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It's National Vegetarian Week and what better way to start the ball rolling than with the vegetarian classic, veggie lasagne. A great pasta  dish loved by all and a terrific way to introduce and tempt meat-eaters to enjoy vegetarian food.

Veggie Lasagne. Comfort food at it's best. There are many variations of this dish around. It can be made with soya, tofu, quorn, spinach and ricotta or just roast vegetables (Delia does a lovely version of this) to name but a few. My personal favourite uses soya mince or tvp as it is sometimes known. I use my bolognaise recipe as a base, so I can have some on spaghetti and use the rest in lasagne. It freezes really well, so you can make it ahead of time and freeze it until you are ready to use it.



Veggie Lasagne

Ingredients

Bolognaise

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large carrots, finely chopped
250g mushrooms, finely chopped
100g soya mince/200g frozen soya mince
1 pint/2 cups vegetable stock
800g/2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 glass white wine
100g tomato puree

1 handful freshly torn basil
salt & pepper to taste


Method


  1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the carrots and cook until tender, then add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.
  2. Add the soya mince and stir in well. Pour in the vegetable stock, chopped tomatoes and wine, stir in. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. You may find you need more liquid if you are using dried soya. You can add extra stock or extra wine.
  3. Add the tomato puree and simmer for another 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt & pepper. Scatter in some torn basil at the last minute.
  4. Set aside


Bechamel Sauce

Ingredients

500ml/2½ cups milk
25g/¼ stick butter
25g plain flour
10 black peppercorns
1 thick slice of onion
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper


Method

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan with the peppercorns, onion and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and then strain off the peppercorns, onion and the bay leaf.
  2. In another saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Add a little milk at a time and whisk until mixture thickens, then add a little more milk and do the same until all the milk is used.
  3. Bring the sauce to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, keep whisking. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.


Lasagne Sheets

I use no-cook lasagne sheets, but I always think they benefit from being blanched in boiling water for a few mintes. I generally use about 8 sheets to cover two layers, cutting to fit as I go, but do lay the sheets in the dish you intend to use to see how many you will need.

Topping

250g mozzarella grated
½ cup grated vegetarian parmesan


Assembly


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/350°f/180°c.
  2. Spread a generous layer of bolognaise over the base of a large oven-proof dish.
  3. Cover with a layer of blanched lasagne sheets.
  4. Spread a second layer of bolognaise sauce and once again top with lasagne sheets.
  5. Top with a thick layer of bechamel sauce, then cover with grated mozzarella and a generous sprinkling of parmesan.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.


Serves 4-6

As you can see, we served our lasagne with vegetables, but it would be just as lovely with a side salad and some garlic bread. I had enough bolognaise leftover to send my brother-in-law home with enough for two helpings of spaghetti and there was plenty of lasagne left to enjoy again the next night.

Cooper thought the lasagne looked lovely too. He kept diving towards it with his hands outstretched. Bless!




National Vegetarian Week has been running in conjunction with the Vegetarian Society for 18 years now. Although there have been mentions of Vegetarian Days held way back in the 30's. It's a great event that gives schools, canteens, caterers, restaurants, libraries and individuals a reason to focus on increasing fruit and veg consumption and look at the issues around food or simply a chance to try something different. So why not join in and try some tasty vegetarian dishes this week?
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