I had a hankering for lasagna. It wasn’t the meat I missed but the combination of pasta, tomatoes and creaminess. Confessions of a broken mind moment… apparently I was going to be making a creamy leek and mushroom lasagna, I had even written it down in big letters on a piece of paper that I had left in plain sight in the kitchen… oops.
The lentil sauce was simple; a quick scrummage in the fridge to see what lurked there, green lentils hiding somewhere in the back of the cupboard, plus two tins of tomatoes (I always have tinned tomatoes as part of my staple stores). The chillis were the last of my boyfriend’s home grown crop and the fresh thyme from my garden. How I wish I could say that the onions and garlic were home grown but unfortunately I gave the job of cleaning out the shed to my two sons and boyfriend and under his instructions, they ended up on the bonfire (the onions and garlic, not the sons and boyfriend). Apparently, the dry, shrivelled leaves meant that they were rotten. You can imagine my amusement.
(Don’t forget to put those veg scraps into the compost).
The creamy sauce was simple enough but I did want a slightly cheesy taste. I’ve tried a number of different vegan cheeses over the months and found the best one for sauce is Violife Prosociano. On opening, it resembles very fresh parmesan cheese and just like parmesan, it hardens as it ages. The smell is definitely cheesy, much like sweaty socks are cheesy but the odour does mellow if you remove it from the plastic and wrap it in greaseproof paper. I wasn’t too keen on the flavour eating it in a lump, tho’ strangely, it was more palatable raw when grated. It doesn’t totally melt out into the sauce, giving the sauce a slight lumpiness to it but this isn’t a problem in the lasagne. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by it.
I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure that your plant-based milk is sugar free when being used in a savoury dish. Do not assume that because it’s called ‘simply mild’ and does not taste particularly sweet in your coffee, that it doesn’t contain sugar. It gives the cheesy sauce a kind of ‘custardiness’ to it. Believe me, I know!
Vegan Green lentil Lasagna
Ingredients for the Lentil ragu
- 150g dried green lentils
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes, pureed (or passatta)
- 1 Onion
- 1 Carrot
- 2 sticks Celery
- 2 cloves Garlic
- ½ to 1 Fresh chilli (optional)
- Fresh thyme (equivalent to 1 rounded tblsp)
- 2-3 tblsps Oil for frying
- Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the Béchamel (roux method)
- 40g plain flour
- 50g vegan spread
- 600ml plant based milk (unsweetened)
- 50g vegan parmesan grated
For the lasagna
- Egg free lasagna sheets (wholewheat if possible)
Oven temp 180°
Time cooking in oven 40-45 minutes
Method for lentil ragu
- Cook the lentils as per packet instructions. Strain when cooked.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan and cook the onions, carrots and celery for 5- 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add chilli if using, stir for 1 minute
- Add the garlic and thyme, stir for 1 minute
- Pour in the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Stir in the cooked lentils and if necessary, add a little water.
- Season to taste
Method for béchamel sauce
- Melt the vegan spread in a pan over a low heat.
- Slowly stir in the flour until it resembles a thick paste. This is the roux.
- Heat the milk in a separate pan or the microwave.
- Add the milk gradually to the roux, whisking continuously. (It can take a while for it to start thickening but keep at it as it can thicken suddenly). Continue stirring for 2-3 minutes to allow the flour to fully cook through.
- Stir in all but a tablespoon of the parmesan-style cheese until it is as smooth as it will go.
- Taste and season if necessary
Layering the lasagna
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Cover the base of an oven dish with a layer of the lentil ragu. Top with lasagna sheets.
- Cover the lasagna sheets with a layer of ragu and a layer of béchamel sauce. Repeat this layer.
- Sprinkle the reserved parmesan over the top
- Place in the centre of the oven and cook for approximately 40 minutes
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. As a staunch follower of real Italian cooking, I never thought I would like anything but the traditional meat lasagna. I will definitely be making this again.