dinner diary – lentil lasagne

I’ll admit it – I’m not the best at documenting my home cooked meals as I normally cook in a panic induced frenzy and by the time I dish out the final product S is halfway through consuming it by the time I even think about reaching for the camera.

This time though, I spent a nice leisurely afternoon doing so (procrastinating from the 6 uni assessments I have on hand).

The mission? Lentil Lasagne. Odd you make think, but I’ve always had a soft spot for vegetarian dishes…a throwback to the year in boarding school I spent as a vegetarian (trust me it’s a much safer option when dining in an institutional-like setting, let’s just say I once had an unfortunate encounter with a cow’s aorta in a beef pie that left me scarred for months to come).

Lentils are meaty and earthy grains which provide a wonderful (and healthier) substitute for beef mince. However, in the interests of well…taste…this recipe is not entirely vegetarian as there is the addition of bacon (which can just as easily be omitted).

The first step is whipping up the Lentil Ragu (akin to your traditional Lasagne’s bolognese sauce).

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups dried puy lentils (green/brown lentils)
  • 4 slices bacon
  • Handful of sundried tomatoes
  • 2 x 400mL cans crushed tomatoes (I used Ardmona’s Spicy Italian Style Crushed tomatoes here as they were already flavoured with olives and chilli, if you use plain crushed tomatoes I would recommend adding a tablespoon of tomato paste to the recipe for tomatoey extra depth)
  • 1 glass red wine (be liberal if you wish!)
  • 400g mushrooms, diced
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 300-400mL stock of your choice (I used chicken stock as it was lying around in my fridge but substitute for vegetable if you are making this vegetarian obviously)
  • 3 bayleafs
  • 1 T Worcester Sauce

1. Fry the bacon in a large pot until the fat is rendered

2. Add in the lentils, onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms and toss around in the bacon fat until soft (my arteries may not agree but it imparts a beautiful bacony flavour to the vegetables).

NB: It’s important to make sure that the vegetables are cut to a similar size so it can obtain the traditional ‘ragu’ consistency…

3. Once vegetables have softened, deglaze with the wine and leave to simmer off the alcohol.

4. Add in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Once this is done, reduce and let simmer for around an hour, checking regularly and adding more liquid if needed.

5. Once cooked, remove off heat and cool.

While the ragu is cooling you can get to making your bechamel sauce. For this I put 1 litre of milk in a saucepan with a cinnamon stick, 4/5 cloves, 10 peppercorns, half a chopped onion and 2 bayleafs. Next, I brought it to the boil and then switched it off and left it to infuse for around 15 minutes. Then I strained mixture and set it aside.

In another pan (or the same), I melted 80grams of butter and added to this 1/3 cup of white flour. This will form a soft doughy mixture, do not be alarmed! Remove it from the heat and whisk in the infused milk until all lumps have dissipated. Put it back on the heat, add a pinch of nutmeg, season and bring to a boil whisking continuously. Once it is of the right consistency you may remove it from the heat and ponder about why you didn’t just purchase the ready-made bechamel sauce sitting next to the ready-made lasagne sheets you picked up at the supermarket.

Once you have gotten over thanking women’s liberation for making this chore an option and not a necessity, you may begin assembling the lasagne in the normal fashion. (I’m hardly going to bother boring you with the details on how to layer a lasagne…)

Bake at 180 degrees (160 degrees fan forced) for approximately 40 minutes and monsieur et madames…I present you le lasagne du lentils!

Pre Mortem

It was well received by S despite his initial reservations about lentils (they are very misunderstood little grains). The bacon and sundried tomatoes added a lovely flavour and it really did “taste like the real thing”.

As a certain Kazakhstani would say….Great Success!

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