I think I should rename this blog ‘my veggie kitchen’ – I haven’t really been exploring world veggie cuisine like I intended, perhaps it’s because it’s been so cold and I’m enjoying exploring my local farmers’ market and spending many hours cooking in order to keep warm. Again this week, it’s a local theme – a small homage to my favourite cookbook and… lasagne!
What better way to spend a blustering, wintery Sunday than by sipping endless cups of tea and thumbing through my tattered copy of Wholefoods by Jude Blereau? If you haven’t checked out any of Jude’s cookbooks, I definitely recommend them. She isn’t completely veggie but she has lots of vegan and gluten-free recipes and has great alternatives to normal fare. I don’t think I’ve made a bad meal from her recipes and her philosophy of food is admirable and will resonate with anyone interested in whole, nutritious, ethical food.
Ah lasagne – you can do no wrong no matter how you make it! Everything is optional in the sauces and layers – and now it seems the pasta is as well! I have used polenta sheets instead of pasta, which has given this version a really interesting texture – perfect for something a bit different and your gluten-free friends. It is surprisingly delicious, but if you’re after an old-fashioned, comforting lasagne, use pasta sheets.
I sort of took this afternoon’s version of lasagne from Wholefoods. I have used polenta instead of pasta sheets – as per her ‘Tempeh bolognaise lasagne’. But due to lack of ingredients and my want of staying inside, I have used whatever I had in my fridge to make the rest of it (it is a wonderful lasagne version though, well worth trying if you have her book). Making any type of lasagne is a longish process but worth the time as you get a warming, hearty meal at the end of all your efforts (and mine couldn’t have taken longer than my lovely friend’s gluten-free veggie lasagne for 13 she made while I was making mine – hats off to you Amber!). A glass of red, some good music and the sound of rain on the roof will also help the process along .
So what was in my fridge and hence in my lasagne? A wedge of pumpkin, a fennel bulb, Tuscan kale, celery and mushrooms. So based on these ingredients, here is my version of lasagne!
1 onion, finely diced
3 small cloves garlic, finely diced or crushed
200g mushrooms, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 tblsp organic tomato paste
1 x 400g can of organic kidney beans
1 tsp each of salt, cracked pepper, sugar – or to taste
1 tblsp fresh oregano (or 1tsp dried oregano/thyme)
- Put olive oil in saucepan and add onion and garlic, cook until slightly translucent
- Add fennel, mushrooms and celery and cook until softened
- Add tomatoes, oregano, paste, beans, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir well
- Cook for around 20 mins then taste and adjust seasoning accordingly
- Take off heat and leave until needed.
2 cups milk (I used organic soy – is an acquired taste!)
4 tblsp flour (I used wholemeal spelt – I told you I didn’t want to go out!)
25g organic butter (can use olive/sunflower oil instead)
- Melt butter and slowly stir flour and nutmeg in to make a smooth paste – off the heat is easier (or just add oil to flour). Make sure there are no lumps
- Pour in the milk a little in a time and make a thicker paste until all is added
- Stir over heat until thickened (can take some time but keep stirring or you’ll have a lumpy sauce)
- You can add ½ cup grated cheese in if you’d like – best added when the sauce just starts thickening. Will be creamier and richer.
1 cup polenta
4 cups of vegetable stock
- Heat stock to boiling point
- Whisk in polenta (to avoid lumps) and stir until thickened
- Pour onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and spread out to make around a 5mm layer
- Leave to cool/set. Cut into sheet sizes
- I added some chopped olives to the polenta just before I took it off the stove. I usually add them to the sauce but thought the texture would be nice in the polenta based on last week’s recipe.
- Remove skin and cut into thin slices (1cm or less)
- Brush with olive oil and roast for about an hour or until cooked and crispy
- You can add chopped rosemary or paprika to the pumpkin while roasting for extra taste.
steamed kale (or spinach or silverbeet)
- Rinse kale and place in a saucepan with a lid (and a little water) and steam. Ring out as much water as you can – it will look dry when you chop it up (if you don’t ring out the water then you’ll get soggy lasagne
- Chop finely.
the final product
- In a baking dish, layer your ingredients – sauce, polenta (or pasta sheets), béchamel, pumpkin, sauce, polenta, béchamel, kale, sauce, grated cheese (if desired) – or however way you fancy!
- Cook in a 180°C oven or 350°F
- Using polenta sheets means your lasagne won’t need as long to cook as it will if using raw pasta sheets. Mine took around 20 mins to heat through (it takes around 45 mins with pasta sheets – test with a knife, if it goes through smoothly then it’s cooked)