Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vege Mornay.

I could make so many jokes involving the line, "Would you still love me in the Mornay?", but I'm not going to subject you to that. Actually, I could probably only make three, involving either a tuna, a salmon, or a lobster, because I've never heard of anyone making a Mornay out of anything else. But I'm sure that it's clear enough that I'd rather eat vegetables than any of those things, because hey, vegetables are awesome. I wish more people would realise that, instead of seeing vegetables as the colourless, flavourless, over-boiled lump beside their chunk of meat.

I'm going to go so far as to say it: Vegetables are exciting. They're delicious and vibrant. They have so many different textures and flavours and colours. You can cook them in every which way. Although, if you're a "let's boil!" sort of person, I might need to have a few stern words with you. In fact, I once dated a man who fancied himself as quite the chef. However, when I saw him boiling vegetables until they were completely soft - even mushrooms - before adding them to a jar of pasta sauce, I knew what I was in for. Needless to say, that 'relationship' was over before it started. ;)

I'm not being stuck-up here. It just concerns me that people don't know the value of good food. I spent the last weekend in Berlin, because my parents were in Germany, and I was appalled at the lack of vegetables at the conference dinner that we attended. It was in the Alexanderplatz Tv Tower's Revolving Restaurant and the views were something phenomenal. But their only meat-free dishes were a green salad and a bowl of marinated olives, and in the rest, the vegetables were either drowned in cream sauce or cooked until they were beyond recognisable. I'd like to say that I said I quiet prayer for them, but I'm not religious in the slightest, and I feel like a food culture such as that in Germany needs more than faith to pull it through. In this country, I've been appalled at some of the food that I've been served in Restaurants. Tinned peas and beans are simply unacceptable. There are vegetables other than potatoes, and honestly, I never want to see another french fry as long as I live. It makes me miss Australia more.

I suppose the reason why I'm lamenting so much is that it's so unbelievably easy to do something right with these vegetables. Even if you're quite content with the traditional Western diet, and insist on covering every vegetable with a cream sauce, there are still things that can be done to make it appetising. This is why I'm posting such a simple recipe, and why I seem to only write about everyday food - because clearly there are people who need the inspiration. Sorry, Germany. Your baked goods are fantastic, and I'm eternally grateful for the giant pretzels, but I'm going to keep cooking at home. Berlin was great, and I'd be happy to live there, because I know that in Paderborn things are worse. I'm consoled by the fact that while I was away, because I wasn't cooking, I haven't added to my already-congested backlog of photos to write about.

This is really just a gratuitous alphabet-noodle shot. Sorry. They're just too cute!

So, here's the easiest way to make vegetables in a creamy sauce a little more interesting. I know that my mother would be adding a large tin of flaked tuna to this, and that most people would add real dairy and cheese and other lactose-containing products, but this is my version. I'm not a 'traditional' sort of person, but I do like to fall back on older ideas when I have leftovers. Leftover pasta was what inspired me today, and some rather sad-looking beans that suffered a little when my housemate defrosted our refrigerator while I was in Berlin. Leftover vegetables would also work a treat - just add them after making the sauce. So simple, and probably a great way to serve vegetables to picky eaters!

You'll have to excuse the photos - I've amalgamated two different types of 'Mornay' that I made into one, superior recipe, so you'll have to just overlook the fact that clearly one of them had no celery. I ran out, and the market isn't until tomorrow morning. :(

Vege 'Mornay'

3 medium carrots, diced
3 sticks celery, diced
400g beans, cut into 1.5cm lengths
3 cups cooked pasta (any shape is ok - medium-small size is best)
1/3 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp vege stock powder
2 & 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat some olive oil in a pan and sautee your veg until they're just barely starting to soften. You might like to add the beans a little after the carrots and celery, because they don't need so long. You don't want to cook the vegetables yet - remember that even after they're out of the pan, they'll still be put into an oven.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook a minute longer, so that your sauce won't have that raw-flour taste to it.
Add the stock powder, thyme and soymilk, stirring constantly over a medium-high heat, until the sauce thickens.
Mix in your cooked pasta, fresh parsley, and season to taste. You shouldn't really need salt, because of the stock powder, but add as much pepper as you can handle.
Spoon into a casserole dish and level out. Scatter with the breadcrumbs to make an even layer.
Bake in a hot oven until the top is browned, about 10 mins.

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