Sunday vegetable bake

We do love a good, hearty Sunday meal in our house. Eating a plant based whole food diet, it’s sometimes hard to find a dish that will satisfy everyone Sunday lunch desires, without having to cook three separate meals.. This wasn’t so much of a problem out in India;  putting together a roast dinner was a real challenge – the hot weather, lack of something suitable to roast and a rubbish oven was just all too much!. And once we started to (over) indulge in long lazy Sunday brunches laid on at Bangalore’s lovely hotels, it became a non-issue.

But now we’re back in the UK, the challenge returns. It is possible to buy roast meat replacements, but these do tend to look quite unappetising and have a long list of processed ingredients – not suitable for a wholefood diet at all. Quorn products tend to be a bit better, but it’s fermented, which is no good for someone with an allergy to yeast! In fact, it was eating more Quorn products when my daughter became a vegetarian a few years ago that finally tipped my body into mega-migraine mode and prompted my journey into finding out what was going on. So really, I should be thanking Quorn!

As the weather has been so cold and wintry, I wanted a Sunday lunch that was warming and cosy, as well as tasty and pleasing to everyone in the family. There was one spice that was needed – my new favourite, smoked paprika.

I’d not cooked with smoked paprika until we returned from India last month. It seems to have become popular in recipes recently – or maybe I’ve just noticed it more. No chance of finding it in Bangalore though so it’s new to me. I’ve experimented with this spice in soups and stews, and it’s a corker!  Smoked paprika generally comes from Spain. Pimento peppers are smoked over oak then ground into a powder. This gives the paprika a deeper, more complex flavour. It’s great for replacing the smokey flavour of bacon in vegetarian dishes.

Proper smoked paprika has three levels of ‘heat”; dulce which is sweet and mild, agricdulce which is bittersweet and medium hot, and picante which is hot. My Tesco version didn’t give any indication and claims to be sourced from more than one country, so guess it’s  probably dulce, sweet and mild, but still has a deep rich, red colour.

The smoked paprika in this bake makes it beautifully rich and warming, a perfect dairy free, wheat free, almost every allergen free Sunday lunch. In case you wonder why there’s broccoli stem in the ingredients, I served it with broccoli and I hate throwing away the stems, so bunged them in the bake.

Sunday vegetable bake
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, washed and chopped
splash of olive oil
1 – 2 cloves garlic, diced
3 carrots, chopped
1 broccoli stem, chopped (optional)
4 big mushrooms chopped
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400g tin of mixed beans, rinsed well
smoked paprika
4 large potatoes
salt and pepper
First, scrub the potatoes and par boil them so they are soft enough to slice but not so soft they fall apart. Leave to cool whilst you prepare the rest of the dish. I used a Le Creuset casserole dish (one of my favourite things!!) that goes on the hob and in the oven – if you don’t have something similar, then you’ll need to start in a saucepan and transfer to an oven proof dish (more washing up!!).
Pre-heat the oven to 180oC. Heat the oil and fry the onion and leek until soft. Add the carrots and broccoli stem. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the thyme and mushrooms. Mix well, pop on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes or so until everything is soft. Add the tomatoes, beans, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and simmer for a few minutes.Meanwhile, cut the cooled potatoes into thin slices.
Transfer the mix into an oven proof dish if needed. Season with salt and pepper, then layer the slices of potatoes over the top until its all covered. I dotted the top of the potato with some dairy free spread to help brown the top. Place in the over and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the bake bubbling underneath. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then serve with broccoli or any green veg of choice and feel your self being hugged warm by the rich, yummy flavours!

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