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.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Crunch

Spiced pumpkin seed crunch, how I love to munch you. Let me count the ways…

1. As a fabulous healthy snack. Gobbled by the handful as I walk past your bowl or packaged up for lunch box treats.

2. Scattered over a warm salad. Beetroot and goats cheese anyone? How about roasted squash and chickpea?

3. Sprinkled atop an Autumnal sweet potato, lentil or carrot soup, delicately spiced with cumin, coriander and chilli.

4. Stirred quickly through a light couscous dish, with a pile of fresh coriander.

5. To add crunch to a simple pasta.

Only 5? Well frankly that’s enough to be getting on with for now. Key take out: Versatile. Delicious. Moreish.

As it’s pumpkin season you may well be making these with the seeds from a fresh pumpkin. If you are, then you will need to wash and dry the seeds before tossing with the spices. You will also need to increase the roasting time to 12-15 minutes.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Crunch

Ingredients

  • About a cup (120g) of pumpkin seeds
  • A generous pinch of sea salt
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Option to add a pinch of chilli powder or chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4.
  • Mix together all of your ingredients then spread out on a baking tray.
  • Cook in your preheated oven for 6 – 8 minutes. The seeds will be turning golden.
  • Allow to cool a little before diving in.
  • If you have any left, lucky you, they will keep well in an airtight container for a few days.

Scot Mex! Veggie Haggis Tacos

Fusion food. Maybe not at it’s very pinnacle of sophistication, but a blooming tasty weekend family feast let me tell you my friend.

Vegetarian haggis is delicious. I’ve never tried the traditional meat filled version. Why would I when this one is bursting with peppery flavour and packed with mouth pleasing texture. Mmmm.

When my children were a bit younger, and didn’t have quite as gargantuan appetites, I sometimes had a bit of leftover haggis and I’d try to reinvent these morsels into a crowd pleasing meal the next day. The family favourite was, hands down, veggie haggis spaghetti bolognese…

…until now. I’m always up for a bit of foodie fun so Scot Mex tacos is right up my calejon, that’s Spanish for alley don’t you know. See I’m just full of the fun!

Other than the Scottish twist on this Mexican classic, the chilli itself is pretty standard. Heaps of flavour delivered courtesy of cumin, coriander, smoked paprika and just a smidge of oregano. Deepened gloriously by a little cocoa powder.

I serve this with a really simple guacamole, a sweetcorn and black bean salsa, grated cheese and iceberg lettuce. I dont suppose it’s particularly authentic, it just happens to be what we love. Add soured cream if that’s your want.

The one thing I wish I had thought to use for this recipe is a Scotch Bonnet chilli. Not necessarily for the flavour, just the wee nod to Bonny Scotland.

Scot-Mex Veggie Haggis Tacos

Serves 5 – 6

Ingredients

  • 1 vegetarian haggis, cook according to packet instructions
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cans of tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • A can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to your taste
  • A big handful of chopped coriander
  • A box of tacos (there are usually 12 in a box), cooked according to packet instructions
  • Accompaniments I’ll list at the end as they’re very much optional

Method

  • First cook your haggis. If you have a microwave it will ready in moments. If, like me, you don’t then it will take just over an hour in the oven so bear this in mind in your planning.
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan and gently fry your onions for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in your garlic, chilli and spices and cook for a minute or so.
  • Pour over the tomatoes, cocoa powder and beans and stir.
  • Simmer this aromatic pot of chilli for about half an hour on a low heat.
  • Once your haggis is perfectly cooked break it up a bit and add to the pot. Simmer a little longer to allow for a bit of Scottish / Mexican mingling.
  • Serve strewn with the chopped coriander and whatever else your heart desires.

My favourite accompaniments:

I wouldn’t consider eating this without a pile of grated cheese (cheddar or lancashire) and a mountain of iceberg lettuce. You can shred the lettuce and add to the tacos but we also like to keep some of the leaves whole and use them as healthier shells to stuff the chilli into.

Guacamole

I just smash up a couple of avocados with a good spritz of lime juice, fresh chilli, a pinch of cumin, a pinch of salt and fresh chopped coriander.

Black Bean & Sweetcorn Salsa

In a bowl mix together a can of black beans and a small can of sweetcorn with lime juice, a glug of olive oil, a pinch each of cumin and coriander, a couple of chopped spring onions, a very small crushed clove of garlic, half a chopped chilli, a handful of chopped coriander and plenty of salt and pepper.

Claire’s Loaded Veggie Breakfast Stack

Thank you scrumptious Claire for tickling my taste buds with this pile of savoury favourites… eggs on halloumi on avocado on chilli jam on focaccia. Be still my beating heart!

After a particularly punishing morning HIIT workout in Claire’s garden, my legs were trembling, my arms were aching, my stomach was rumbling, nay roaring! This hearty stack of deliciousness is what she treated me with.

Digging a little deeper into this plate it turns out it didn’t only bestow pleasure on my taste buds. Each of the ingredients is massively helpful to us after a workout. The protein in the eggs helps to repair and build muscle; the avocado is dense in nutrients and fibre, which is really important for our metabolic health; and of course we needed carbs to replenish all the fuel we’d just burned, hello foccacia.

When you stack these awesome ingredients high it’s quite a challenge to open your jaw wide enough to eat this so Claire helpfully served this in 2 halves, making it less exhausting to devour, especially in polite company.

