Best-ever vegetable lasagne and awards
January 18, 2010 § 6 Comments
2010 is finally here. Albeit, this post is a little late to wish you all a very Happy New Year, but I sincerely hope you brought the new year in with pomp and style. Let’s hope that this shiny new decade does not disappoint, and I mean to ensure satisfaction with this year’s culinary treats and teases that I have lined up for you.
Now, you may be wondering why I’ve included awards in the title (you can’t eat awards.. what’s she going on about?). My wonderful friend Katie has nominated me (amongst some excellent others) for the Kreativ Blogger Award. Perhaps you’ve heard of this delightful award, perhaps not – apparently the award itself was handmade from fabric scraps by a Norwegian lady named Husfraus Memoarer in May 2008 to give to her sister a few friends to denote how much she felt their creativity had inspired her, and others. Another blogger, Simon Leung, has suggested an updated alternative to this award, which as a food blogger myself I think it’s an excellent idea!
The concept of adding rules and passing it onto others probably wasn’t part of the original plan, but it has acquired this history of being passed on and shared between bloggers to appreciate creativity in the blogging community. I personally think it’s a fantastic concept, but less about my opinions, and more about the rules of the award!
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name seven things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate seven Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.
So, thank you my dear Katie for nominating me for this award and for the lovely comments! I’ll be sure to reward you with another batch of lavender cupcakes when I next see you… for those who haven’t visited Katie’s movie blog yet, please do – it’s absolutely fantastic, well-written and an engaging read.
Now onto seven interesting things about myself:
- Before I became interested in photography, I was an avid digital artist, having (possibly) kicked off a trend of visual poetry pieces. If you’re interested, you can see my older works here.
- I was a radio presenter for a brief two summers following my GCSEs and AS levels, showcasing alternative rock music and emerging talent, and once managed to order pizza via one of my shows. I think that is quite an achievement.
- I’m an Indian classical music singer-in-training, having been taught theory all my life (owing to the fact that my mother’s an Indian classical music teacher) on and off, depending on my studies. I also play the harmonium, tambura and sitar, which are truly beautiful instruments.
- Although I’m classically trained in Indian music, the only performance I’ve given is in ‘Macbeth’ the opera, which was perhaps the most exciting and exhilirating (not to mention demanding) experience of my entire life. I hope to take part in more operas in the future, but that depends on whether I ever move back into London.
- Speaking of London, I’ve moved house approximately seven times (in and out of London), and have lived with my parents, with family friends, with my sister, with friends and by myself. So far, I have found that living by myself is definitely the easiest option!
- I used to be the Play Photo Editor of the London Student, where my job description in the first year of my post was basically organising fashion photo-shoots, taking cover photographs and eating cupcakes.
- And finally, speaking of cupcakes, I’ve always had an interest in cooking, and my lasagne recipe (which you’ll find below) was my first culinary success, however it wasn’t until I decided to experiment and make the aforementioned lavender cupcakes in June 2009 that I really developed a passion for putting an unusual twist on traditional recipes. Before then my culinary skills were mostly reserved for myself and a very close group of friends.
And now for the nominations!
- Of course, Katie tops my list of nominations. Why? Because her blog, The Stories That Really Mattered, makes movies interesting, exciting, but first and foremost, a topic of intellectual discussion. The lucid analysis of the pros and cons of upcoming movies and the clear depiction of trends in movies over time have me fascinated time and time again. I’m not much of a cinema person, and will probably only watch a movie if I’m stirred enough by its trailer/storyline, but Katie makes me want to watch movies I’d barely heard of before reading her posts. A truly remarkable talent.
- Mara and Kesha, of Shared Sugar, really have such an imaginative, beautiful cookery blog. It absolutely captivated me when I first came across it, not only because the recipes are delicious but also because their photography has such progression in each post – the images tell a story, which is hard to find in food photography in general. I really congratulate them for their excellent work, because I know it’s definitely inspired me to be a bit more creative in mine.
- Sneh’s fantastic cookery blog Gel’s Kitchen is honestly the most imaginatively cross-cultural cookery blog I’ve ever come across. There’s nuances of different countries’ cuisines in several of her beautifully-presented recipes, and each is as mouth-watering as the next. Not only this, her design talents are extraordinary, and if you follow her on twitter you’ll find a wealth of design ideas and web management tips.
- Lydia’s Swimsuit Issue is an excellent feminist perspective blog on popular culture and current news. Lydia’s determination and fierce conviction is apparent in each and every one of her posts. What’s more, she inspires women like myself to celebrate their strength and embrace their opinions and views, but also to question how popular culture represents the independent women of this contemporary world. An brilliantly inspiring read, and her activities outside of the blogosphere (co-running a feminist club night ‘Girl Germs’) are commendable.
- Karin’s delightful Reading & Reviewing literature blog gets me engrossed everytime. Having worked in a bookshop I especially appreciate the full details included at the top of every post, couple with the incredibly creative summary photographs (featuring the lovely Karin Elizabeth herself).
- Ele’s Kitchenist ecotarian cooking blog is so comprehensive and vibrant, that my mouth seems to automatically start drooling whenever I open up her blog on my web browser. I especially like the natural and organic feel to her blog, which makes me invariably guilty when she’s mentioning farmer’s market and I’m figuratively munching down on a stick of butter and a cupful of sugar… all in all, a very fresh, vibrant blog.
- Last, but by no means least, Saam’s music and films blog Faded Glamour regularly brings to light new and underrated talent. I’ve found out about new bands that I’d never have heard of before had it not been for his enlightening posts and podcasts, and his film (and TV) reviews are honest, down-to-earth accounts – informative and innovative.
Now, onto today’s tidbit. Having experimented with a range of vegetables, poultry and meat for this dish, I find it to be the most versatile recipe as you can create a wonderfully light lasagne or a comforting, rich dish that really satisfies. Vegetable lasagne is a healthier alternative to the traditional beef lasagne, but the explosion of flavours on your palate that this dish creates will not leave you lamenting the lack of meat.
You can try different combinations of vegetables for this dish, but I find that courgettes and peppers are by far the simplest and most flavoursome pairing. To start off, you’ll need:
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1 medium courgette, evenly sliced
- 1 large red pepper, sliced, or chopped into large pieces
- 1 large orange pepper, sliced, or chopped into large pieces
- 300-400g passata
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp oregano
- A pinch of sugar
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large lasagna sheets
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Slice up the vegetables and put aside. Heat 3 to 4 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over a fairly high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onion, stir quickly and let it fry for a minute or so. Then reduce to a medium heat and let the onions begin to caramelise for about 5 minutes. Once the onions have just started to caramelise, add the chopped garlic and let it all fry for another 2-3 minutes.
At this point, when the smells of fried onion and garlic start to become intoxicating, add your sliced courgette and stir gently to thoroughly coat the courgette in the oil and onion. Cover your saucepan and let the vegetables fry for approximately 5 minutes, or until the courgettes start to become softer and slightly translucent.
You can now add the sliced, or chopped, peppers, stirring to combine and coat all the vegetables evenly in the oil. Cover for another 5 minutes, then stirring to loosen any vegetables at the bottom of the pan add your passata to the vegetables and turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir well, cover and leave for about 5-10 minutes.
Uncovering your pan, your sauce should have started to simmer gently. Add your basil, oregano, chilli flakes and pinch of sugar at this point and stir well. Then, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Increase the heat to high and allow the sauce to come to the boil before turning off the heat. Stir once more, then spoon half the quantity into your lasagne dish. Arrange a lasagna sheet over the sauce layer, then spoon the rest of the sauce over the top. Arrange your second lasagna sheet over this sauce layer. Otherwise, you can arrange the sauce between three sheets of lasagne if desired. Set aside.
You will need to make your cheese sauce for the topping now. For this you will need:
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 100ml whole milk
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 bay leaf
- A pinch of ground nutmeg
- Salt to taste and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
- 100g cheddar cheese
- 1½ tsp thyme
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour when just bubbling (be careful not to let the butter brown). Combine to form a paste and stir vigorously for about a minute. Reduce the heat to medium and gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, so that you form a smooth sauce. Add your bay leaf and continue to stir the sauce for about 10 minutes until your sauce begins to thicken.
Once your sauce reaches dropping consistency, add your mustard and nutmeg and stir well. Then gradually sprinkle about 30g of the cheddar cheese into the sauce and stir to melt. Season well with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, discard the bay leaf, and then pour the cheese sauce directly over the lasagne sheets in the dish.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the rest of the dish, ensuring that the cheese sauce is completely covered. Then sprinkle the thyme over the cheese layer, so that the topmost cheese layer crisps up nicely.
Place into your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling on top. Stand for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.