We had a break in the heatwave (yes, of course we are complaining about the rain, and wishing it was 30+C again), which called for something hearty and warming... but it being summer and the drought not having quite killed everything yet, we had a load of summer veg and salad in the fridge which needed to be put to good use. So, I'll meet you halfway, I thought, and make something hot and a salad. 

Slightly sad to be using up the last scraps of a box of the most amazing goat's curd from Ellie's Dairy which was left over from a catering event, I decided to up my vegetarian / vegan game even more with a roast veg-filled farinata (the curd was the only non-vegan thing about this dinner, so if you're that way inclined, just leave it out, or replace it with a suitable vegan alternative!). Really I want to call it "farinattata" because it's essentially the egg-free love child of farinata and frittata. Both are delicious, and we thought this was even better than the some of its parts. 

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It's super simple to make, but just requires a bit of time and pre planning as the batter needs to rest for 3-4 hours minimum - overnight or a day in the fridge will do it no harm either if you want to get ahead. Also the lower and slower you roast your tomatoes the more delicious it will be (but even with raw ones it's yummy).

Roasted vegetable farinata

Ingredients:

For the farinata:

A cake tin or roasting tray - solid not spring form or loose bottomed

1 part chickpea flour

3 parts water

(Use an amount of flour appropriate to your tray size)

Salt and pepper

For the filling:

Cherry tomatoes on the vine - enough to cover half the bottom of your tray

2-3 cloves garlic (unpeeled)

1-2 aubergines depending on size

1-2 small red onions

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil

Salt and pepper

1 generous handful of fresh basil

Fresh goat's curd (optional)

To serve:

We had this with a really simple seasonal salad with a mustard vinaigrette - think pea shoots, rocket, or even a crunchy cos or gem

Method:

First make the batter

1. Sift the chickpea flour into a bowl and slowly whisk in the water - make sure you beat it smooth with the first addition of water, whilst it's still thick - the more water you add, the harder it will be to whisk out the lumps.

2. When you have a smooth batter, quite thin like cream or a crepe batter, cover it with a plate or some cling film and let it rest for at least 3-4 hours at room temperature. If you want to make it ahead of time then just leave it in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Whilst the batter is resting prepare your fillings

1. Preheat oven to 160C. Remove the tomatoes from the vine and toss in a drizzle of cold-pressed rapeseed oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, throw in the garlic, place on a foil lined tray and roast for 2-3 hours at least - the skins will start to shrivel and they will smell amazing.

2. Once roasted, set aside the tomatoes, take the garlic cloves and squeeze the soft flesh out of the skins - use a fork to mash this into a puree (it may not even need mashing if you've roasted it for ages) and keep for later.

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3. Jack the oven up to 200C. Line baking tray with foil. Peel and slice the red onions, toss them in some oil and salt and pepper, then lay them on the tray in a flat little pile in the middle.

4. Dice the aubergine into 2cm cubes, toss them in some oil and salt and pepper, then lay them on the tray on top of the onions so that they pretty much cover them entirely. This will protect them from burning whilst letting them roast and caramelise under the aubergines which will scorch and go lovely and smoky in the oven. Put the tray in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes until the aubergines are darkly coloured and soft.

Leave the oven on at 200C and assemble the farinata.

1. Cut a piece of baking paper big enough to line the tray bottom and sides, without too much excess. Scrunch it up and run it under the cold tap so that you have a wet and flexible piece of paper you can use to line the tray. 

2. Drizzle a bit of oil into the lined tray then start adding the prepared vegetables - scatter the tomatoes, aubergines and onions evenly, then tear in lots of basil, add little dots of the garlic puree all around, then if using crumble over the goat's curd.

3. Uncover the batter, add a generous pinch of salt and a good crack of pepper, then whisk it up again to make sure it's even - it will have separated a bit whilst resting. Pour this carefully into the tin over the vegetables - we go for just up to the height of the veg, but you can make thicker / thinner versions as is your preference. Just watch the cooking times.

4. Bake in the oven until set but with a slight wobble (think omelette or custard tart) - It will take longer than you think, and you can always check how set the centre is with a knife. You want it to have the texture of melted cheese in the middle, not watery, not fully set. It's quite similar to making a frittata with eggs I guess!

5. Once cooked, let it cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, then lift it out onto a board, cut and serve. Eat hot! 

Keeps well in the fridge for reheating!

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