If I'm being honest, finding hearty substantial vegetarian recipes that don’t leave the meat eaters of the family feeling cheated has been very tricky.
We've tried lots of recipes that just haven’t had enough... OOMPH ..for a better word.
There's nothing worse than slaving away preparing some supposed culinary wonder to find it’s gloopy- bland or just plain and unsubstantial..
I don't just mean the flavour, although that is vital, for me, it's also a question of consistency.
At this time of year we would normally all have enjoyed a beef lasagne. I know you can eat it lasagne whenever, but it is a great winter feel good food.
After much experimenting, and a small fortune on new cookery books, I finally developed my own vegetarian alternative, using lentils.
On the way we tried lots of other versions but this seems to be the most popular
It's always met with murmurs of approval from vege and meat eaters alike as the consistency is dense, as with beef, and the flavours are well developed.
Just perfect for this cold spell.
If you have scrolled down and thought no way it's too complicated.. Please...Don’t be put off...it is straight forward ..and yes, the ingredients list is long...but most of it is in the store cupboard..honest!
It's worth it!
Also, once you have chopped, fried, simmered and assembled which takes no more than 15-20 minutes maximum you just bung it in the oven and forget about it and get on with something far more worthwhile ..HA HA!!
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
150g Puy lentils- I use the dried variety by Merchant Gourmet great for flavour and texture
1 long pointy red pepper
3 cloves of garlic
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp mixed herbs
2 tbsp red wine
Olive oil to fry. Salt and pepper to taste.
Sheets of lasagne to cover your dish for 3 layers this will vary on size of lasagne sheets and if square or oblong!! Sorry to state the obvious!
For the cheese sauce
1tbsp butter or marg
1 tbsp plain four
½ pint or 300ml Milk
120 g good strong Cheddar Cheese either grated or chopped into little pieces
WHAT TO DO:
1. Chop the onion, courgette, red pepper and garlic and fry gently in olive oil until soft.
2. Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with the same amount of water again. Heat gently for about 10 minutes. Add a pinch of mixed herbs and a splash of red wine.
3. Whilst the lentils are cooking add the red wine, herbs tomato puree and tin of tomatoes to the frying veg mix and simmer.
4. After 10 minutes the lentils will be getting softer so drain them BUT KEEP THE WATER they have been cooking in( you might need it later)
5. Put the lentils into the tomato mixture. Keep an eye on this don’t let it dry out...and add some more of the drained liquid if it looks like it will.
6. Simmer this whilst you make the cheese sauce...
7. Don’t be put off it is easy ..Melt the butter/marg in another saucepan on a low heat.
8. Then, stir in the flour to make a roué...basically a paste..
9. Stir the milk in gradually aiming to get rid of any lumps and keep a smooth consistency.
10. Add the cheese and stir until it’s all melted. Season with a little salt and pepper and turn off heat.
Ok so now you’ve made the two components you just need to assemble it.
You need an oven proof dish about 20 by 30 or 24 by 24 as one of mine is..Basically any dish big enough for 4 of you.
I tend to put just a bit more than a third of the mixture in the dish first, to give it a hearty feel, then cover with a layer of lasagne sheets topped with cheese sauce. Repeat this twice more aiming to keep enough sauce to make a tasty topping.
As a finishing touch I recommend grating a sprinkle of nutmeg on the top layer and a little grated cheese.
This is then cooked for approx 40 minutes at 180 – check the cooking instructions on the packet of lasagne you use. The brand I use is about 40 mins.
Serve with a crisp salad and if you are really hungry..garlic bread.