Today's was the most dramatic cooking experience we've had to date, on account of the power to our cooker going completely just as the vegetables were almost ready to come out of the oven. There were several exclamations of 'oh, heck!' and 'it's the end of the world!'... followed by shouts of 'the fuse!' and then a quick shifting of the range cooker (that weighs a ton!) and the changing of one fuse. Et voilà! A major catastrophe averted by decisive action (and heavy lifting) on the part of my sous chef, Ryoma. Long shall he be showered with kisses. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach... turns out the way to a woman's is via her cooker's plug.
This dish, which is absolutely delicious by the way, will serve four average-sized earthlings who are decidedly hungry... or Snow White and all of her seven dwarfs.
Ingredients for the pasta and vegetables:
6 oz (175 g) penne rigate
1 small aubergine
1 lb (450 g) tomatoes
2 medium-sized courgettes
1 medium-sized onion
1 small red pepper
1 small yellow pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 oz (50 g) pitted black olives, chopped
1 heaped tablespoon capers in vinegar, rinsed and drained
3½ oz oz (100 g) Mozzarella, grated
1 oz (30 g) grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), for the topping
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Ingredients for the sauce:
1 pint (570 ml) milk
1½ oz (40 g) plain flour
1½ oz (40 g) butter
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 oz (50 g) Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), finely grated
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly milled black pepper
First off, you need to prepare the courgettes and aubergine about an hour in advance. Chop them into 1½ inch (4 cm) chunks and place them into a colander in layers, with a little sprinkling of salt on top of each layer. Place a plate over the chunks and weigh it down with something heavy. Then, after about an hour, place the chunks inside a clean tea cloth and squeeze them.
Next, pre-heat the oven to its highest setting.
Place the tomatoes into a bowl, pour on enough boiling water to cover them, leave to stand for 1-2 minutes, then remove the skins. Chop the onion and peppers into 1½ inch (4 cm) chunks and quarter the skinned tomatoes. Then put the chunks of onion, pepper, tomato, courgette and aubergine into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the olive oil and garlic. Mix everything up, so the vegetables get a good coating of oil, then move the vegetables to a baking tray measuring approx. 16 x 11 inches (40 x 28 cm) and spread the chunks out as much as possible. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, then roast them on a high shelf for 30 minutes, by which time they should be browned and a little charred at the edges.
While the vegetables are roasting, move on to making the sauce. Put the milk, butter, flour and cayenne pepper into a medium-sized saucepan and place it onto a low heat. Whisk them together until the sauce begins to simmer and thicken, then season with salt, pepper and a good grating of nutmeg. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and continue stirring while the sauce cooks for a further 5 minutes. Next, stir in the grated Parmesan and then remove the sauce from the heat. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and place some clingfilm over it to prevent a skin from forming.
About 5 minutes before the vegetables are due to come out of the oven, put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Cook the rigatoni for no more than 6 minutes (following the instructions on the packet). Drain the pasta in a colander, pour it into a large mixing bowl, then add the roasted vegetables, capers, olives and sauce and give everything a good mix together.
Leave the oven door open, to allow it to cool, and turn it down to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).
Place a third of the vegetable mixture into an ovenproof dish measuring around 10 x 8 x 2 inches (25.5 x 20 x 5 cm). Add a third of the grated mozzarella. Add the second third of the vegetable mixture, then the second third of the mozzarella. Add the final third of the vegetables, then finish off with the remainder of the mozzarella. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top, bake the gratin in the oven for 10 minutes, then serve.
Below: Just after coming out of the oven.
Causes Gina Collia-Suzuki Supports
The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK