Tomato, squash and creamed kale gratin

Tomato, squash and creamed kale gratin

The Sunday Night Book
Patricia Niven

In a way, this is like a pasta-free lasagne: a tomato, red pepper and sweetcorn sauce is layered with thin sheets of squash, and creamed kale acts as the bechamel sauce. I wrote the original version of this recipe for an amazing charity called Farm Africa which, among many other things, helps children to grow vegetables in their schoolyards, so I chose vegetables they might be likely to grow successfully. The project means they get at least one nutritious meal a day, and any surplus can be sold commercially, benefiting the whole community.


Quantity Ingredient
400g squash
400g kale
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
small pinch chilli flakes
15g butter
80ml double cream
80g cream cheese
50g panko or other breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped
20g freshly grated parmesan
sea salt
black pepper

For the tomato sauce

Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 small red pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200 g tin sweetcorn, drained
400 g tin peeled chopped tomatoes
1 large bay leaf
generous sprig rosemary


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Start by making the tomato sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add another tablespoon of oil and the red pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic and cook for a minute before stirring in the sweetcorn, tomatoes, bay leaf and rosemary. Season well with salt and pepper, then bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to make a nice rich sauce. Fish out the bay leaf and rosemary and check the seasoning.
  3. While the sauce is cooking away, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Peel and deseed the squash, then cut into slices about 3 mm thick, keeping in mind that you’ll be using them like sheets of pasta in a lasagne. Remove the tough stalks from the kale, wash well and chop roughly. Blanch the squash slices in the boiling water for a minute or two, until just tender, then carefully lift out and leave to drain. Blanch the kale for a bit longer, for about 5 minutes, so it’s thoroughly wilted and has lost any hint of squeakiness. Drain and refresh under cold running water to prevent it cooking further, then use your hands to squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible.
  4. Drizzle the squash with the oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle over the lemon zest and chilli flakes and season with salt.
  5. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the kale. Season with pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes until heated through. Stir in the cream and allow to bubble down and reduce until the cream is coating the kale nicely, then add in the cream cheese and mix thoroughly. Check the seasoning.
  6. Mix together the breadcrumbs, pumpkin seeds and parmesan.
  7. Spoon half of the tomato sauce into a large baking dish. Top with half of the squash slices, then cover with half of the creamed kale. Repeat these three layers, then scatter over the breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and the vegetables are piping hot.
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