The task I set myself here was to try and do something usually done with meat, using only vegetables instead. You know those amazingly easy beef and lamb stews, where you saute the ingredients and then throw it all in to the oven in a closed casserole dish?
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Take out your favourite ceramic, heavy, saucepan - it needs a lid too. I started by sauteing some garlic, onion and heaps of really flavoursome herbs - rosemary, oregano, dried basil and some fennel seeds, then a pinch of smoked paprika and dried chilli and salt and pepper.
I then put in some roughly chopped eggplant and allowed this to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to get it all covered. Then the remaining vegetables were added - field mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini and cherry tomatos. Saute this for another few minutes, then add some red wine and about a cup of stock, see below.
While all of this was happening, I had some vegetable stock on the boil, using all the peel and off-cuts from the vegetables. Most of this I used for cooking the polenta which was served with the stew, but I added a little to the stew.
I then just popped in a couple of small pieces of butter and put the whole lot in the oven for an hour, stirring a couple of times and adding more stock if it was required.
It was served with polenta which was cooked in the vegetable broth, then mixed through with a little parmesan.
I assure you that it did actually taste good, and apart from the butter it was actually pretty healthy.