Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

IMG_4270As much as I love the spinach and mushrooms in this lasagne, the red pepper sauce is the star of this dish. It’s my take on a sauce in Mildreds, The Cookbook, where it’s served with penne and boiled vegetables. Even if you don’t fancy cooking or eating lasagne right now, do give the sauce a try. I was instantly addicted, and a batch of this (divided into 4 portions) is now a staple in my freezer. IMG_4268 To make the sauce lighter (and vegan), I use soy cream instead of the double cream they use at Mildreds. I’ve also adapted the recipe to fit whole tins and jars. It could just be me, but one roasted pepper or one tomato left in a tin usually ends up mouldy in my fridge. IMG_4263 A note on pasta sheets: I’ve used shop-bought ‘fresh’ ones (eerily long shelf life, though) that don’t require pre-cooking. In my experience, whether or not you have to pre-boil lasagne sheets depends on the brand you use, and on the cooking time. I tend not to boil them first, even with dried ones, unless they are very thick.


Ingredients IMG_4261 For the sauce  – 1 onion, chopped – 1 celery stick, chopped – 1 carrot, peeled and grated (the one I used was 165 g, unpeeled weight) – 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely – 400 g tin of whole tomatoes – 350 g roast peppers (I used a 465 g jar with brine, undrained weight), roughly chopped – 1 tsp (coconut flower) sugar – 1 tsp coarse sea salt – freshly ground black pepper – 250 ml soy cream You’ll probably have about 1/4 of the sauce left after building your lasagne. Fridge or freeze for later use. It will be like having money in the bank, believe me. For the lasagne – 500 g fresh spinach leaves (I always chop fresh spinach so it doesn’t clump together so much ) – 400 mushrooms, sliced not too thinly – lasagne sheets PreparationIMG_4253 – Preheat oven to 200°C – Start by making the sauce. In a large pan, fry onion, celery and carrot in oil until softened. – Add the garlic and fry for one more minute. – Add all the other sauce ingredients, except the cream. – Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring regularly, for 20 minutes (lid off) – Stir in the cream and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. – Blitz the sauce with a (stick) blender and set aside. – Wash your pan and wilt the spinach in it. In a sieve, press out the excess moisture with the back of a spoon (or just squeeze with your hands). Set aside. – In the same pan, fry the mushrooms in oil (I use chilli oil here) until softened but not cooked through. Drain in a sieve. -Build your lasagne in a rectangular oven dish (the bottom of the one I used measures 16×25 cm). Start with a layer of sauce, followed by  1/4 of the spinach and mushrooms and lasagne sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all your ingredients, ending with a layer of pasta sheets topped with sauce. – Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes. – Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes. – Take the dish out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into the lasagne.

Spicy Spinach and Coconut Soup

IMG_2107-0It’s a good thing I am so food-obsessed that I take a photo of almost everything I cook, or this would have been a very sober post indeed. As it is, there is one pic. 😉

I had no intention of blogging about this soup, you see. It was more a matter of having a bag of spinach that needed using up and craving something warm for lunch. But as I was eating it, I realised I did not want to keep this from you. So here it is, in a very short and snappy post.

This is an adaptation of a recipe from the Dutch Allerhande website (the site that accompanies the complementary supermarket food magazine of the same name).
It is zingy, interesting and a doddle to make. Plus it has a gorgeous jade colour.


 

Ingredients

olive oil
3 shallots (or one small onion), chopped not too finely
piece of ginger, chopped not too finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped not too finely
1 red chilli, chopped not too finely (deseeded, if you prefer)
200 ml coconut milk (you could use half of a 400 ml can and freeze the rest)
750 ml vegetable stock (I use stock powder or cubes)
300 g fresh spinach
2 tbsp soy sauce

Preparation

– Fry the shallots, ginger, garlic and chilli in the oil for a few minutes until golden and fragrant.
– Add the stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil.
– Stir in the spinach leaves and let them wilt.
– Let simmer for 3 minutes, lid on.
– Blend the soup, using a (stick) blender.
– Add the soy sauce as you gently reheat the soup.

 

Fresh and Zesty Spinach, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto

IMG_1324When I cooked my first risotto about seven years ago (a Nigella one, if I remember correctly) I was prepared not to like it. I am not a fan of rice pudding and Dutch rijstevlaai (rice flan), so making a risotto seemed almost pointless. I am so glad I did decide to get over my hang-up, because I loved it and I have been trying out risotto recipes ever since. So far my favourite was a simple mushroom risotto but this spinach, mushroom and lemon one is well on its way to become my new numero uno.

