Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Courgette lasagne

I've been having some very strange dreams lately. I have been dreaming about people who have not been part of my life for a long time. A former colleague, who wanted me to give a talk about physics which I didn't understand anything about. Another night I dreamed about some old friends who were visiting me in my home. But my home wasn't my home, it was some other place. And then some other people showed up who were supposed to be my friends but I didn't know their names, so I couldn't introduce them to the friends who were already there. 

I think my vivid and restless dreams are because we have been watching Breaking Bad right before going to bed. I can't wait to finish the last few episodes, to get it over and done with. I don't want to watch anything so depressing and scary anymore. From now on, I will only watch period dramas and baking shows. Seriously, the older I get, the less violence and psychological drama I can take. I don't watch much TV anyways as I think it's mostly a waste of time. So if I decide to waste my time doing nothing at all but staring at yet another screen, I want it to make me all warm, fuzzy and happy. I keep re-watching my old Gilmore Girls, because they just don't make TV like that anymore.

The other day I was going to make a regular veggie lasagne as I have blogged about hereI popped out to the greenhouse to pick some tomatoes for the tomato sauce I spotted a few giant courgettes. So I thought, why on earth would I use pasta when I have these lovely courgettes instead. 

For me lasagne is all about the sauces. If you are going through the trouble to make lasagne, you want to do it right. And although making the sauces from scratch yourself takes some time, it's not that much work really. It's mostly about the sauces just bubbling away on their own while you can prepare the rest of the veg so you don't even waste any time. This makes a big batch, but the lasagne freezes well. I like to freeze it in serving sized portions and take with me to work for lunch.

Veggie lasagna (serves 8-10):
For the tomato sauce:
6  cloves of garlic
1 onion
ground black pepper
2 bay leaves

For the bechamel sauce:
1 litre whole milk
1/2 onion
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
80 g butter
80 g flour
black pepper (and salt) to taste

olive oil spray
4 sweet peppers
1 onion
250 g kale
1 courgette
200 g feta cheese
6 lasagne sheets
(grated cheese or torn mozzarella for topping)

The howto:
Start by preparing the tomato and bechamel sauce. For the tomato sauce, chop tomatoes into quarters and remove the hard stems. Put the tomatoes in a large saucepan along with the bay leaves, black pepper and finely chopped garlic and onion. Bring slowly to a boil, and you will see the tomatoes start to give off liquid when heating up. Let cook for about an hour and remove from the heat. You can prepare the tomato sauce on the day before, or even freeze it for use later. For the bechamel, place the milk, roughly chopped onion, pepper and bay leaves in a large saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. When the milk has boiled, sieve it and put to the side. In a large saucepan melt the butter, and add the flour to form a thick paste. Let the paste cook for a minute or two and start adding the milk. Add milk 1/2 cup at a time, making sure you stir constantly with a balloon whisk to avoid any lumps from forming. Just be patient and keep adding milk a little at a time, stirring vigorously between additions and you will be rewarded with a beautiful, smooth, silky sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.

While preparing the sauces, roast the peppers. Preheat oven to 225 degrees and roughly chop peppers (I usually chop peppers into 6 big chunks). Place on an oven tray and lightly spray with olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until small dark patches start to appear on the pepper skins. Remove from oven and let cool. Finely slice the onion and roughly chop kale. Slice the courgette thinly. Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees C. To assemble, start by placing sliced courgettes in a large oven proof dish. Top with half of the peppers, kale and feta cheese as well as tomato sauce and about a third of the bechamel. Add another layer of courgettes, peppers, kale, feta and sauces, and add a sprinkle of ground black pepper (and salt if you want to although the feta has a lot of salt, so I didn't find it necessary to add any salt). For the last layer, add the lasagne sheets and top with the remaining bechamel sauce (and grated cheese if using). Cook for about an hour, or until golden brown and bubbling. 

The verdict:
This was simply delicious. It does make such a difference to make everything from scratch yourself, and I do appreciate how lucky I am to be able to walk out to the greenhouse to pick the most amazingly sweet tomatoes (although that happiness doesn't last much longer as tomato season is drawing to a close soon). If you want to make it even healthier, you could leave out the cheese and lasagne noodles and replace with more courgette slices. I have to admit the carboholic in me likes to have at least that one layer of pasta on top, with a thick layer of bechamel sauce and some cheese. It just makes the whole thing so much more delicious. Also, the roasted peppers are absolutely brilliant. I cooked this along with a meat lasagne for the Culinary Consultant, and when tasting them both side by side I can honestly say I preferred the veggie one. 

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