Spinach, squash and blue cheese gratin

This is another recipe based on something I found in the Waitrose Magazine.  It works equally well for kale as spinach, and you can use different types of blue cheese as well.  I beefed it up with a tin of cannellini beans, just to make it a little more of a substantial main course.  The really great thing about this recipe is the bechamel sauce, which is hugely reliable and easy and something I use for lasagna as well.  Bechamel is one of the French sauces its definitely worth making yourself.

We ate this with pearl barley, simply because I had a pack that needed using up, and it took the creamy juices of the gratin well.

 

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Spinach, squash and blue cheese gratin

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Gratin

1 medium squash, flesh cut into 2.5cm chunks

1 tbsp olive oil

400g tin of cannellini beans drained

Around 240g blue cheese (e.g. Stilton or Gorgonzola)

400g pack of spinach leaves

For the béchamel

700ml whole milk

1 bay leaf

2 cloves

pinch black peppercorns

1 small onion, halved

1 celery stalk, roughly chopped (if you have one)

75g unsalted butter

60g plain flour

Method

Heat the oven to 220 ̊C, gas mark 7. In a large bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil and season. Arrange in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for 25-30 minutes, turning halfway, until soft and caramelised in places; set aside. Meanwhile, bring the milk to the boil with the bay leaf, cloves, peppercorns, onion and celery. Take off the heat and set aside for a few minutes to infuse.

Turn down the oven to 180 ̊C, gas mark 4. Make a bechamel sauce by cooking the butter and flour in a small pan over a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Strain the infused milk and add, in 4 or 5 batches, whisking to incorporate each time. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes, whisking regularly, until thickened. Add the beans, 1⁄2 the cheese, season and set aside.

Meanwhile, blanch the spinach in the water you’ve washed it in until wilted (30 seconds literally). Refresh immediately in cold water and lightly squeeze dry.

Toss the squash, béchamel and spinach together in a large bowl, then arrange in a large ovenproof dish (about 2 litres in volume). Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until golden brown. Leave to cool a little before serving.

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