(Summer Vegetable Gratin)
I am avid collector of what is commonly known as “Kitchenalia” nowadays; even before I started to use various bits and bobs for my food styling photos, I was always drawn to a dusty flour dredger or a set of teaspoons, as well as anything resembling an old baking tin. For me, old utensils and baking paraphernalia have a story to tell – I often wonder who owned them before and what recipes they used in them or baked in them……it’s a little piece of social history in my kitchen, as well as being a beautiful prop for food photography. And in all my collection of baking dishes, pans and trays, there is one piece of earthenware that I absolutely love to pieces, it’s my old and very much used Tian.
The glaze is cracked and mottled, and it has obviously been used over an open flame, as the underneath is black, but it’s one of my most used pieces of baking equipment, and it’s lovely enough to be served from the oven to the table too. A Tian is the name of a traditional earthenware cooking dish from the Provençe in the South of France, a favourite region of mine, and one I have visited recently, as you can read here: Travel Diary Preview: Terroir & Wine in Provence, Gard, Rhone Valley and Ardeche, here: Foraging and Cooking with Les Aventurières du Goût in Provence and here: Avignon, South of France with Cheese, Wine, Apples, Nocturnal Picnics & Fine Food………
……and the name of this region’s earthenware baking dish is now also given to the recipe which is cooked in it. It’s a recipe that not only relies on the local pottery, but also for local and seasonal vegetables, oil and herbs, as a modern traditional tian is a baked vegetable dish that is usually served as an accompaniment to grilled meat and fish. It used to be a dish of stewed meat in the 18th century, usually with no added liquid, so the meat and vegetables would cook in the earthenware dish in their own juices; nowadays, it is predominately made with vegetables, sometimes with cheese or even with fruit. My recipe today for Tian Provençal (Summer Vegetable Gratin) is all vegetables, and is vegan as well as vegetarian of course.
Although aubergines (eggplant) is traditional in this dish, I was bereft of any, so I just used courgettes with tomatoes, onions and garlic! I prefer the use the round courgettes (zucchini) in this dish, it gives a better “shape” to the finished dish. I also popped a stray green tomato into the dish that is shown in the photographs, so please DO use any summer vegetables you have to hand, but try to make it colourful. This beautiful recipe was cooked in my new toy, a wonderful Panasonic Slimline Combi Microwave Oven, that was kindly sent to me for review from the lovely peeps at Panasonic! I HAVE cooked in one of these microwave ovens before, with Rachel Allen no less, and you can read all about my experience here: Bruschetta to Roast Beef! Cooking with Rachel Allen at Cactus Kitchens, London.
It made me smile that such a traditional recipe, that would have been cooked over an open flame or in a wood oven, was receiving the 21st century treatment by be cooked in a microwave, albeit an oven in a microwave! I have only had the Combi Microwave Oven for two weeks now, but I have used it EVERYDAY, and mainly for the convection oven facility, which is perfect for just two people. It’s very compact, but as you can see from the photos above, it is very generously sized inside, and takes most of my large roasting trays and tins, as well as this tian. The tian cooked in an hour on 190C, which is exactly the same time and temperature it could have cooked for in my large family range oven.
The tian was beautifully cooked with tender, melt in the mouth vegetables, all bathed in a garlicky olive oil jus…….as it was a diet day, we just enjoyed it by itself with some plain grilled chicken, but it is fabulous when served as a main meal with crusty bread and cheese. The added sprigs of herbs added a subtle flavour the whole dish and can be discarded before serving. This type of Provençal dish is usually served at room temperature, and not when hot and just out of the oven, that way the flavours of all the vegetables and herbs is more pronounced. I hope you will try this recipe this summer, it will be perfect for any glut of tomatoes and courgettes you may have too! Karen
Disclaimer: I was sent a Panasonic Slimline Combi Microwave Oven (RRP: £249) for free and for review; I was not asked to write a positive review and all views and opinions are my own and are not representative of Panasonic of the PR company.