Often around this time of year when people are having dinner parties they often ask me for a flexible, easy to make a vegetarian dish that can be served as a starter or a main course. This is also a dish where most of the preparation can be done ahead of time.
Now you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a meatless dish, just open-minded. Of course the key to success is how you cook, rather than what you cook. The two important keys to this dish are: one cut the vegetables into a chunky size, and two brown them before roasting them in the oven. If you cut the vegetables too small and then pile them into a small roasting dish you will end up steaming them instead.
Some called it filo others called phyllo pastry, but neither are correct “spellings” rather they are different transliterations of the Greek word φύλλο meaning “leaf.”
Ingredients for 3 portions (6 parcels)
6 sheets filo/phyllo pastry
175g (7oz) fresh mozzarella cheese
6 pecan halves *optional
50g (2oz) grated Parmesan
250g (10oz) vine ripe tomatoes
25g (1oz) butter or margarine
100g (4oz) yellow pepper
100g (4oz) red pepper
100g (4oz) flat mushrooms
100g (4oz) Aubergine
150g (6oz) courgette
1 small red onion big dice
6 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
8-10 basil leaves sliced
125ml (1/4 pint) balsamic vinegar
Washed salad leaves
- Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise, rub with a little olive oil, season and cook in the oven on a low heat 120 C gas mark 1 (put fan on if your oven has one). Cook them in the bottom of the oven on a shallow tray so they dry out as well as cook for about 2 hours. Remember you are drying the tomatoes as you cook them slowly to concentrate the flavour. When cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Trim off the very top of the garlic, rub with olive oil and cook in the oven until the garlic is tender. Then remove the garlic and reserve.
- Mix the mozzarella, Parmesan in a food processor and season with salt and pepper.
- Divide the cheese mix into 6 equal amounts push a pecan into the centre of each one and refrigerate.
- Fold one sheet of filo in half lengthwise into a rectangle and brush the edges lightly with water.
- Place one ball of the cheese at one end of the filo rectangle and fold over to create a triangle, which is about 5 inches (125 mm) long. Where the triangle joins the filo sheet fold the triangle again, and finally a third time.
- Trim off the excess filo pastry and make sure the triangles are well sealed to prevent the cheese coming out during the cooking.
- Repeat the process until you have 6 triangles then brush them with melted butter and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
- Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a nonstick saucepan until it is syrupy, cover and allow to cool.
- In a large nonstick frying-pan cook the peppers, aubergine, courgette, mushroom and red onion separately in a little olive oil allowing each to get some colour on it then mix the peppers, aubergine, mushrooms, onions and courgettes & transfer to a roasting pan.
- Roast the vegetables in the top of the oven at 180 C (350 F ) gas mark 4, until they are just tender but not mushy.Remove from the roasting tray and allow them to cool.
- When cool add the tomatoes and basil to the roasted vegetables. Next squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the skin and gently stir into the Ratatouille vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
To finish the dish
Turn up the oven to 190 gas mark 5 and bake the phylo parcels until they golden brown. Turn them over so they are brown on both sides.
Now return the Vegetable Ratatouille to the oven for a couple of minutes just to warm through.
Make a little mound of salad leaves on one side of each dinner plate, and then top with two cheese parcels. Then carefully place a mound of the roasted vegetables at the front and finally drizzle a little of the reduced balsamic vinegar around the plate.
When making the parcels remember that phylo pastry dries out fast, so try to work quickly, away from the heat if possible and wrap the sheets you’re not using with parchment paper and a damp tea towel. You may find that 1 parcel is enough to serve as as starter and 2 parcels if you serve it as a main course.
This is a re-edited recipe from my newspaper recipe column ©KevinAshton 2007
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