The Musette: Vegan Lasagna

I had friends over for dinner on Friday to take my beloved’s mind off his broken leg. Not wanting to create too much extra work for myself, starters were pre-dinner nibbles of pizza, pissaladiere, fois gras and socca chips. The main course had to meet my and my friends’ dietary requirements yet still be a crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t enjoy lasagna? Exactly, so I dug out one of my newish cookery books “Crossroads” by Tal Ronnen, who is allegedly reinventing vegan cuisine.

My first beef with his recipe for Grilled Garden Vegetable Lasagna with Puttanesca Sauce was the number of bought ingredients in the dish such as Kite Hill almond ricotta, Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet mozzarella and Scoty’s marinara sauce – call yourself a chef? Undaunted, I decided for the first time ever to make vegan cheese and there was no way I was going to use store bought tomato sauce!

Ingredients (serves 12)

  • 3 large red and 1 yellow bell pepper, approx. 350 g (12 oz)
  • 4 large courgettes (zucchini), approx. 675 g (24 0z)
  • 1 large aubergine (eggplant), approx. 450 g (1 lb)
  • 1 large white onion, approx. 225 g (1/2 lb)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 large basil leaves chopped
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped and chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups almond pesto ricotta (recipe below)
  • 6 cups puttanesca sauce (recipe below)
  • 18 gluten free lasagna sheets
  • 285 g (10oz) cashew mozzarella (recipe below)
  • 2 cups basil pesto (recipe below)

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/320°F fan), put peppers onto baking tray and cook until the skins start to blacken, around 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing skins, seeds and core. Chop into small squares.

2. Cut the other vegetables into similar sized pieces and marinade in the oil, garlic, shallot, basil, thyme, oregano, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of freshly ground pepper for about 20 minutes before tumbling onto two baking trays and baking in the oven for around 20 minutes. Remove from oven, mix with peppers and put into a glass bowl to cool. Check seasoning and, if necessary, add more salt and pepper to taste. Make the other elements of the dish from the recipes below.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/320°F fan).  Ladle about 1 cup of the sauce into a baking dish approx. 230cm x 330cm (9″ x 13″) to just cover the bottom. Now you’re ready to build the lasagna.

4. Slightly overlap 6 sheets of lasagna cross-wise so they completely cover the dish. Top the sheets with 1/3rd of the ricotta basil, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Pull apart 5 mozzarella balls and strew over the ricotta. Add a layer of the vegetables, approx. 1/3rd of the mix.

5. Repeat the process, twice more. Finally top with remaining 6 sheets and sauce.

6. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes. Remove the foil and strew remaining five mozzarella balls on top of the lasagne and bake for another five minutes, or so, until they have melted.

7. To serve, allow the lasagne to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 12 portions. Divide the remaining 1 cup of basil pesto among the 12 plates, spreading it out with the back of a spoon. Set a portion of lasagne on top and enjoy!

Vegan almond ricotta: Ingredients (makes one cup)

  • 250 g (2 cups) raw almonds, soaked for at least 2 hours in filtered water and then drained
  • 2 fat garlic cloves
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) almond milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 11/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

1. Add all the ingredients to food processor and process until smooth, approx. 5 minutes. If the ricotta looks too dry, add a bit more milk.

2. Add one cup of basil pesto. Mix well and check seasoning.

Vegan cashew mozzarella: Ingredients (makes 20 balls)

  • 250 g (2 cups) raw cashews, soaked overnight in filtered water
  • 400 ml (1 2/3 cups) hot water
  • 6 tbsp  tapioca flour
  • 4 tbsp  nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Method

1. Put all the ingredients in food processor or blender and process until it has the consistency of milk.

2. Put a large saucepan over a medium heat and pour in the “milk.”

3. Start stirring continuously as after only a few minutes the cheesy sauce will start to thicken. Cook and stir continuously for at least 10-15 minutes.

4. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool slightly. Fill large bowl with ice cold water and add 1 tbsp of salt. Stir to dissolve.

5. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop the mixture into mozzarella balls, dropping them into the salted water.

6. If you’re not using immediately, you can store them in the fridge for a couple of days.

Puttanesca sauce: Ingredients (makes 6 cups)

  • 2 x 800 g (28 oz) tin of Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 fat cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp. of capers, drained
  • 1 cup of pitted small black olives, preferably niçois
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade

Method

1. Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat. Swirl around the olive oil to coat the pan and, when the oil is hot, add the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir constantly until the shallots are translucent, around 2-3 minutes.

2. Pour in wine and cook, again stirring for 1 to 2 minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to simmer.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low, crush the tomatoes lightly with the back of a spoon as they cook, stirring occasionally for a minimum of 60 minutes until the sauce thickens.

4. Add, olives, capers and basil, check seasoning and gently simmer for another 30 minutes.

5. If you’re not going to use it right away, it’ll sit happily in the fridge for a week, or the freezer for a month.

Basil Pesto (makes 2 cups)

  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, approx. 4 small bunches
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, approx. 1 bunch
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 150 g (1/2 cup) toasted pine nuts
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 240 ml (1 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

Method

1. Combine, basil, parsley, nutritional yeast flakes, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a food processor. Pulse until a paste is formed.

2. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a steady stream until it’s all incorporated.

3. Add one cup to the ricotta cheese and keep the other cup for serving with the lasagna.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

The lasagna was delicious, packed full of flavour. I’ll definitely make it again though with a few further tweaks. For example, you can see from my photograph that the mozzarella balls didn’t melt all over the top of the lasagna. Next time, I’ll make a cheesy, extra-sticky mozzarella sauce for the top using

Vegan cheesy, extra-sticky mozzarella sauce: Ingredients

  • 125 g (1 cup) raw cashews, soaked overnight in filtered water
  • 500 ml (2 cups) hot water
  • 7 tbsp tapioca flour
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Method

1. Put all the ingredients in food processor or blender and process until it has the consistency of milk.

2. Put a large saucepan over a medium heat and pour in the “milk.”

3. Stir continuously for 10-15 minutes until it has the consistency of a thick cheesy sauce.

Sheree’s Handy Hints continued:-

Now, I appreciate that there’s a lot of steps involved in this recipe but none of them take too long. I made everything the day before and assembled it before my guests arrived. I popped it into the oven when they arrived and it was ready to serve after our pre-dinner nibbles.

Some of your ten-a-day

With the lasagna, I  served a green salad with a zesty fresh lemon vinaigrette.

Dessert, to make it easier for me, was a selection of chocolate goodies, some of which I’d made and some of which I’d bought, plus fresh fruit.

Mokka pots

 

Vegan brownies with fresh raspberries and pistachios
More of your ten-a-day

Most importantly, a good time was had by all!

 

One thought on “The Musette: Vegan Lasagna

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