Lasagne is one of those dishes that always seems to go down well. If you’re having visitors and lead a busy life, you can make a lasagne well ahead of time and simply pop in the oven on the evening. Also, once it has been cooked it keeps well for a left-over lunch the next day.
There are a so many different types of vegetarian lasagnes. I tried one recently at a friend’s house that was simply sublime. She had got the recipe from The Cranks Bible and it included fresh pesto, wild mushrooms and butternut squash within the layers.
This recipe is my ‘straight-forward’ vegetarian lasagne and I think it sort of mirrors it’s meaty cousin in terms flavour. This is thanks to the richness the wine and mushrooms bring to the dish. However, the middle layer of spinach, feta and walnuts adds a more unusual texture to what you might normally expect and helps detract from any potential sloppiness.
Ingredients (serves 6)
For the bottom and top layer
400g flat field mushrooms
2 red peppers
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 white onion (chopped finely)
1/2tsp crushed red chillies
1 stock cube (or similar)
1 glug of red wine
For the middle layer
400g frozen leaf spinach (not chopped)
1 pack of feta
50g plain flour
1/3 pint of semi skimmed milk
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
200g cheddar cheese
1 pack of dried lasagne sheets
Take the spinach out of the freezer and leave to thaw (or defrost in a microwave if you have one).
Fry the onion in the olive oil in a frying pan until translucent and then add the garlic.
While this is going on, melt the butter in a separate high-sided pan and once it has melted, add the flour and mix well, then add the nutmeg. Keep mixing thoroughly while you slowly add the milk until it thickens. This process should take about 15-20 minutes – be patient with it and you need to continuously do it while completing the other steps below.
Back to the frying pan: once the onions are garlic are cooked, add the mushrooms, peppers and fry for about 10 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes, chilli, stock cube, wine and seasoning. Be careful with the seasoning as some stock cubes are quite salty.
Once the white sauce is ready and has thickened, put in most of the grated cheese, keeping some aside to sprinkle on top.
Drain the spinach a little. Chop up the feta cheese into cubes, crush the walnuts, and combine both thoroughly with the spinach.
Now you’re ready to layer up the lasagne. Put the mushroom and pepper mixture in the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Then put a layer of pasta sheets – making sure it is all covered. Then add the spinach and feta layer – pushing the mixture right to the edge. Then add another layer of pasta sheets before adding the final layer of the mushroom and pepper mixture. Cover this with another layer of pasta sheets before pouring the white sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese before putting in the oven for a good 30 minutes. You could also sprinkle some crushed walnuts on top with the cheese if you fancy.
This is filling enough to eat on its own, but it is also nice with garlic bread to soak up the juices and a nice crunchy salad.
You could use fresh spinach if you fancy, but I just find it is easier to get the proportions right when cooking with frozen spinach. If you do use fresh, you will need about 2 packs and make sure it has wilted before you use it. Obviously, when using spinach in a salad it should always be fresh rather than frozen.
Unlike the meat lasagne, you don’t have to put the white sauce in each of the layers as there should already be enough liquid for the pasta to soak up.