IMG_1317I got the idea of using spinach from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for risotto I tried recently. Normally I like spinach just wilted but adding the leaves at the beginning works so well in this dish. I realise garlic oil is becoming a bit of a theme on the blog (it’s liquid gold, imo) but in this case I really recommend using it. The mellow garlic flavour of the oil works really well here and there is no danger of the garlic burning, as tends to happen to me when I fry finely grated garlic in a Le Creuset pan unless I use more oil than I want to. I used a ‘summer melange’ of mushrooms and some shiitakes here. You could use any mushrooms, from everyday fo fancy in this risotto, just don’t cut them too small and do fry them before adding them to the rice.IMG_1315

As far as I’m concerned, two things are important when making a risotto: your stock should be hot and you have to start tasting your rice from about 15 minutes. How cooked you like the rice is a matter of personal preference but you won’t know how done it is unless you try it.


 

Ingredients

250 g mushrooms, chopped chunkily or not at all (depending on shape and size)
garlic oil
3 shallots, chopped finely
300 g fresh spinach, shredded
150 g risotto rice (I use arborio)
750 ml hot mushroom stock (I use stock cubes)
zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½ a lemon
salt and pepper
splash of chilli oil

Preparation

– Fry the mushrooms in garlic oil until they are almost cooked but still have bite left. Set aside.
– In a heavy-bottomed pan (not a low one, because of the bulky spinach), fry the shallots in the garlic oil for a few minutes until translucent.
– Add the spinach, stir until it’s wilted and then cook for a few minutes longer until most of the moisture has evaporated.
– Stir in the rice and cook for a few minutes, until the grains turn translucent (in places).
– Add a ladleful of hot mushroom stock and stir gently until it has been absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful, repeat, etc.
– When there are about five minutes of cooking time left, add the mushrooms and keep doing what you were doing, stirring gently.
– When the rice is done, add a good squeeze of lemon juice (go easy, you can add more later). Stir and turn off the heat.
– Stir in the lemon zest and taste to check if it needs more lemon juice.
– Season to taste and add the chilli oil. Serve.

 

 

 

Gorgeous Green Lasagne Rolls

20140713-144755-53275795.jpgAs soon as I spotted these scrumptious lasagne rolls on the Post Punk Kitchen blog it was love at first sight. Not only because I love spinach and pasta but because the recipe included a pesto made without parmesan. In fact, these rolls are entirely vegan. I am not a vegan but parmesan contains animal rennet, which has always bugged me. I have eaten it occasionally in the last few years but I enjoy it less every time I do. So a parmesan-free pesto intrigued me. Apart from that, the dish sounded and looked great and it didn’t make a huge quantity, as lasagne recipes tend to do. I usually only cook for two, so that was another bonus. Having said that, these green lasagne rolls are so delicious that they will definitely be making an appearance on my table the next time we have friends over for dinner.

20140713-144753-53273030.jpg

 

I was also intrigued by other ways in which the PPK had revamped the ‘classic’ spinach ricotta lasagne. There’s the parmesan-free pesto, a béchamel sauce made with soaked and ground cashews and a tofu ‘ricotta’. The result: one of the best damn pasta dishes I have ever eaten. The tofu and spinach filling is light and fresh (there is no distinct tofu flavour, by the way), the pesto has a great, intense flavour and the sauce is gorgeously creamy. I think part of the success of this dish is down to an ingredient I had so far only heard about: nutritional yeast. Not a sexy name and it looks like a bit like dried fish food (I am really selling this one, aren’t I?) but it adds bags of flavour and is even good for you. It is, and I am quoting Wikipedia here, a source of protein and vitamins and a complete protein. It’s one of those ingredients I was always a bit hesitant about but I am sure I will use it regularly from now on.

20140713-144753-53273732.jpg
Another thing I like about this recipe is that you could pretty much prepare everything in advance if you were to make this for guests. The only thing you would have to do at the last minute is cook the lasagne sheets until they are al dente (mine took about seven minutes), fill them, smother in sauce and bung it all in the oven.

20140713-144754-53274417.jpg

I deliberately used bigger lasagne sheets than the PPK because I wanted the rolls to fit in my small baking dish. I absolutely hate crisply baked pasta, so I wanted the sauce to cover the rolls completely. Filling the sheets is not hard but I found that a silicon baking mat is a very handy tool here. Instead of having to pick up the edge of the softened pasta sheet from your worktop when you roll it up, possibly causing it to tear, you can bend the mat so you can just grab the edge. Think of peeling a sticker from a sticker sheet, if that makes sense.
The recipe says nothing about draining the tofu or the spinach but I did a bit. I wrapped the tofu in kitchen towel and squeezed for a bit just to get the excess water out. The spinach I let drain in a colander after wilting and then lightly pressed with the back of a spoon. For me, the rolls turned out perfect this way.
Oh, I will go a bit easier on the salt next time, by the way. It could be the salt content of my nutritional yeast but it was all a bit on the salty side.

20140713-144755-53275111.jpg

I can’t recommend these green lasagne rolls enough! If you are not used to vegan cooking, don’t be put off by what might seem like substitutes. This is a great dish in its own right.

You can find the recipe here.