Wild rice & autumn vegetable harvest gratin

Can be gluten free depending on bread used. Serves 4.

A complex and hearty vegetarian dish to welcome in autumn. I've used wild rice as it's such a treat, with a deep nutty flavour and rich in B vitamins. Any hearty grain can be used instead though. They will all be good, only their cooking times will differ: barley - 70 mins, roasted buckwheat (kasha) - 20mins, spelt or rye berry - 60 - 80 mins. Any leftovers will stuff into a capsicum for a delicious, quick meal tomorrow night. (See variations).

Kitchen Notes:
To save time, this dish can be prepared in stages - the grain, pumpkin, and the mixed vegetables - they will keep well in the fridge until you're ready to put it all together.

1/4 cup wild rice 750 gm butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 cm dice 2 tablespoons butter 11/2 tablespoons roughly sliced fresh sage leaves 2 teaspoons olive oil 1 small - medium brown onion - diced 1/2 - 1 cm 1 medium carrot, skin left on and diced 1/2 cm 1 stick celery, diced 1 cm 1/2 medium fennel bulb/ 100gm flesh from the bulb only, diced 1cm sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves 2 garlic - finely diced 1 medium apple, peeled, cored discarded and cut into 1 cm dice 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat leaf parsley 1 teaspoon tamari 1/2 cup vegetable (or chicken stock) 2 - 3 pieces good sourdough bread - to equal 1 1/2 cups 1/4 cup pecan, pistachio or walnuts - roughly chopped

Place 3 cups water in a medium pot and bring to the boil. Add the rice and cook at a slow simmer until cooked - approx 45 mins. Drain and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon butter, and 1/2 tablespoon approx, sage leaves to a frypan. When hot, add the pumpkin and cook for 10 mins approx over a medium- high heat until golden, using a slotted turner to turn. Add to a medium size mixing bowl and set aside.

Pre heat oven to 170c or 160c if fan forced.

Add olive oil to frypan and warm. Add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and a pinch salt and pepper. Cook over a low-medium heat for 10 mins, stirring from time to time, you should hear a gentle sizzle. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon sage leaves, garlic, thyme and apples. Stir through and continue to cook over a low - medium heat, hearing a bit of sizzle for approx 10 mins. Remove and add to the bowl with the pumpkin. Add the rice to pumpkin and vegetables, together with 2 tablespoons parsley and tamari. Toss together gently, using your fingertips, taste and add more salt and pepper if required.

Spoon the mix into an ovenproof baking dish - I use a 20cm square. Drizzle over the stock. Cover and bake for 45 mins. While the gratin is baking, tear the bread into very small bits - you will need about 1 1/2 cups worth. Add the remaining tablespoon butter to a small pot and melt. Add the bread to this and toss through, making sure the butter is evenly distributed throughout the bread. Add the nuts and toss through. Remove the foil, spread the breadcrumb mix over evenly. Return to oven and bake for 30 mins or until the breadcrumbs are golden. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.


* You could use this mix to stuff any poultry and indeed a pumpkin. If doing so, omit entirely the pumpkin and incorporate the bread and nuts into the mixed vegetables.

* You could use this as a base to roast a leg or a rolled shoulder of lamb, hogget or mutton on. To do this, incorporate the bread and nuts into the mix, lay it in the baking pan, and place your roast on top.

* Use leftover cooked stuffing to pile into capsicums. Remove their tops, seeds and core. Stuff, and bake in oven until the capsicum is soft - approx 10 - 15 mins. Cheese is a delicious addition to this.

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