There’s not much cooking one can do with a newborn around. OR SO THEY SAY. (There’s not much of anything else that one can do with a newborn around but I digress.) It’s hard no doubt, and unless you prefer pottering about the kitchen to taking a nap when you get a few minutes to yourself, that statement definitely holds true. But sleep deprived or not, I find solace in my kitchen. Nothing too arduous – chopping up vegetables to roast (pasta sauce, curry, salad), blending up quick soups, making a big batch of fruit compote (porridge, French toast!), using a pressure cooker for speedy meals – there are ways to eat well even when time is short and you can’t seem to keep both eyes open at the same time.
Planning ahead and having a well stocked fridge and pantry is key here. And I’ve found that instead of making something from head to toe in one shot, separating them into smaller tasks and spreading them out over a few days makes the whole process easier and a lot more enjoyable. For this dish, I did all the chopping the night before. I also keep grated cheese in the freezer for this very reason. This cut out a few steps in the morning and literally took moments to assemble.
Strata is just a fancy word for a savoury baked French toast aka a savoury bread pudding. You have your standard egg mixture—eggs, milk, flavouring of choice—that the bread gets dunked into, and layered with vegetables and cheese. Not necessary you do them in layers, but you get a good bit of everything in one bite when you do them this way. And for no extra effort, so why not.
Feel free to change up the allium (use onions, shallots or spring onions instead of leeks), and also the vegetables to what you have hanging about your fridge. Add ham, bacon or shredded chicken for a meat version. This recipe is very versatile and forgiving. The one thing I would say is to use a sturdy loaf of bread. Sandwich bread runs the risk of falling apart in the soaking liquid. There is a somewhat risky way around this though if that’s all you have. I’ve included it in the notes below.
LEEK, MUSHROOM & CORN STRATA
- 2-3 leeks, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 350 grams mushrooms, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup corn, fresh or frozen
- 6 slices of crusty bread (see notes)
- 125 grams cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- A small knob of butter (or oil)
- Salt, to taste
- A few basil leaves (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and salt in a bowl. Roughly cut each slice of bread into 6 pieces. Dunk the bread in the egg mixture. Let it sit until you need it (see notes).
- Heat a large wide pan over medium heat. Sauté the leeks and garlic in a little butter or oil until they cook down and lightly brown around the edges.
- Turn the heat up to high. Add the mushrooms to the pan and get some colour on them. If they leach out too much water continue cooking until they dry out. Add the corn and cook for 2-3 mins.
- Assemble in layers: tip half the soaked bread evenly into an oven-proof dish. Top with half the amount of the vegetable mixture. Add half the amount of cheese. Repeat in the same order one more time.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 mins. Bake uncovered for a further 10 mins until the cheese melts through. Top with chopped basil and serve immediately.