This is a nutritious and hearty main dish, that can be prepared in advance. It makes a lovely winter supper.
serves 4 - 6
450 g (1 lb) leeks, trimmed
50 g (2 oz) butter or margarine
1 kg (2 lb) onions, peeled and sliced
40 g (1 1/2 oz) flour
450 ml (3/4 pt) milk
200 g (8 oz) Gruyere or strong Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
300 g (10 oz) each carrots, parsnips, potatoes, all peeled and roughly chopped
50 g (2 oz) butter
7 g (1 tbsp) chopped chives or parsley (optional)
1. Rinse and slice the leeks, then steam or boil them until just tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt the butter or margarine in a large pan. Stir in the onions and cook slowly till soft and golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the flour, then gradually stir in the milk. Return to the heat and stir continuously until the mixture comes to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes.
4. Stir the leeks and 100 g (4 oz) of the grated cheese into the sauce, and season to taste. Spoon into a large shallow, greased baking dish.
5. Make 6 hollows in the mixture for the eggs, and allow to cool. Break an egg into each hollow, and sprinkle 50 g (2 oz) of the grated cheese over the eggs.
6. While the base is cooling, steam or boil the carrots, parsnips and potatoes until tender. Drain if necessary, then mash, process or liquidize with the butter, herbs and seasoning until very smooth and creamy. You may have to do this in two batches. Taste for seasoning.
7. If you are preparing the dish in advance, allow the vegetable puree to cool before spooning carefully over the eggs and onion mixture in the baking dish. Smooth the top.
8. When ready to cook — sprinkle on the remaining 50 g (2 oz) grated cheese.
9. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C (400°F) Gas 6 for 15 to 20 minutes until brown and bubbling.
10. The exact timing will depend on how you like your eggs cooked, and whether the gratin has come straight from the fridge, or has been prepared immediately beforehand.
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