When the 14th February is approaching, my mind is mainly filled with heart shaped, red shaded recipes. I would be a sad an excuse for a food blog if I didn’t utilise these food fuelled holidays to make some out-of-the-ordinary vegan recipes with the themes in mind. I’m pretty sure we are all familiar with the holiday of “love” aka Valentines day. They say it’s a day to cherish the one you love more than you usually do, but if we are being honest to ourselves, it’s just about the tasty food the other half are going to buy or make you, isn’t it? Maybe single life has made me cynical – I don’t know.
For vibrant Valentines colours, there is no better go-to than the naturally colourful beetroot. This plant-based ingredient has to be one of my favourites. I love the earthy taste to the root vegetable, as well as it’s striking visuals. I previously used beets in a Valentines recipe: Beetroot & Dill Linguine, which went down a treat with you romantics who wanted to enact Lady and The Tramp. Beets just HAD to be used again. This time in the form of a Beetroot and Leek Gratin. This recipe is a great centre piece for your romantic dinner; pair it with a zesty salad or start off the courses with Artichoke Fritters (my faves)!
I have made a few gratins in the past. The concept of making a creamy sauce and layering vegetables sounds pretty simple in theory, but in practice, there are touches that really make a difference in creating a beautiful final product. Here’s my advice to you… first off, invest in a mandolin. This will make cutting your veggies quick, easy and much better results than your knife is able to, in terms of even size. My other key piece of advice is to always heat your sauce to just boiling before pouring into the baking tray and baking – adding cool sauce will take a loooong time to heat up, therefore your veggies will take even longer to cook through!
I didn’t do it for this recipe, but you can actually heat your sauce to almost boiling if you have a high speed blender. Keeping the machine running for an elongated amount of time will heat it through. Magic.
Another key tip for gratins is cashew nuts. This is optional, but the ground nuts create a thicker, decedent texture, which adds an extra oomph to our dish. I don’t make a gratin without them!
The sauce I made for this particular dish is full of garlic and mustard, combining beautifully with the root veggies. Meanwhile, the nutritional yeast gives a “cheesy” taste and the thyme and bay leaves give subtle herby undertone.
If you’re looking for something to cook your other half or your dearly beloved self for Valentines (or just a super nice dinner!) look no further. Simple enough to knock up, impressive enough to serve up for a fancy dinner.
I’d love to hear what you thought of the recipe in the comments! Share your Hungry Herbivores creations with me on social media too!
- 4 large beetroots
- 2 large leeks
- ½ cup cashews, soaked overnight or in hot water for at least 30 minutes
- 1 (400g) tin coconut milk
- ½ cup non-dairy milk
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ salt
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Pre heat you oven to 390F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
- Slice your beetroots with a mandolin (you want it a few centimeters thick) or use a sharp knife to thinly slice your beetroots.
- Slice your leeks about half an inch thick.
- Layer your beetroot and leeks on top of each other in a large baking tray
- Drain your cashews, add to a blender along with coconut milk, non-dairy milk, garlic cloves, nutritional yeast, mustard, black pepper, salt. Blend until smooth.
- Pour into a saucepan, pull the thyme leaves off the twigs and add the bay leaves. Heat on medium heat until just boiling.
- Pour the mixture over the veggies, cover in foil and bake for 40 mins.
- Remove from the oven, take off the tin foil and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Serve hot!