I've been on the hunt for a recipe for vegetarian lasagna for a very long time. It's not that there aren't any around; it's just that none appealed to me. Looking for a good recipe is like looking for a life partner: lotsa good men around but mostly there's just no chemistry. Know what I mean?
Then along comes Nigel Slater. I bought Kitchen Diaries about a month ago and have been devouring the pages of his cooking journal almost non-stop. I take it with me to the gym (imagine if you will the hard-cover book propped against the counter of the cross trainer as I sweat it out!), to work (I read it as I wait for and ride the lifts), to the post office (waiting around has never been so pleasant) and to the coffee shop (forget about having a conversation; I'm with Nigel). I am sure that the little gasps, the oohs and aaahs that escape me uncontrollably as I read the book make it seem like I'm reading a great book of fiction A romance novel or perhaps.a captivating mystery.
I decided to review the book for the column (Don't Call Me Chef in The Star: out
I settled on Slater's brownie (the best I've tasted) and his zucchini cakes with feta and dill (see pic below). for the review. Superb.
But what I really wanted to make was his lasagna. And his lime tart. And the no-tears onion soup. And a whole lot more.
Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries isn't a vegetarian cookbook. Hell, no. But it's a very inspiring, easy-to-read, joyful book that charts Slater's culinary adventures every day in a particular year. There's plenty for vegetarians and plenty more for vegetarians who love to cook.
So anyway, back to the lasagna. I am not very fond of lasagna (or pasta, for that matter) that is bathed or tossed in tomato-based sauces. I much prefer white sauces or no sauce at all. Good old olive oil is what I want for my pasta, thank you very much.
Slater's lasagna is doused with bechamel sauce (milk, flour, butter) and filled with mushrooms-- delicious, plump portabellos and topped with a basil pesto. Are you drooling yet? Are you?
Not a 30-minute meal, this one. There are three components that make up Slater's lasagna with pesto and mushroom. First you have to make the bechamel sauce. He says store-bought bechamel sauce is fine but I haven't come across any here so I made it myself. Next, the basil pesto. Then you have to cook the mushroom (with onions, garlic, cream and parsley) and of course, you have to cook the lasagna sheets in boiling water .
With a 50-minute baking time, it takes at least an hour-and-a-half to make the lasagna. But it's worth it. Slater combines dried porcini mushrooms with some plump portobellos but I didn't have the former so I used some button whites instead.
500 ml whole milk
2 heaped tablespoons flour
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
A thick slice of butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
500g mushrooms, sliced
1 handful chopped parsley
10g porcini mushrooms