Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vegetarian Lasagne

Here's a fun fact: I used to be a vegetarian. We're talking ten years before I made the switch to the dark side... And during those many years I often found myself irritated by the limited selection of tasty meat-free options, and the repetitiveness of restaurant menus. For instance, yes I like eggplant and pumpkin, but do I want it to feature in every meal? No. For me it was not so much an ethical choice not to eat meat, but rather that I just didn't like the texture, and hence if I wanted a lasagne I didn't necessarily feel like layer upon layer of roasted vegetables, I just wanted a basic pasta sauce minus the mince. Luckily for me I love home cooking, so I was able to create my own deliciously simple vege recipes, that my friends and I could all enjoy, and that I still get requests for to this day.

The best thing about my lasagne is that you can use pretty much any veges you have laying around, so don't stress if you don't have everything on the list. Not to mention that the cheese sauce is to die for!

You will need roughly a 23 x 29 x 7cm oven dish for this recipe, and approximately 9 instant lasagne sheets.

For the pasta sauce:

700g passata (tomato puree)

400g canned diced tomatoes

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 red capsicum, diced

1 large carrot, grated
1/2 head broccoli, finely chopped

3 spring onions, chopped

2 large handfuls baby spinach
2 tsp dried basil
tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley

Sea salt & cracked black pepper

Olive oil

For the cheese sauce:

2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp plain all-purpose flour

600ml milk
3/4 cup grated cheddar (tasty) cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt & fine white pepper

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
In a large saucepan heat a tablespoon of oil, and fry off the onions and garlic until tender. Add the rest of the vegetables, and saute for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Pour over the canned tomatoes, passata and herbs, then season well with salt and pepper and allow to simmer for 20 minutes to get the flavours going.

Once you red sauce is almost ready you can prepare the cheese sauce. Start by melting the butter over a low heat, then add the flour and mix well. Cook the flour for a minute or two, stirring all the way, then gradually add milk (about 100ml at a time) stirring constantly so there are no lumps. Once you have added all the milk stir in the two cheeses, and mix well until it has melted through and the sauce is nicely thickened. Season with a little salt, and lots of white pepper.

To assemble the lasagne, start by spreading a little pasta sauce in the bottom of the oven dish, then a layer of lasagna sheets, top with plenty of pasta sauce and a good dollop of cheese sauce. I like to combine the sauces a little in each layer, for extra cheesy flavour. Continue layering, finishing with sauce on top, then sprinkle with extra grated tasty cheese.

Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with a fresh green salad, heaps of garlic bread and of course a good glass of red wine. Heaven!

Serves 6 - 8.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Avocado Salsa

Check out this beautiful fresh salsa, doesn't it just scream SUMMER? Shame that it's now autumn... Oh well, one doesn't need to conform all the time. I made this as part of a delicious healthy spread for a DVD [read: old school 90210] marathon with friends, and i have to say it was definitely as big a hit as the show was back in the day. If I do say so myself.

I particularly enjoyed just a little spoonful on crispy mini toasts, but it was also delightful smeared across fresh crusty sourdough bread.

2 perfectly ripe avocados, diced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 lemon
Sea salt & cracked pepper

Place the avocados, tomatoes, onion, coriander and chilli in a bowl and mix well. Then simply squeeze over the juice of one lemon, season well with salt and pepper, then give it one final stir and you're ready to serve!

This recipe makes enough salsa for about 6 people, so you can easily halve the recipe if you don't need quite that much.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Potato Salad with Avocado & Chilli

This recipe is a bit of an adaptation of something I saw Jamie Oliver create years ago on one of his many cooking shows, and I have been making it religiously ever since. It is so simple, yet never fails to impress. Try it out on your friends at your next get together - I guarantee they will think you are incredibly stylish and gourmet!

Baby spinach leaves (enough to cover whichever platter you are using)
12 chat potatoes, washed
1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced
1 long red chilli, finely diced
1 - 2 lemons, juice only
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt & freshly cracked pepper

Place the potatoes in a pot of cold salted water and bring to the boil. Cook until just tender, then rinse and drain. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Arrange the spinach leaves on a serving platter and top with the sliced avocado.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut any larger ones in half and arrange on the platter with the avocado and spinach. Sprinkle over the diced chilli and dress generously with lemon and olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately! Or if you are not planning on serving straight away, reserve the dressing until you are ready, otherwise you will end up with a soggy salad.

Serves 4 - 6

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tofu Salad

I'm a big fan of tofu, but rarely find an opportunity to use for anything other than soups and stir-frys. So I was rather pleased when I came across this recipe whilst hunting for something new to accompany my chicken san choy bow. The light, subtle dressing really worked well, and the colours looked amazing on the table!

You can find this recipe and other equally delicious ones in: Tossed: 200 fast, fresh and fabulous salads

250g firm tofu
2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
100g snowpeas, julienned
2 small carrots, julienned
1/2 small red cabbage, shredded finely
2 tbsp unsalted peanuts, chopped

Place the sweet chilli sauce, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small jar and shake well to form a marinade. Cut the tofu into 2cm pieces, place in a bowl and pour the marinade over, then refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile prepare the vegetables and place in a large serving bowl. Add the tofu and any excess marinade then toss lightly to combine. Top with chopped peanuts.

Serves 4 - 6

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Curried Rice Salad with Spiced Yoghurt

I've never made a rice salad before, but when I came across this one in the December issue of Super Food Ideas it just looked too good to miss out on. I have to say that the spiced yoghurt was the star of the show for me, although I did change the recipe slightly. (The magazine called for mango chutney in the yoghurt, feel free to add if you like it!)

You could serve this on its own if you like; it was certainly filling enough to be considered a main meal, or do what I did and serve it with some
chermoula spiced chicken skewers and keep the leftover rice salad for a delicious lunch at work the next day!

Rice Salad:

1 cup basmati rice, rinsed

1 tsp ground tumeric

1 tsp ground cumin

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 red capsicum, diced

1/4 cup sultanas

1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped

Cracked pepper & sea salt to taste

Yoghurt Dressing:

3/4 cup plain natural yoghurt

1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 lemon, juice only

Cracked pepper & sea salt to taste

Cook the rice according to packet directions, adding the tumeric and cumin to the water to give flavour and colour as it cooks. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.

Make the spiced yoghurt dressing simply by combining the ingredients in a bowl and stirring together well.

Next add the celery, capsicum, sultanas, almonds and coriander to the rice, season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine.
Serve with a generous dollop of yoghurt dressing on the side.

Serves 4 - 6