Since I decided, quite a while ago now, to try my best to avoid eating meat during the week my repertoire of vegetarian dishes has expanded and improved. I think it’s a winning idea all round to limit your meat intake, even for a committed carnivore like myself. I’d rather eat less meat and buy better quality than have meat every day. I feel like I’m doing my body a favour by sticking to vegetarian (and sometimes fish) dishes during the week, too. Everyone knows its harder work on the body to digest meat so giving it long, weekly breaks from doing just that is good for your health as well as your finances. This lasagne features a few of my time saving tricks for mid-week dinners.
1) Make a big batch of good, garlicky well-seasoned tomato sauce, portion it off and keep it in the freezer. So many meals can be based on a good tomato sauce and its so easy to make a huge batch if you use my second trick!
2) Which is, make your own lazy garlic. This is a money-saver, too. Quite often small independent Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean grocers sell big bunches of garlic bulbs for a pound or so, which is great but they need to be used asap as they don’t tend to have a lot of shelf-life left. I sit and peel several bulbs while I’m watching something on TV and then put them all in the blender. After a few pulses they are at perfect dish-starting consistency and can be piled into a jar and covered with oil. They will keep for a few weeks and make getting most dishes going a lot easier.
3) For the lentils, instead of cooking a half a cup or a cupful at a time I put on a big pan of water, cook the whole bag, split it off into two person portions and freeze them. They are ideal for mid-week dishes in place of minced beef. Again, very inexpensive.
4) I made the cheese sauce using the my friend’s ‘shake it in a jar method’, explained in my Romanesco Cauliflower in Mustard Sauce with Crispy Bacon (https://notesonthemenu.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/romanesco-cauliflower-with-mustard-sauce-crispy-bacon/)
1 lb cooked lentils vertes
2 pints tomato sauce
1 ¼ pints cheese sauce
1 packet lasagne sheets
Two medium tomatoes
Extra cheese for the top, grated
Slice three of the courgettes into ½ inch pieces, pour over a tablespoon of oil, add a good pinch of salt and coat thoroughly. Spread them out on a baking tray and cook at gas mark 4 or equivalent for 30 mins. Using the fourth courgette and a potato peeler, make as many ‘courgette ribbons’ as you can by taking the peeler in a smooth line the full length of the courgette. Halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and slice the flesh into thin strips. Put these and the courgette ribbons in a bowl and coat with a little oil and a pinch of salt. When the courgette slices in the oven are cooked combine them with the tomato sauce; you’re now ready to layer up the lasagne. Start with the tomato sauce mixture , then the lasagne sheets and finally the cheese sauce. You should have enough to do this three times. To finish off the lasagne take handfuls of the courgette ribbons and tomato strips and arrange them on top and then finally scatter over the grated cheese. Bake at gas mark 5 for thirty to forty minutes. Scatter over the basil leaves and serve with a big bowl of salad.
SERVES FOUR TO SIX