Autumn, the start of casserole season. Old fashioned as they might be, these deep dish bakes can brighten the gloomy cooler months, making them feel a little less like a sucker punch to the soul. A profoundly heightened sense of denial also helps, along with the restorative nature of wine.
1950s America brought us the invention of credit cards and bubble wrap (both of which have the capacity to deliver endless entertainment), but most importantly this is the era that popularised single-dish oven meals. We’ve moved on from the canned goods only approach to convenience food cooking, but we continue to crave modernised variations on the foods our grandparents and parents dished up.
This vegan rice gratin recipe combines the ease of meal-in-one-dish cooking with more time-intensive (but rewarding) homemade methods (but if you find roasted vegetables in a can do let me know). Root vegetables are chunked and roasted before being plopped on a bed of cooked rice and topped with a simple vegan white cheese sauce. Use any root vegetables at your disposal, but those with a higher sugar content (think parsnips, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes) are especially recommended because of the lovely caramelised exterior they develop during the roasting process. I’m also a fan of celeriac and its delicate, nutty, celery flavour in this dish.
Vegan Vegetable and Rice Gratin
For this recipe I use a combination of carrots, parsnips, and celeriac, but feel free to use whatever root vegetables you have knocking about. Vegetables like pumpkin, squash, carrot, and parsnip are especially recommended because their high sugar content delivers a gorgeous caramelised exterior when roasted. The addition of yoghurt in the caramelised onion is not entirely necessary, but I love its buttermilk-like flavour and chalky ricotta consistency after it splits from the heat.
- 200 grams (1 rounded cup) basmati rice
- 600 millilitres water
- Scant ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 500 grams of 1-2 inch cubed root vegetables
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup non dairy yoghurt
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 30 grams (3 tablespoons) all purpose flour
- 500 millilitres soy milk
- 1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red miso
- 75 grams grated vegan parmesan cheese
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch or 3 salt to taste
- Wedge fresh lemon
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- Add the salt and water to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Tip in the rice, boiling for 7-10 minutes, until done. Drain any excess water.
- Prepare an ovenproof dish by coating it with the vegetable oil and spread the rice across the bottom of the dish. Set aside.
- Pop the cubed vegetables into a large bowl, along with the herbs, a tablespoon of the vegetable oil, and a pinch or two of salt for good measure. Toss thoroughly, ensuring all of the vegetables are coated with oil. Dump the lot onto a large oven tray, shake it to a single layer, and roast for 25-30 minutes (until soft on the inside and crispy brown on the outside).
- While the vegetables are roasting, caramelise the onions. In a saute pan or saucepan, add the final tablespoon of vegetable oil and fry the sliced onion on medium high heat for around 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until they are brown and some bits are crispy. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Stir vegan yoghurt through until it splits and then remove the pan from heat.
- To make the sauce, heat the oil in a clean medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for a minute so that it is fully mixed with the oil (it will be lumpy). Keep that whisk hand moving while you pour in the soy milk, whipping the mixture until it is lump-free. Add the miso and whisk until smooth. Slowly sprinkle in the cheese, stirring to help it melt into the sauce (you may want to trade in your whisk for a wooden spoon). Add a pinch of nutmeg and a healthy grating or two of black pepper and give it a taste. Squeeze in that fresh lemon juice and add more seasoning if you see fit.
- Find the dish with the rice and spread the caramelised yoghurt onions evenly-ish over the grains, followed by the roasted vegetables. Finally, pour the white sauce over the lot and pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and oozy and starting to get lovely brown spots.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves: 4