Joyful Veggie Lasagne

During these strange times I have been taking my joy where I can find it: a quiet cup of coffee with my husband in the morning, a spritz of my favourite perfume, a good box set on TV. The simplest pleasures really are bringing a little glee to my day.

Top of the list, however, for daily delectation is food. Of course.

The simple pleasure we are all exalting over this week is veggie lasagne. It’s always been a favourite in our house. There’s an almost palpable euphoria when my family come down for dinner and this little beauty is on the table.

I often make this with quorn mince as it’s the kids’ favourite. But I also love veggie lasagne made with lentils or even a couple of cans of tuna. I must admit that I have never made a meat lasagne. The veggie version is jam packed with so much flavour that even my Dad, a life long meat lover, devours this with gusto.

Veggie Lasagne

Serves 4 – 6 depending on appetite

Ingredients

For the veggie sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bag of quorn mince or about 100g lentils
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • A teaspoon of marmite (or 1/2 a veg stock cube)
  • 1 teaspoon each of sage, oregano and basil
  • A couple of large handfuls of spinach, chopped

  • About 12 – 16 lasagne sheets (I use the dried ones)

For the white sauce

  • 1.5 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • About 1 litre of milk
  • About 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • A couple of big handfuls of grated cheddar
  • A good grating of parmesan to finish off

Method

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and gently fry your onion and carrots for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and stir.
  • Tip in the quorn or lentils and stir to allow all the flavours to mingle.
  • Pour over the tomatoes and sprinkle in the herbs and marmite. Give it all a big stir then leave to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • When the tomato sauce is just about ready, stir through the chopped spinach then turn out the heat.
  • Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4 before you get on with your white sauce.
  • In a small saucepan mix your cornflour with about a tablespoon of milk. Once there are no lumps add the rest of the milk. Place your pan over a medium heat and stir, stir, stir until the sauce thickens. If you don’t keep stirring you risk a lumpy sauce.
  • Once the white sauce is thick enough, remove from the heat and add 1 handful of cheddar and a good pinch of salt. Stir.
  • Now to the assembly: pour a layer of tomato sauce into your lasagne dish followed by a little drizzle of white sauce. Then cover with a single layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat with a layer of tomato sauce, a drizzle of white sauce and a single layer of lasagne sheets until you have used up your tomato sauce.
  • Once you’ve used all of the tomato sauce place a final layer of lasagne sheets on top of everything then pour over the rest of the white sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and grate over as much parmesan as you fancy.
  • Pop this dish of delights into the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.
  • You know your lasagne is ready when it’s golden and bubbling, but to be absolutely certain you can pierce with a sharp knife to check the lasagne is cooked through.
  • I like to leave it to stand for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting. This is the most difficult thing I will likely do all day as I will be desperate to dive in. Allowing your lasagne to stand makes it easier to cut into portions and also reduces the risk of you burning your mouth on the molten hot sauce. So a little restraint pays off.

Classic Tomato Soup

Sometimes you just can’t beat a comforting bowl of tomato soup, no matter what the weather. I used to enjoy a bowl of soup from a can when I was a child in the 70’s but homemade soup is the ultimate comfort food if you ask me. Plus it’s quick, easy and full of healthy stuff.

I find this is especially satisfying to the soul, and the stomach, if I add a thick slice of fresh crusty bread and maybe a wedge of mature cheddar.

If you’re watching the calories don’t bother frying the veg, just put all the ingredients (except the milk) in a pan and simmer away. It genuinely tastes just as wonderful.

Classic Tomato Soup Recipe

Makes 4 large bowls or 6 medium sized bowls

Ingredients

  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • About 200g of carrots, peeled or scrubbed and chopped
  • About 100g of potato, peeled and chopped
  • 800ml of stock
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon each of oregano and basil
  • A generous splash of milk (or cream if you’re feeling indulgent)

MEthod

  • Fry the onion, carrot and garlic gently in the oil for about 5 minutes.  Add the potato to the mix, and continue to cook for a few minutes, at which point the starchy spuds will probably have started to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour in the tomatoes and bay leaves, stir. Add your hot stock and simmer, with a lid on your pan, for about 20 minutes until the veg is tender.
  • Fish out the bay leaves, pour in the milk if you’re using it, and blend the soup.  Have a wee taste and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

To serve try one, or all, of these…

  • This would be nice with chopped fresh basil
  • Thickly sliced crusty bread and butter
  • Oatcakes and cheese
  • A swirl of basil or chilli oil