This recipe is my most asked for – a creamy basil infused casserole filled with chick peas and topped with a crunchy garlic bread and brie topping. It smells divine and tastes even better. I first came across it while attending a course at The Vegetarian Society in Manchester. The Cordon Vert course continues to this day and I can thoroughly recommend attending day and weekly cooking courses in London and Manchester. But I digress – all you want is the recipe and here it is, at last. Sorry to those whom I promised this to so long ago.
Pesto Chickpea Casserole
At least half a cup of a good store brought pesto but much better if you can make a homemade one. Make it by blending a cupful of basil (or a mix of parsley, coriander and basil) some briefly fried pine nuts (be careful about buying those from China as some have a bitter aftertaste), some good and mild olive oil, some grated parmesan cheese or some young pecorino – about half a cup. Add in a good few garlic cloves – my favourites at present are the large one clove bulb, very mild and tasty. Smell your cloves before you buy to really get a sense of how they will taste. Some smell of chemicals and taste very unpleasant indeed. Blend, add seasoning if needed. Put to one side. Any leftover pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to a week but should be covered with some oil and placed in an air-tight container to add to pasta or use in a toasted sandwich.
to serve 4 – 6
half a large cup of of organic cream
olive oil to fry
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 large eggplant or aubergine, chopped small into cubes
2 Red Turkish peppers, deseeded and cut into small rings
1-2 cans/jars of good chickpeas – you know by now that I like the S &W chickpeas from Kellys on Piet Heinstraat, drained or jars from the local Turkish shops
half a cup of left over white wine
at least 1 cup of good veggie organic stock (or make your own)
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
one fresh or stale wholewheat baguette, sliced thin into rounds and buttered with garlic butter (make your own by adding crushed garlic, some herbs etc)
1 small round of brie or camembert
* may also use mushrooms, zucchini, sliced thinly
1. Fry onion in olive oil until translucent. Add in cubed aubergine and fry until just about cooked through. You may need to use more oil as eggplants really soak it up. Then add peppers and if using mushroom and zucchini, add now. Quickly add your wine and balsamic vinegar and cook it off. This means cooking until the wine has reduced and almost disappeared. Add in the liquid stock and a half a small cup of pesto and the cream. Taste for seasoning. You may at this stage pop in some fresh basil leaves, thyme leaves, ground black pepper and salt. Now throw in the drained chickpeas. That is basically it. Pour into an ovenproof casserole dish filling it to the three quarters level. If you think it is too dry add more cream or stock. It should have some juices but not be soupy!
Preheat your oven to 175
Place the garlic bread on top of the mixture with the buttered slice up. Cover the whole casserole dish with bread slices with slices just overlapping. Cut the brie/camembert into thin slices and place on each slice of bread. Bake at 175 for about 20 minutes until casserole is golden brown and cheese is bubbling. Serve with a crispy green salad. I think everyone will be quite impressed!
Thanks to the Vegetarian Society for that course all those years ago and many courses since! Check out their festive recipes on http://www.vegsoc.org. See also Sir Paul McCartney’s MeatFree Monday campaign. This year my festive meal is a shared meal with dear friends and family and will be a combo of veggie and seafood dishes. I will be following an Indian theme with a Spinach Paneer dish served with a lemon scented wild rice side, Turkish bread, veggie samosas, fresh mint chutney and a Thai inspired cucumber salad. We are trying not to overdo it but to shop carefully and with sustainability in mind. Our portions will be small and we hope delicious. Enjoy your holidays if you are lucky enough to have them. See you next year. I wish you all the best of natures larder, health and happiness. Shall I see you at the organic market in the morning?