shouki and Louise, which is what I used here.
Now what will you do with it?
Ponder the barrenness of your fridge with sorrow. Complain that there is no cheesy sauce to be found anywhere. Sulk at the unfairness of the world while you cut the cauliflower into florets, and place them on a baking tray. Peel the onion and slice into small wedges. Drizzle well with olive oil, and toss with salt and Ras el Hanout. Put into the middle of the oven at 200°C.
Realise that you should have done the carrots first. Peel them very fast and cut them into thick diagonal slices. Place on another baking tray and drizzle with oil, vinegar and a little salt. Put on a baking tray at the top of the oven, hopefully.
Everything will now need to bake for about 40 minutes. This gives you ample time to go complain to whoever or whatever you live with about how you do not want vegetables for dinner.
While the veggies are baking, slice the olive bread into cubes of around 1.5-2cm, depending on how lazy you feel. Drizzle olive oil into a frying pan, switch the stove on to high, and add the olive bread. Finely grate in a little parmesan, or add a little rosemary and salt. Keep stirring the bread around for a few minutes, until it is fairly golden, maybe a bit charred in places, but not burnt. Realise that you are creating an amazing quantity of washing up for one meal. Well, that’s what happens when people make you cook, isn’t it?
Let the croutons cool in the pan a little while the veggies keep on cooking. They are taking ages and you are hungry and cranky and this is why you should have got fish and chips.
Think wistfully about the fact that this meal would be really good with a poached egg on top, only your husband doesn’t like eggs and you have never successfully poached one. So much for that. Open a tin of chickpeas instead and drain it. It is not the same.
Combine everything except the beetroot dip on one of the baking trays. Divide the beetroot dip between three bowls in a thick smear on the bottom of each, and put your veggie mix on top.
Eat, making sure to fish around in the bowl to get a bit of beetroot on everything.
Be amazed and delighted at how good this tasted despite all the sulking.
This meal is vegan without the parmesan, and nut-free and egg-free unless you know how to poach eggs. It is not low fructose, sorry. It could be gluten-free with the right bread, though I suspect the croutons would not be so deliciously squidgy.
In terms of variations – any kind of vaguely stale good bread will work. Carrots could be replaced by sweet potato or parsnip or pumpkin. You could add chilli to this if you liked. You could remove the croutons, mix in the beetroot and serve everything over couscous or rice (but why would you?). You could add some toasted nuts. Or a poached egg. You could use a different dip on the bottom – carrot or pumpkin dip, perhaps, and roast beetroot instead of the carrots.
I don’t know. I wouldn’t mess with it too much, frankly. If you achieve accidental perfection, it’s wisest to leave it alone…