This fluffy oven baked lunch or supper dish is somewhat reminiscent of Welsh Rarebit but oven baked and more substantial. It is, in fact, a savoury bread and butter pudding, but with no butter apart from a very little to grease the dish. It can be quickly assembled in advance and stored in the fridge for some time before baking: very convenient when you are in a hurry. Although it was originally suggested for the very busy Christmas season, it can be eaten at any time of the year including as a light Summer supper dish served with a simple salad. At a recent church lunch, I made this as the vegetarian alternative using a leek in place of the spring onion and it was very well received.
The recipe comes from the book Nigella Christmas (which I was given for Christmas in 2010) but was part of Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Kitchen television series in 2009 where it was served as a simple supper dish. She calls the recipe Triple Cheese & Onion Strata, which I think is a lovely title. As an alternative to a side salad it can be served with roast mixed vegetables which can be baked in a separate oven dish alongside. As the recipe contains bread it certainly does not need potato, rice or pasta. I found the recipe gave four generous portions. The original used French bread, which is also good, but it is definitely not a recipe for pre-sliced processed bread. I used large cubes of a good quality two-day old bread from the bakery (a Bloomer type loaf) as this was in my cupboard.
Triple Cheese & Onion Strata
150g/5 ozs bread from bloomer type loaf (weight without crusts)
1 small baguette, ends removed, cut into 1cm/½in slices and left to go stale
Butter, to grease dish
6 spring onions, white and green parts, roughly chopped
1 medium sized leek, rinsed to remove sand and finely chopped
150g/5oz mozzarella, roughly cut into pieces
50g/2oz parmesan, grated
100g/3½ cheddar, grated
100ml/3½fl oz soured cream
6 free-range eggs
small bunch fresh chives or 2/3 green spring onion tops, chopped, to garnish
1. Butter a large 25cm/10in square gratin dish. Thickly slice the bread and cut into large chunks or cut the baguette into rings. Arrange the bread in a layer in the bottom of the dish. It is better if the bread is a day or two old and it does not matter if the cubes dry out a little.
2. Put the spring onions, mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar into a food processor with the soured cream and eggs. Blend until the mixture is smooth with green flecks of spring onion.
3. Pour the mixture over the bread in the dish. Cover with cling film, and leave in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight so the bread absorbs the liquid.
4. When ready to cook preheat the oven to 180oC/360oF/Gas 4. While the oven is heating up remove the dish from the fridge and bring it to room temperature before cooking. This will prevent the dish from cracking. (If you have used a metal dish then it does not need to be brought to room temperature.)
5. Uncover the dish when it has reached room temperature. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until it is completely cooked through and golden on top.
6. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with chives or onion tops.
7. Serve with a mixture of roast vegetables: red onion, sweet potato, peppers and tomato is a good combination. The dish does not need potato as it contains bread so including another root vegetable in the mixture is a good idea. Alternatively, especially in the Summer months, serve with a mixed salad.