Thursday, 9 December 2010

Seeking Stability: The Trusty Veggie Lasagne

Well, life goes on doesn't it? Not much to report here. The snow really messed up the city for a while. Lots of people didn't go to work, some stores didn't open in town and we didn't have post for a week. A WHOLE WEEK!

According to the Metcheck White Christmas Snow-o-Meter, there's a 30% chance of a white Christmas in South Yorkshire. Mmmm... I hope not as the family are coming to ours this year! Talking of Christmas, the run up is a bit strange this year; no colleagues moaning about their expeditions to Meadowhell, no tinsel round the computer monitor and no naff Christmas party to attend. Hopefully putting the decorations up at home this weekend will help the mood; although I've already decided that I'm sending out the absolute minimum of Christmas cards out and I've also reigned in the amount we're spending on presents. Ooooo. Bah Humbug.

It doesn't help that my life is still pretty much up in the air. I have some voluntary work lined up and I will be starting that tomorrow, but that's pretty much it! This bleedin' recession does not help and I'm starting to get a bit scared. However, scared Clare = motivated Clare so I could do with a few scary thoughts right now.

In the meantime, I'll carry on with the fantastic distraction that is......... Food! I've not had too many adventures with food over the past week; mainly because I was away for the weekend and also because I am starting to repeat my past triumphs. However we had company the other night and that encouraged me to try something new. Not wanting to scare my friend I went with something pretty standard and non-offensive; the trusty veggie lasagne. Believe it or not, though, this was something new for me. I had never made a cheese sauce, never mind about a lasagne! Crazy!

Well what recipe should be used for a first attempt? Delia, of course and here is the recipe. It's probably not particularly authentic, but then I have never had lasagne in Italy so I don't really know what an authentic lasagne would be like. Presumably it would include meat for a start!

I did adapt the recipe slightly and here is what I did;

about 9 sheets lasagne (the kind that needs no pre-cooking)
For the filling: 1 large aubergine - diced, 2 medium courgettes - sliced, 450 g tomatoes, 1 red and one green pepper - diced, 1 large onion - diced, 2 fat cloves garlic - finely diced, Olive oil, 50 g pitted green olives - sliced, 125 g Mozzarella - grated, salt and pepper
For the sauce: 35 g plain flour, 40 g butter, 1 pint milk, 1 bay leaf, sprinkling of ground nutmeg, 9 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, salt and pepper
For the topping: 2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan

Delia starts by salting the aubergine and the courgettes. I didn't. I have never done this, and never will. Life is far too short. So I just put the oven on to 240 C and then put the aubergine, courgette, peppers, onion and garlic into a big roasting dish, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned and roasted for about 20 minutes. I then put the tomatoes in the dish, whole, and roasted for a further 20 minutes, until the veg started to brown. I then mashed up the tomatoes, which were still whole, but soft, and stirred them into the rest of the veg.  Then went in the olives and I turned the oven down to 180 C.

In the meantime, I made the cheese sauce. I added the milk, butter and flour to a pan with the nutmeg and bay leaf. I brought everything to the boil, whilst whisking (pretty much constantly), then turned the heat right down and let the sauce cook for a couple of minutes. At this stage it was quite a thick sauce. I then took it off the heat and stirred in the Parmesan and seasoned the sauce.

Using a 9cm by 9cm dish I made a layer with a quarter of the cheese sauce in the bottom, then a layer of a third of the veg, a third of the mozzarella (also at this stage I did sneak in a bit of extra grated Parmesan too!), a layer of lasagne and repeated and just made sure that I had a cheese sauce as a topping. Then I sprinkled the 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan on top and baked it in the oven for about half an hour.  I served with a watercress, spinach and rocket leaf salad.

half demolished!
It worked and for a first lasagne attempt, I think it was pretty damn good!  It wasn't at all sloppy, thanks to the pre-roasting of the veg and it was nice and cheesy, which, for me, is a must! Everyone enjoyed and I have a spare portion in the freezer.... for now!