This one's for Nanon!
We've all made plenty of lasagnes, so I'll be clear. What I'm looking for here are layers so densely packed a portion can stand up by itself. The top layer needs plenty of (veganised) béchamel sauce so it's still gooey after a 40 minute bake, and the edges need to be crispy, chewy, and the pasta none-too sloppy. It's not hard to make a mediocre lasagne, but making a great one is really, really something.
Not that mine are all great. They aint. But finding a recipe with a few tweaks to help you out is always going to play in your favour. I've been using Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall's recipe for kale and mushroom lasagne from his Veg Everyday cookbook*, but I've turned it vegan and swapped a few other things around, as I think it helps with a dairy-free flavour. Lasagne does take a good hour to prepare and this one especially has a few fiddly bits- but it's here as a staple recipe because it's worth it for a week night. Friends coming to stay for a few days? Have this ready in the oven to go for when they arrive. Celebrating the end of a shit day at work? This lady's your gal.
*If you're looking for ways of incorporating more vegetables into your meals, or you're just sick of turning the usual run-of-the-mill traditional British recipes vegan, this book is *great*.
Spinach, kale and mushroom lasagne
+ I usually use spinach or kale, or possibly some other shredded greens I need to use up, like cavolo nero or chard. If you use spinach, make sure you steam and drain beforehand, as it will give out liquid into the lasagne when it cooks so make it more sloppy than you might have planned for.
+ The béchamel sauce infusion feels a bit of a faff but for a vegan lasagne it's really worth it- it adds flavour to the one part of the dish that's hard to disguise as non-dairy, and the flavours all work together. Let's all be a bit kinder to celery, shall we?
+ Cooking the mushrooms in batches is SUCH a great idea- S/O HFW- you get a totally different take on the flavour.
+ I add tomato paste to this because I love tomato flavours baked! HFW doesn't add it in though, so your call. Don't use carton/tinned tomatoes because they are too watery. Gotta be paste. You can pick up a tin of it in most supermarkets, it's pretty similar to passata to so either of those will skip out the entire watery tomato vibes you don't want.
+ Spinach pasta sheets/ lasagne verdi are the ideal here because they just add a bit more flavour and colour, but if you can't get them, it aint no thing.
+ Bake slow and steady- you've come this far- don't rush the final ten minutes. Poor yourself a glass of wine and CTFD. Okay, let's get to it, shall we?
300g kale, spinach or cavolo nero. Remove any tough stalks
500g mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
A few thyme leaves
2 packets of lasagne sheets- spinach lasagne if you can find it (you may not need two packs but running out of pasta is the worst- let's avoid that and spend another 39p, right?)
Salt and pepper
200g tomato paste, or a jar so you have plenty
For the béchamel sauce:
750ml almond milk, (or soy if in a pinch, but almond will have less flavour when baked)
1 bay leaf
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
50g vegan margarine or olive oil
50g plain flour
2 tsp Dijon mustard
20g grated smoked vegan cheese, like the Free From one from Tesco, or similar
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Start by preparing the infusion for the béchamel sauce. Slowly heat the almond milk with the bay leaf, onion, celery and peppercorns, until it is just below simmering. Take off the heat and set aside to infuse.
Shred the kale, or if you're using spinach there's no need to chop. If using kale, put into a large saucepan, cover with salted water and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes. Spinach just needs to be steamed until it wilts- probably a minute. Drain and set aside.
Now it's time to get the mushrooms ready in two batches. Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large, wide frying pan (or wok if you don't have one). Add in half the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Increase the heat and fry, stirring continually, for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their liquid, and then started to draw them back in again, so the water reduces. The mushrooms should begin to look dry and caramelise. Now add half the garlic and half the thyme, cook for a minute longer so it's starting to get really fragrant, then turn off the heat and remove to a bowl. Cook the other half of the mushrooms in the same way, and add to the mushroom bowl.
Get the infused milk back on the hob to gently reheat it, and then strain. Now it's béchamel sauce time! Heat the vegan margarine or oil in a pan on a low heat with a whisk to stir. Slowly stir in the flour so you have a smooth roux sauce. Now steadily add in the almond milk, whisking out the lumps of flour as you go. Add in some salt, pepper, and the mustard- and a little water if it's getting too thick. Taste for seasoning - check it's the bomb- then turn off the heat and pour half of the sauce over the kale or spinach and put to one side.
Grab your #1 lasagne dish. Spread a layer of tomato paste over the bottom, then layer the lasagne sheets. Next spoon over the kaley guys, then more pasta, a layer of tomato, and then a layer of mushroom. Another layer of pasta, another of kale, another of tomato then mushrooms, then a final layer of pasta and the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with smoked vegan cheese and a little olive oil, and bake for 30-35 minutes until totally cooked.