Summer is the season to enjoy guilt-free, colourful, healthy vegetables.
Beetroot has made a comeback and is often a main ingredient in restaurant dishes. The dark red variety is still popular but Chioggia with its inner red/white concentric rings is a winner. The beet originated on the shores of the Adriatic Sea near Chioggia in Italy and is very sweet. The Albino beet is a completely white but with the regular sweet flavour of red beetroot. It’s a great novelty item and the juices don’t stain.
Fresh sweetcorn is popular family fare. Sun-ripened, fresh young corn is luscious, even when eaten raw. Corn in the husk can be cooked in water, wrapped in foil and barbecued, or wrapped in waxed paper and microwaved. Covering the corn while cooking keeps it moist and flavourful.
Courgettes, a member of the gourd family, are easily grown at home. Zucchini is the Italian name but over the border in France it is called a courgette.If left on the vine, courgettes will continue to grow to marrow status. These make fine receptacles for other foods but when large the seeds suck out the flavour and the skin can be very bitter.
FREE-FORM BEETROOT LASAGNE
You can use vacuum-packed cooked beetroot from the vegetable section of your supermarket. A great dish to prepare ahead then assemble and bake when required.
900g pumpkin or squash, peeled and seeded
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup each: boiling water, cream
6-8 small cooked beetroot
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons each: olive oil, lemon juice
250g fresh lasagne sheets
100g tasty cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
50g finely grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Cut the pumpkin into 3cm cubes. Place in a roasting pan and drizzle with the maple syrup. Toss to coat evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, until tender. Mash 1/3 of the pumpkin with the boiling water and the cream, until smooth.
Meanwhile, quarter the beetroot. Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until fragrant then add the beetroot. Sauté until hot. Add the remaining pumpkin cubes and the lemon juice.
Cut the lasagne into 12 x 8cm squares. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the saffron. Simmer the lasagne squares, until tender. Drain, refresh then drain on a clean tea towel.
To assemble, line a roasting pan with baking paper. Place 4 squares of the lasagne on the baking paper. Top each with a little of the pumpkin sauce (thin a little if necessary), the beetroot and pumpkin cubes and lastly some sliced cheddar. Repeat the layers finishing with the grated parmesan. The lasagne does not have to be evenly stacked. Cover with foil. Bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes or until hot.Any extra pumpkin sauce can be served on the side. Serves 4.
ROASTED TOMATO RELISH
Summer isn't summer without vine-ripened tomatoes.
1.5kg ripe tomatoes, halved and cored
2 onions, diced
2 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups each: malt vinegar, lightly packed brown sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon ground chilli
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 tablespoon each: mustard powder, curry powder
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Place the halved tomatoes — cut-side down — in a single layer in an oiled roasting pan. Sprinkle with the diced onions, thyme, salt and pepper. Drizzle with the oil. Roast for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Cool a little.
Pinch the skins off the tomatoes and discard.Pour the tomatoes and onions into a large saucepan together with 1 cup of the vinegar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Add the sugar and chilli then simmer for 45 minutes.
Combine the cornflour, mustard powder and curry powder with the remaining vinegar. Stir well then stir into the tomato mixture. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring until thick. Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal. Makes about 5 cups.
SWEETCORN & POTATO SALAD
Remove the kernels from fresh sweetcorn cobs by standing the stripped corn on its straight end, then running a sharp knife down between the kernels and the core. They can be blanched quickly and refreshed in icy water, if preferred. Add 250g cubed ham, pork or chicken to create a main meal.
400g baby potatoes
1 cup raw whole kernel corn
3 spring onions, diced
1/2 cup each: parsley and mint leaves, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2-2/3 cup Ranch dressing
Boil or steam the potatoes, until tender. Cool a little then peel. Halve, if large.
Combine the potatoes with the corn, spring onions, herbs and the meat, if using. Season. Mix gently.
Spoon the dressing over the salad and mix to combine. Serves 4-6