I’ve been a vegetarian since 2003 and last year I was told I was a rubbish one as I couldn’t get through the bags of vegetables that were left on my doorstep by my allotmenteer friends.
So this year I’ve decided to try and do better and cook more – this has been a slow process…. I’m not a natural cook – it takes a lot of willpower for me to methodically follow a recipe, I’d rather throw things in a pan (or out of the window, depending on the success I’m having) and see what happens. My recipe is a reflection of this style (sorry in advance). I did read that we get a bit hung up on exact quantities in recipes so that is my excuse! Having vegetables in my own garden this year has helped get cooking – there is something very satisfying about going out and picking the vegetables for your dinner just before you need them!
Found an old slow cooker!
I’ve recently dusted off an old slow cooker (it has been living on top of my fridge for so long, I’d forgotten it was there…) that was donated to me a few years ago – I made a vegetarian chilli in it a week ago and was amazed by the flavours. The slow cooked vegetables were really tasty and the flavours from the spices were strong, much more so than if I’d made it on the hob in half an hour.
Slow cooker vegetable lasagne
So last night I decided to try a slow cooker vegetable lasagne – I’ve made lasagne a few times so just decided to cut up all the veggies, cook on the hob for few minutes, make a quick white sauce then assemble it all in the slow cooker instead. And it was yet another way to use up all those courgettes!!! The only thing it was missing was the very crispy top you’d get from cooking in an oven, but I’m sure the entire dish could be finished off in there to achieve this if needed. The slow cooking was worth it to get the flavours. I cooked mine on high for 3 hours, on low it would need 5 hours. Herbs and spices can be changed depending on taste, I like a stronger flavour so I tend to use cumin and coriander rather than basil and oregano. Not sure if that means I need to change the name of the dish but up for debate!
1 medium beetroot
2 large carrots
2 medium courgettes
1 small onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic salt
20 cherry tomatoes
250g water (half fill the passata container with water)
Cheddar cheese (for topping)
8 lasagne pasta sheets
white sauce (500ml full fat milk, 30g plain flour and 30g unsalted butter)
Salt and pepper as required
1. Dice all the vegetables up, except tomatoes, and add to a large pan with oil and cook for 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the passata and water, cumin, coriander, garlic salt and mix through. Season to taste.
2. Whilst vegetables are softening, melt the butter in a small pan, add the flour and combine. Cook gently for 2 minutes then add in the milk gradually, adding more only as the sauce thickens. Continually whisk so sauce is lump free and cook for about 1 minute once all the milk is added to thicken.
3. Add a base layer of vegetable mixture into the slow cooker, add 2 lasagne sheets (the first sheet in the centre and the others broken up around it to fit) and add a small amount of white sauce. Add another layer of vegetable mixture, more lasagne sheets and white sauce. Cover the final layer of vegetable mixture with lasagne sheets and cover with the remaining white sauce. Add grated cheddar cheese over the top, replace the lid and cook on high for 3 hours.
And that’s it! If you’ve more time and for a tastier white sauce, you can warm the milk and add half an onion, a bay leaf and peppercorns and leave this to stand for 30 minutes before making.