It’s turned cold again in Sydney, so it’s the perfect time and the best weather conditions to indulge in a bit of old-fashioned vegetarian comfort food like this vegetable cobbler. It’s gorgeously rich and warming but not the sort of food I make or eat that often, so I had to forage around the back of my corner kitchen cupboard and drag out my old glass casserole dish (a hand-me-down from my mum) which is the only dish I have that is big enough to make it in.
This is a perfect dish for a long, cold and rainy Sunday dinner. Because I don’t make it often, I always forget how delicious it is – loads of vegetables encased in a creamy bechamel sauce which is given a unusual unami depth of flavour, with the addition of soy sauce and wine. Then to mop up all the lashings of sauce, there are the polenta scones.
This recipe comes from one of my most inspirational vegetarian cookbooks: The Cranks Bible by Nadine Abensur. I’ve had this book for years and love its combination of innovative and lavish celebratory food, to the sublimely simple joys of a bowl of perfectly cooked brown rice.
Vegetable cobbler with polenta scones
Adapted from The Cranks Bible by Nadine Abensur
For the vegetables
- 275 grams/10 ounces shallots, blanched for 1 minute in boiling water and peeled
- 450 grams/1 pound of potatoes (a waxy potato like kiferling is best)
- 450 grams/1 pound carrots (cut in half and sliced on the diagonal in 2 cm/1 inch chunks)
- 450 grams/1 pound chestnut or button mushrooms (sliced in half if they are large)
- 540 grams/1 pound 3 ounces, cauliflower florets (1 small head)
- 3 cloves of garlic finely sliced
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon light olive oil
- 30 grams/1 ounce butter
For the sauce
- 60 grams/2 ounces butter
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 500 mls/1 pint of vegetable stock (I use a Maissel vegetarian chicken stock cube)
- 300 mls/10 fl ounces double cream
- a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon of red or white wine (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce or tamari
- A dash of Tabasco sauce or a ¼ teaspoon of hot paprika
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- First prepare the vegetables. Heat oil and 30 grams of butter in a large saucepan. Add shallots stir, place lid on top and saute over a low medium heat for about five minutes until shallots begin to brown and stick to bottom of pan.
- Next add potato, carrot and garlic followed by the cauliflower and cumin and coriander. Leave a couple of minutes between adding each vegetable and stir to make sure all the vegetables are nicely coated and begin to cook. Replace lid and cook vegetables on medium low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn up heat to medium and add mushrooms. Mix through and cook until they begin to brown and soften.
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
To make bechamel sauce
- Heat 60 grams of butter in medium sized pan. Add flour, stir to make roux and cook until flour loses it raw smell.
- Add hot stock, whisk until smooth then add cream, pinch of nutmeg and bay leaf.
- Turn up heat, whisk to keep smooth, add wine, soy sauce, season with salt and pepper and a dash of Tabasco sauce or hot paprika. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
- Remove bay leaf and pour over vegetables. It will seem like quite a lot of sauce but don’t worry – you will need it for the polenta scones to mop up.
- Mix through well and pour into a large, deep buttered casserole dish (about 30 x 20 cm or 12 x 8 inches).
- Cover with foil and place in oven to keep warm while you make the polenta scones.
Polenta scones for the cobbler
(makes 16 rounds)
- 125 grams 41/2 ounces butter
- 225 grams/8 ounces flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 125grams /4½ ounces polenta or yellow cornmeal
- 2 level teaspoons baking powder
- 1 level teaspoon of bicarb soda (baking soda)
- 2 level teaspoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 large organic, free-range eggs, beaten
- 1 extra egg for glaze
- 4 level tablespoons buttermilk or natural yoghurt
- Sift together all the dry ingredients – flour, polenta, salt, bicarb soda, baking powder, sugar, salt.
- Melt butter and let cool slightly, add buttermilk or yoghurt, and two beaten eggs. Mix through flour mixture with fork until it makes a nice soft dough.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll or pat out to about 1 cm/½ inch thickness. Cut out with a 5 cm/2 inch cutter.
- Increase oven temperature to 220°C.
- Remove vegetables from oven and place scones on top of vegetables in neat, snug rows without overlapping (or they won’t cook properly).
- Glaze scones with beaten egg and return dish to oven for 15–20 minutes or until scones have risen and browned.