The star of this dish is a versatile Mediterranean-style sauce …. using preserved lemons.
Gratin originated in French cuisine, and traditionally uses vegetables cooked in a cream sauce, and topped with crispy brown crust, which can be toasted under the grill.
A while ago I made a jar of preserved lemons, however, you can buy jars of preserved lemons in many supermarkets these days.
You could try a variety of vegetables using this sauce recipe, for example: potatoes with leeks, or asparagus and mushrooms.
I chose celery this time. You know …. Celery …. often found limp and languishing at the back of the salad drawer in the fridge. Forgotten, underused, and annoyingly stringy. 😦
So I thought I’d give celery a bit of a boost. It does, after all, apparently have all sorts of super health benefits ( try googling it for more info.).
Having chosen celery, I then thought that big, fat, melty butterbeans would make an excellent contrast for the celery… and it is without doubt a good combination. Definitely a keeper.
So, back to the sauce: this is my third try at a lemony gratin sauce, and now I think I’ve got it right, preserved lemons really are something to shout about! This would make a fab. sauce for pasta too. Preserved lemons have a beautifully soft lemon flavour, mellow and gentle …very different from using fresh lemons. Remember to remove the pulp and rinse the peel thoroughly.
Here’s my recipe to have a go at making preserved lemons yourself: (click image for link)
CELERY AND BUTTERBEAN GRATIN
depending on how hungry you are and what you’re serving with this dish…
it will make 2-4 servings
- 450gms. pre-cooked butterbeans.
- 500 gms. celery : washed trimmed and de-stringed, and cut into thirds (see pics.).
- Cook’s note: to remove the strings, trim the washed celery and then slide a sharp knife gently from top to bottom down the celery. The strings will start to come away. Repeat 2-3 times with each stick, particularly the outer sticks, which are tougher.
- 200 ml. water.
- approx. 300 gms. courgette (zucchini) washed and finely sliced.
- 1-2 tbs. olive oil
- 3/4 of a preserved lemon: rinse thoroughly and remove pulp. (Reserve the last quarter for the topping).
- 3 large garlic cloves : peeled and roughly chopped.
- 8 gms. fresh thyme: roughly chopped.
- 2 tbs. chickpea flour.
- 1 tsp. salt.
- 0.5 tsp. ground black pepper.
- 250 ml. non-dairy single cream (I used oat cream).
- 200ml. non-dairy crème frâiche (I used oat crème frâiche). Non-dairy yogurt would be a perfectly good alternative.
- Celery cooking water ( approx. 200 ml.).
- 40 gms. almonds: coarsely ground.
- 5 tbs. nutritional yeast.
- 3 gms. fresh thyme: finely chopped.
- 1/4 preserved lemon peel: very finely sliced.
- In a wide pan over a medium heat, sauté the courgettes in 1 – 2 tbs. of olive oil for a few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Place the celery in a deep-sided pan with 200ml. water.
- Bring to a simmer, cover with a good fitting lid, and simmer gently for 15 mins.
- Remove the celery, and reserve the celery cooking water for the sauce.
- In a blender, place all the sauce ingredients, and blend until smooth.
Construct the dish:
Gratin is traditionally cooked in a shallow ceramic dish.
My dish measures 22cm.x 22 cm. x 5 cm.
- Lightly oil the dish, and then place the sautéed courgettes in the base of the dish.
- Then add the butterbeans.
- Then lay the poached celery evenly over the dish to cover the beans.
- Pour the blended sauce carefully over the dish.
- Scatter the coarse ground almonds and nutritional yeast over the top.
- Then scatter the finely chopped fresh thyme and the sliced lemon peel.
- Place in the oven: Gas Mk. 6 / 200C for 45 mins.
Remove from the oven, and leave the gratin to settle for just a few minutes before serving.
Serve with salad … baked potatoes …. roasted tomatoes … or with a nice fresh slice of baguette 🙂