Has it seemed like a long year to you? We’ve not yet left February behind us and although the milder weather has been welcome, it can sometimes feel like time is dragging.
Or is that just me? With spring days bringing a wild range of temperatures and weather patterns that span the year, from ice-cold winds to balmy days, it can be hard to know whether to go salad-fresh or full-on roast when it comes to main meals.
It’s at this time of year that I revert to the ‘staples’, the family-friendly meals that can be tailored to all seasons.
Lasagne is one such dish. It can be the ultimate comfort food – hands-up who loves lasagne with chips (calm down food snobs, you’re not impressing anyone), or garlic bread, or all three.
And yes, both my hands were up in the air. You can also serve it with a crunchy, fresh salad on warmer days. It’s delicious either way, of course.
The beauty of the beast is that you can take your lasagne in any direction you want. Beef, roasted veg, lamb, quorn all work well. You can pretty much turn anything left over in the fridge into a lasagne and reap the rewards.
Here’s a fun fact from the Mobile Cuisine website: “Originally, in Italy, the word ‘lasagna’ did not refer to a food… [it] referred to the pot in which the food was cooked.
“It is thought that the word… is derived from the Greek word for chamber pot. The earliest lasagna recipes known are dated from the thirteenth century.”
So it’s got history. And it’s delicious. And you can spell it with ‘a’ or an ‘e’.
Go online and you’ll find a million variations served up by everyone from celebrity chefs to home cooks. The one that caught my eye and got my taste buds drooling recently was a recipe by Rosie Birkett on the BBC Good Food website.
It’s a ‘leeks and greens’ lasagne, serves four, with total cooking time of around 95 minutes. The full recipe can be found here: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/march-recipes
Jamie Oliver has a variation that uses one pot and a novel approach to layering the pasta sheets. He calls his ‘Scruffy Veg’ lasagne. Quite.
This version is more traditional but still super tasty. The recipe does contain walnuts, but these can be left out if you are serving anyone with an allergy.
What you’ll need:
● 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing the tin
● 50g butter
● 1 bay leaf
● A rosemary sprig, leaves picked and roughly chopped
● 3 leeks, cleaned and rough green ends discarded (1 finely sliced and 2 cut into medium slices)
● 40g plain flour
● 500ml milk
● Some fresh grated nutmeg
● 100g cheddar, grated
● 30g parmesan, grated
● 2 garlic cloves, crushed
● ½ green chilli, sliced (adjust according to taste)
● 400g mixed green leaves, such as kale, chard and spinach, roughly chopped
● 100ml dry white wine
● 100g walnuts
● 280g jar preserved artichoke hearts in oil, drained
● 100g ricotta
● 6 dried lasagne sheets
Making the lasagne
Start by heating your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Then, heat 1 tbsp oil with the butter over a medium heat.
Add the bay leaf, rosemary and finely sliced leek. Season to taste and cook for a few minutes or until the leek has softened.
Make a roux by adding the flour and cook for an extra minute. When the roux smells nutty. Take off the heat, slowly pour in the milk and whisk out any lumps.
Return to the heat and whisk slowly until thick and smooth. Season well with the grated nutmeg, then add 3/4 of the cheddar and parmesan and heat until they are melted.
In another pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic and chilli (if using) for a couple of minutes until they smell aromatic/good.
Add the rest of the leeks, season and fry until softened, then add the mixed greens and season a little more. Cook through until the greens have wilted, stirring all the time, then pour in the wine and cook until it evaporates.
Oil a medium roasting tin (about 20cm square) and tip half the greens into the tin. Dot half the walnuts over the top, and nestle in a third of the artichoke hearts. Then dot over half the ricotta. Remove the bay leaf from the leek bechamel and pour over a third of it.
Top this with three lasagne sheets to create a layer, making sure everything is covered.
Repeat the process, then cover the top layer of lasagne sheets with the remaining bechamel and artichokes and scatter over the remaining cheese (you could add extra cheese for extra indulgence).
Bake in the oven for 30-40 mins, until golden and bubbling.
Rest for 10 mins before serving (salad or chips, your choice). Enjoy.