Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Veggie lasagna

This week I decided to be a vegetarian. Not for any other reason that just because. I came across this post about being vegetarian for a month on A Cup of Jo, one of the blogs I'm following. I think the Culinary Consultant would rebel if I tried to introduce a month of vegetarianism in this house, but I decided he can put up with it for a week. 

I don't have an ethical problem with eating meat. I believe we need quite a bit of protein in our diet to cut out carbs, and meat is great for that. That should of course include a variety of white meat, fish and some read meat as well. Of course buying meat from animals who have lived a happy life and whose lives have been ended in the most humane way possible is always preferable over meat from intensely farmed animals. But it's also a balancing act with the financial constraints. Not a question I want to go into too much detail as I know I don't always practice what I preach or at least what I would prefer.

So this week, just to challenge myself to make new recipes, I went veggie. I tend to make the same old things over and over, and it was time to get new flavours into my food. And eating more veggies can never be bad for you. So I started with this delicious vegetarian lasagne which was an amalgamation of some recipes I've seen online and my own imagination. It does involve a bit of work with preparing sauced and veggies, but it's definitely worth the effort! Also, I would love to know how all the "real" food bloggers always manage to cut up their lasagne into these perfectly symmetrical square pieces which looks so great on the plate. Mine just ends up in a big sloppy pile no matter what I try to do. Oh well, it tastes great nonetheless.

Veggie lasagna (serves 6-8):
Tomato sauce:
about 20 tomatoes (or 2 jars of tinned tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic
one sprig of rosemary
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 dried chilli (or more, depending on preference)
1 bay leaf
a pinch of sugar
salt and black pepper

Bechamel sauce from 1 litre of milk, see here for instructions

For the filling:
4 sweet peppers
4 onions (1 used 1 red and 3 yellow onions)
2 cups curly kale
garlic shoots (you know the greens that grow when you plant garlic cloves in the ground. If you don't have garlics growing in your garden, substitute with chives)
lasagna sheets
150 g mature cheddar

The howto:
Start by preparing the tomato sauce and Bechamel. The instructions can be found here. For the tomato sauce, if using fresh tomatoes, blanch and peel. If using frozen tomatoes (like I did), let them semi-thaw, at which stage it's easy to take out the hard green bit and peel off the skin. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and cook until desired consistency (i.e. not too runny), with my frozen tomatoes this took about 40 minutes of cooking without a lid.

While the sauces are cooking, chop the sweet peppers into large chunks, lightly coat in olive oil and roast in a 225 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes. Slice the onions and cook in a bit of olive oil in a frying pan until starting to soften. Grate the cheese.

Start by spreading a bit of Bechamel in the bottom of a oven proof dish, and top with lasagne sheets. Add a layer of Bechamel, half of the tomato sauce, half of the onions, peppers and kale. Add some chopped garlic shoots and some cheese. Add another layer of lasagne sheets and build an identical layer to the first one. Top with a final layer of pasta and pour the rest of the Bechamel on top and sprinkle grated cheese on top. Cook in a 200 degree oven for an hour until golden and bubbly.
The verdict:
I am so happy this lasagne turned out to be full of flavours and really delicious. The Culinary Consultant thought it wasn't too bad given the circumstance (i.e. the lack of dead animal). I have no qualms about making this again, to me it was at least as good as a regular lasagne, possibly even better. If you are going to make home made lasagne, it's without a doubt worth making your own Bechamel and tomato sauce, it just brings that extra flavour to it and is worth every extra minute you spend on cooking. Seriously, you have to try this. I suspected it would be a decent meal, but it was just amazing, the favours were so good. I rarely get completely overwhelmed by my own creations, but this was seriously good. 

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