My lovely Granny was an awesome cook. A few years ago, we found her old handwritten cookbook, and it’s amazing. It’s perfectly imperfect – spelling mistakes, scribbles, pages torn out, recipes slipped in the front on loose sheets of paper (in fact, one of them is even written on the back of a letter from the DVLA…). It’s the kind of cookbook that you don’t get so much any more, in the age of Pinterest, but it’s just brilliant (and her cursive handwriting was just gorgeous!).
I was recently asked by Schwartz to share a recipe that has a good story behind it, and my mind immediately went to my Granny’s cookbook. Imagine the life this book has had! There are tons of great recipes in here, but the one that caught my eye was this vegetable cobbler. I love veggies, I love creamy sauces, and anything topped with a cheesy scone is always going to be good.
The recipe starts by infusing some milk with an onion, some peppercorns and a bay leaf. The aromatics are then removed, and the milk is used to make the creamy white sauce. I used peppercorns and bay from Schwartz, since I know they’re great quality and would help impart as much flavour into the sauce as possible.
I’ve seen this technique in lots of recipes, but I’ve always thought it seemed like a bit of a waste of time – how much flavour can really be added in just a few minutes? Turns out, a lot! A white sauce can sometimes be a bit bland (I usually have to add a good handful of cheese to bring it to life!) but after being infused with the onion, pepper and bay, this sauce was seriously tasty – I had a hard time not scooping spoonfuls straight out of the pan. I would usually use ground spices and add them straight to the sauce, but I really like this technique of infusing the milk with whole spices instead. I need to experiment more with this idea.
The irresistible sauce is then stirred through a mixture of veggies, and that’s the main part of the vegetable cobbler done. You can use whatever veg you fancy – I used broccoli, peppers, corn and green beans. You could even add a tin of chickpeas or something if you want an extra protein boost.
The cheesy scone topping is really easy to make too – it only needs one bowl. Just mix everything together and dollop it on top of the creamy veg for perfect scones. They’re somehow light and comfortingly dense at the same time, and the cheesy flavour really comes through. If you don’t want to make the full vegetable cobbler, you could bake these scones on their own and they’d still be delicious.
I have no idea where my Granny got this recipe from – I imagine she probably copied it from a magazine or an old cookbook (I’m sorry if I’m accidentally plagiarising someone here!). But wherever it came from, it was a real winner. Comfort food at its finest – just the thing to help ease us into autumn.
- 1 small onion
- 450ml (~ 1¾ cups) milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 peppercorns
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 medium head broccoli, separated into florets
- 100g (~ 1 cup) green beans, trimmed
- 3 red peppers, sliced
- 130g (~ ¾ cup) sweetcorn kernels
- 85g (~ ½ cup) plain flour
- 85g (~ ½ cup) self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Black pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 60ml (~ ¼ cup) milk
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 85g (~ 1 cup) grated cheddar cheese
- Peel the onion, and chop it into a few chunks. Add it to the milk, along with a bay leaf and around 6 peppercorns. Bring to a simmer, and allow it to cook gently for around 10 minutes (keep an eye on it, as milk has a tendency to boil over very quickly!).
- Sieve the milk into a jug to remove the onion, bay and peppercorns, and set aside.
- To make the white sauce, melt 2tbsp butter in a large saucepan, and add the flour. Cook over a fairly low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, to form a roux. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring until smooth each time before adding more. When the sauce is ready, set aside.
- Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli, green beans and peppers, and cook them in a steamer for around 8 minutes, until just tender. If you don't have a steamer, you can try resting a colander over a pan of boiling water and covering it with a lid. Or, you can just boil the vegetables for a few minutes instead.
- When the vegetables are cooked, add them to the white sauce along with the sweetcorn, and mix well. Season to taste. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish, and spread it out evenly.
- To make the scone topping, add the plain flour, self-raising flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt and pepper to a large bowl, and mix well. Add the lightly beaten egg, milk, olive oil and grated cheese, and mix again until well combined. You should have a slightly sticky dough - add another tablespoon of milk if it seems too dry.
- Dollop the scone mixture on top of the vegetables, creating several separate scones (I made four, but it will depend how many people you're serving). Bake at 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F) for around 20 minutes, until the scones are golden brown and the vegetable mixture is piping hot.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for one quarter of the recipe.