The focaccia was a herby delight but any bread or toast would be welcome to join this party stack. I’m thinking sourdough, bagels or wholegrain toast.

So get veggie stacking this weekend. Workout optional.

Claire’s Loaded Veggie Breakfast Stack

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 generous slices of focaccia or bread / toast of your choice
  • 1 packet of halloumi, thickly sliced
  • Chilli jam
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 – 4 eggs (depending on how starving you are)
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  • First of all heat your oven to about 120C / gas 1 and slip in an oven tray. This is for keeping the halloumi warm once cooked.
  • Heat a frying pan and once it’s warm cook your halloumi slices. You will not need oil for this. Once the liquid has evaporated and the halloumi is golden flip over and cook the other side, the 2nd side cooks much quicker than the 1st so keep an eye on it. Transfer to the warm oven tray to keep nice and warm.
  • Now add a little oil to your pan and fry your eggs (1 or 2 each).
  • While you’re waiting for the eggs to cook you can spread your chilli jam on your toast / bread and slice your avocado.
  • Arrange the avo on the bread / toast, followed by the halloumi and eggs. Sprinkle over salt and pepper if you like.
  • If you’ve built a stack you can pop the 2nd slice of bread / toast on top or just keep it on your plate to catch the tumbling odds and ends.
  • Loosen up your jaw then sink your teeth into this heavenly manna.

Light & Lovely Veggie Carbonara

Monday evening means football training in my house so a carb packed meal is the norm. I’m surprised this carb fest carbonara hasn’t popped into my head before now. Carb by name and by nature.

Not only is this sensational plate of pasta vegetarian, it is also lighter than your more traditional carbonara style dishes. A couple of eggs and a small mountain of grated parmesan are the essence of the creamy sauce here. It tastes wonderfully indulgent and yet doesn’t hit you with the mega calories you’d be facing with a cheeky drizzle of double cream, thank you very much.

Quorn ham plays a starring role but if it’s just not your thing then simply add more veg (mushrooms would work a treat) or if the fancy takes you, try it with thinly sliced smoked salmon.

Light & Lovely Veggie Carbonara

Serves 4 people in need of a carb load

Ingredients

  • 500g packet of spaghetti
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • A packet of quorn ham, chopped
  • A couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested

Method

  • First of all get your pasta started. Cook according to packet instructions.
  • Whisk your eggs, half of the parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper together. Leave to one side.
  • A couple of minutes before the end of the spaghetti’s cooking time, tip the peas into the pan and continue to simmer.
  • Once your pasta is cooked just the way you like it, reserve a mugful of the cooking water and then drain the spaghetti in a colander.
  • In your now empty pan, heat the oil and gently fry the garlic for a minute. Add the ‘ham’, thyme and lemon zest and stir around.
  • Turn out the heat then tumble the spaghetti back into the pan along with the reserved warm cooking water and the cheesey eggs.
  • Stir this pot of delights well and the heat from the pasta and the pan will cook the sauce quickly to perfection.
  • With a final flourish, stir in the lemon juice and the remaining parmesan.
  • Have a taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it.
  • Serve with a big crunchy salad.

Quick Quorn Creamy Pasta

I’m a big fan of quorn. Especially when I need to get dinner on the table quickly. I try to have a bag of quorn pieces (basically veggie chicken substitute) tucked away in the freezer just waiting for me to pluck out to add to something quick and delicious.

One of the mighty quorn’s exemplary features is that it absorbs all of the flavours you add to the cooking pot, so every mouthful is bursting with a lively, savoury punch.

I made this yesterday when time had run away from me and before I knew it I needed dinner to be on the table in less than 30 minutes. After a quick scavenger hunt around the kitchen this is what I concocted.

So, do the same, grab what your have and please don’t feel wedded to the ingredients I suggest. This would work with any pasta shape. Most vegetables would be grand here, I simply chose peas as they are quick and effort free. I love creme fraiche as you can keep things light by opting for the half fat version, but you could make this creamy dreamy with double cream. In times of severe bare fridge moments I have made something similar with cream cheese.

You get my point. Let your fridge be your guide.

Quick Quorn Creamy Pasta

Serves 4 people with hearty appetites

Ingredients

  • 500g bag of pasta (I used tricolor farfalle, because it was in my cupboard)
  • A tablespoon of olive oil or butter
  • 2 leeks, chopped into fairly small pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bag of quorn pieces
  • 1 stock cube
  • A couple of large handfuls of frozen peas
  • A tub of half fat creme fraiche
  • A large handful of cheddar, grated
  • A couple of tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  • Cook your pasta according to packet instructions.
  • Meanwhile cook your leeks in your oil of butter over a gentle heat, until softened.
  • Add the garlic and stir for a minute, before crumbling in your stock cube and tumbling in the quorn pieces.
  • Stir, then pour over enough hot water to cover the base of your pan. Pop a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for a few minutes.
  • Pour in your peas, stir then pop the lid back on. Add a little more water if the pan is looking dry.
  • After about 5 minutes the peas and quorn should be nicely heated through, so turn off the heat and stir in the creme fraiche and then the cheddar.
  • Once your pasta is cooked to perfection, drain and return to the pan. Pour over the creamy quorn and add the Parmesan. Give it all one final big stir.
  • Serve with a good grinding of black pepper and, if you fancy, an extra sprinkling of Parmesan. Buon appetito!