>> Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chris and I try to eat vegetarian meals for at least half the week. We're not vegetarians - not even close. We love meat far too much to ever even contemplate abstaining in the long term. Crispy, golden bacon and juicy, rare steaks we could not live without. But there's also something tempting and refreshing about an entire meal revolving around vegetables and herbs. We use eggs and dairy products frequently and try to discover new recipes and different ways of approaching individual ingredients.

For one of my vegetarian cooking nights this week I found this recipe for Courgette and Aged Cheddar Slice. It's from one of my favourite New Zealand cooks, Julie le Clerc. I have a few of her books, but Viva Food is one of the ones I probably cook from the least. In an effort to validate it's presence on my book shelf, I took it down, flicked through the pages looking for some inspiration and found this recipe.

First off, aside from having to grate and drain the courgettes, this slice is straightforward and quick to assemble. If you're looking for something to cook on a rushed weeknight, this is exactly what you need. While it requires almost an hour in the oven, the preparation is speedy and once you’ve mixed the batter together, all you need to do is relax until it’s done.

I'd recommend using a fairly strong cheddar - a sharp cheese which will cut through the creaminess of the egg. You could even double the cheese if you're feeling daring - I think it could handle a little more. After the requisite 40 minutes in the oven, make sure you double check the filling is done before switching off your oven. I found that it took at least another ten minutes before the centre was entirely set.

I think I'll cook this again in summer; maybe we’ll take it up to the heath for a sunday picnic when it will taste even better because the courgettes and tomatoes will be in season. Eating warm slices in the sun and reading. Perfect.

Courgette + Aged Cheddar Slice
(slightly adapted from Viva Food by Julie Le Clerc)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
500g (4 medium) courgettes, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (I used a small bunch, picking off the leaves, leaving some whole and chopping the rest)
1 cup grated aged cheddar
1 cup self-raising flour
4 free-range or organic eggs
1 cup milk
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Line a 17x27cm slice tin with non-stick baking paper, allowing overhang on all sides. You could alternatively grease the tin generously with butter, though you will get better results and the slice will be easier to remove from the tin if you line it with paper.

2. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured. Remove to cool. Squeeze any excess liquid from the grated courgettes and add to the cooled onion with the oregano, cheese and flour.

3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the milk and season with salt and pepper. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix to just combine. Pour into prepared tin. Arrange tomato slices on top.

4. Bake for 40 minutes or until firm in the centre. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes to firm before turning out to slice. Lasts up to 3 days if stored in the fridge.


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