Hiya! Hope you all had a good day and are now looking forward to a relaxed weekend ahead! So, we were talking of Sheroes yesterday, not the cape & mask clad ones, but the real-life women who make our world a better place just by being in it. So, if you’re all settled in with some nice warm dinner in your hand, let me tell you about my biggest Shero-my late Grandma!
Whenever I think of my Grandma (my paternal Grandmother), I always cook this dish. It was her favourite weekend go-to comfort meal comprising soup and toast, vegetable cutlets & a delicious, warm & comforting baked spring vegetable casserole for main course.
A simple, plump, mild mannered saree-clad lady with a bun, of average height, she had large eyes and a warm endearing smile that welcomed everyone into her home. You see, she had travelled to England by sea, trained and groomed to be hostess of the Indian High Commissioner to England, her father-in-law. She had even attended the Queen’s Coronation & had tea in Buckingham Palace. That’s where her love for Continental food came from.
This warm, nourishing, baked casserole is filled with vibrant, multi-nutrient enriched spring time vegetables in all coloured hues, topped with a comforting delicately flavoured white sauce & loaded with gooey, stringy cheddar cheese that simply melts in your mouth, just as you bite into it. Perfect way to pep up your weekend! Don’t you worry, if you do not have a fancy oven, just skip out the baking & have it anyways. Choose the veggies of your choice & flavour it as mildly or strongly as you wish to.
Just like my Granny, beneath that simple, mild mannered & soft disposition, was a lady like no other.
Born into an affluent family in Maharashtra, she was educated in an English missionary school in the 1920s, played badminton in the local club with her sisters in those days, imagine, and never planned to set out to become who she was. But life had other plans, after marriage & two teenaged children, she chose a road less travelled & with the help of her father-in-law, went by herself to the US in the 1950s to study Humanities.
She returned home to India after completing her education abroad to join the SNDT College of Home Science, then in Churchgate, Mumbai, going on to become the Principal there eventually. The road was filled with obstacles of all kinds, you name it, but rather than enduring the fire, she became it, never once falling prey to the trap of regrets or holding grudges against anything in her arduous path.
Her busy 6day routine, involved commuting by local trains, returning home to school-going teenagers, cooking, house chores and home economics on frugal budgets, thereby sparing her little or no time for personal friends or me-time, but she deftly managed it all with a smile, even making time for us, a doting grandma to her loving grandchildren on weekends cooking all our favourite food.
Her tenacity and strength of character, her iron will & determination to prove herself in a man’s world of the 1950s, despite all the odds stacked up in her favour, her lack of patience for the faint of heart & yet her ability to give her all to her loved ones, made her the single most inspiring woman in our lives, as my sister & I were to find out only later. We had been observing & absorbing it all from the side lines all along, you see.
The point I wish to make is, that we all have that one main rock-solid Shero who is our inspiration & builds our character since our formative years-be it your simple stay-at-home sweet Mom, your fiery fun-loving Aunt, a cool older sis or a rocking Grandma like mine.
Why not take the time out this weekend to tell them in our own tiny way, what they meant to us & how they helped mould our lives. Of course, they already know it, but we often take such people for granted and trust me, no amount of times is ever enough to appreciate someone. It’s never too late & they can definitely hear you wherever they are!
Recipe for Cheesy Spring Vegetable Casserole
Ingredients (Serves 4 Persons)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil / butter
- 4- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 10-12 mushrooms, halved
- ½ bell pepper, chopped (optional)
- ½ cup yellow zucchini, cubed(optional)
- ¼ cup green peas (optional)
- ½ cup sweet corn
- ¾ cup Broccoli
- 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs or as per your taste
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup cheddar cheese (or mixed with mozzarella), grated
- White sauce (recipe below)
For the white sauce
- 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour / all-purpose flour (maida)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (or any other mild flavoured oil) / butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups milk
To make the white sauce
- In a small saucepan, melt the oil/butter over low heat & stir in the flour, salt & pepper.
- Saute for 1 minute continuously over medium heat until smooth & well roasted.
- Remove from heat, add in the milk slowly, stirring to avoid lumps forming.
- Return to heat, again stirring constantly until it reaches a boil. Cook for 1 minute ensuring there are no lumps, and cooking on low to medium heat all the while.
- Your white sauce is ready. You can add fresh herbs or cheese for flavour.
For the Veg casserole
- Preheat the oven at 180 degrees celsius.
- Blanch the sweet corn & broccoli for 3-4 minutes in water that has already come to a rolling boil with ½ teaspoon salt. Drain and keep aside to cool.
- In the same water, add in the carrot/potato & boil for 4-5 minutes until fully cooked
- Heat oil in a saucepan, add in the chopped garlic & onions and sauté for a few seconds.
- Add in all the veggies namely zucchini, carrot, peppers, potato & the mushrooms, a pinch of salt & pepper, chilli flakes and mixed herbs. Saute them on high heat for 1-2 minutes until roasted golden.
- Add the blanched broccoli & sweet corn & mix it well. Cover & allow to cook for 2 minutes on medium heat.
- Remove half of this mixed vegetable mixture into a casserole & sprinkle ¼ cup cheese over it.
- To the remaining veg mixture in the saucepan, add in the pre-cooked white sauce & ½ cup milk & gently stir it in on medium heat to avoid burning.
- Add ¼ cup cheese to this mixture & mix well.
- Pour this mixed veggie-white sauce mixture into the same casserole & sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Place the baking dish into the pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing it to brown slightly from the top for a great golden crust.
- Serve your Spring vegetable casserole along with Spinach Soup and dinner rolls or multigrain bread for a perfect weekend lunch or dinner.
Video of Cheesy Spring Vegetable Casserole