Even though I know my husband adores spicy food, it always come as a pleasant surprise to me when he requests THIS dish. Firstly, because he is a dude and dudes like their MEAT. (I just say the word ‘steak’ and his gorgeous eyes light up, thinking it’s a night off from my being anal about his cholesterol) – but more importantly, I am touched because I invented it myself.
Being married to me must have posed quite a challenge for him in the beginning – as I saw him as a live-in guinea pig, and tried all sorts of bizarre inventions on him. Bless his cotton socks, he never complained – and as I got better and better (as one does when you practise) – I can now proudly say that his eyes light up when I tell him I am making this healthy lasagne. The dough is homemade, the ‘mince’ is made purely from veg (ensuring your ‘five-a-day’), it’s virtually fat-free – and it is unique in flavour. Plus … it’s pretty. Here’s to Meat-free Mondays!
Spicy Vegetable Lasagne – serves 2
1 Large, Free-rage Egg
1 tsp Turmeric
Olive oil, as needed
Pinch of Salt
5 Large Brown Mushrooms
2 Celery Stalks
15 Italian Mini Tomatoes
2 TB Crushed Garlic
2 TB Minced Red Chilli (I use John West)
2 TB Cumin
1/3 Cup Red Wine (80ml)
Salt and Pepper
100g Fat-free Smooth Cottage Cheese (In-shape)
½ Lemon (rind and juice)
1 TB Sour Cream
1 tsp Fat-free / Skim Milk
Parsley / Leaves from the celery to garnish
This dish takes a long time to get to the end result, but I absolutely love being in my kitchen, so this is never a problem for me. I make the pasta dough myself so that I know exactly what is going in there, and there is something special about making your own pasta. Once you have seen how easy it is, and you have enjoyed the process, it’s not likely you will go back to buying the packet kind. It’s just flipping cool!
Start off by sifting 100g white flour with a good pinch of salt into a bowl (I had cake flour in my fridge and it worked fine. Yes, I keep my flour in the fridge). Break 1 egg into it and add 1 tsp Turmeric. (And you thought that bottle of Turmeric spice in your pantry was never going to get used!) Add about a teaspoon of olive oil.
NOTE: I add the turmeric because I love the bright yellow colour it makes my pasta dough.
Mix the ingredients and it will look like large crumbs.
Empty the contents of the bowl onto a clean, lightly floured surface – and using your hands, knead to form elastic dough. It should not stick to the counter surface and not appear to brittle either.
Once you are happy with the consistency, form into a ball, and wrap in Clingfilm. Pop the dough into the fridge for 20 minutes while you set up your pasta machine.
After removing the pasta from the fridge, flatten with a rolling pin and divide into two sections.
Create the pasta sheets by feeding them into the ‘lasagne setting’ of the pasta machine – one at a time. Start off on the thickest setting and reduce the setting until you have 2 thin, long sheets. Lay them both on a floured surface.
Using your presentation rings as a size guide, cut out circles of the pasta. It should make 12 discs. Wash the rings as we will be using them later.
NOTE: If you don’t have presentation rings, I bet you are kicking yourself now for not paying more attention to those infomercials that claims “these knives can cut right through tin cans”. Because tin cans cut in half are your next best option.
Dust the discs in flour, shaking off excess and place in a airtight container, in the fridge – until needed. If you do not dust with flour – and you lay them on top of one another – they will stick together and I have already lost a batch of lovingly-made ravioli this way once before.
Onto our “mince”. Get all your ingredients ready, as well as your processor, a deep saucepan and a wooden spoon. Peel and trim your carrots.
NOTE: It is common practise in professional kitchens to peel celery as the ‘skin’ can be quite stringy and chewy. However, I decided not to peel my celery because someone told me once that a lot of the fibre is in the ‘skin’. I chose to believe them, because after 30 you need all the help you can get.
Process the carrots, onion, mushrooms and celery and place them inside the pot. Cut the sweet, plump, baby tomatoes into small pieces. Add to the pot.
Throw in the garlic, chilli, cumin, salt and pepper – and place on a medium heat.
NOTE: There is no reason to fry the above vegetables in oil, as one normally would. They all have so much water content in them, that on medium heat – the liquid is released, and they ‘steam-fry’ in their own juices.
You will soon see that loads of liquid is released, keep stirring and once you see a lot of liquid is accumulating at the bottom of the pan – turn the heat up high, and continue to stir.
Once all liquid has evaporated and you fear the vegetables may start burning, throw in the red wine and enjoy the aroma as the wine deglazes what little vegetables may have stuck.
Continue to stir until all the wine has absorbed – and add the vegetable stock. I used 1 Tablespoon of Ina Paarman Vegetable stock mixed with 375ml hot water (that’s a cup and a half).
Give it a good stir and just as the pot starts to boil, partially cover and reduce it to a simmer.
Every now and then, check on it and stir.
Once the liquid has absorbed, remove from the heat and taste-test for two things:
- Ensure all the vegetables are soft
- Adjust the seasoning.
I found I needed more cumin, minced red chilli, salt and pepper. You may too, depending on your palette and how spicy you prefer it. Add your adjusted seasoning and stir to combine. Once you are satisfied with the taste, set aside.
Looks just like mince!
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 180deg C.
In a small jug, measure 100g of fat-free cottage cheese. Squeeze the juice and grate the rind of a half a lemon into it and mix well. Set aside.
NOTE: Traditional lasagne uses a Béchamel Sauce in between the layers to keep the dough moist as it cooks, but I can’t possibly put butter, full-cream milk and MORE flour into my dish, so I have added something interesting which adds another dimension to this dish.
With non-stick spray, lightly grease a FLAT, oven-proof dish, and place the two Presentation Rings (which have also been lightly greased with a non-stick spray) inside it.
Now layer the two Presentation Rings with our three elements:
Start with a layer of mince, followed by a pasta disc, followed by a small amount of the zesty cheese mixture spread thinly onto the pasta to moisten it. Continue until all 12 discs have been used up.
On your final top layer (which is a pasta disc) – brush a small amount of olive oil on to ensure if stays moist and cooks properly. You can add one more dollop of the cream cheese.
NOTE: You should have the cheese mixture and some mince leftover – refrigerate them both and heat it up the following day served on a baked potato for a super-healthy lunch!
Place the oven-proof dish on the bottom rack and bake for 20 minutes.
Stay with me …
In a small bowl, spoon in one tablespoon of sour cream – and thin it out using 1 teaspoon of fat-free milk.
When your lasagnes are ready, remove the Presentation Rings using a spatula (and an oven glove!) and place carefully onto your dinner plate. Remove the presentation rings carefully by lifting them vertically.
Divide the sour cream mixture over both lasagnes and top with chopped celery leaves (or parsley). Serve with a green salad.
NOTE: Before you manifest about the fact that I am topping this dish with sour cream – it IS only ½ TB each and there is virtually no fat anywhere else in this dish. Even the carb count is pretty low considering its only 50g of flour for each serving. PLUS it’s high in fibre and packed with all your colourful veggies. So let’s not get TOO anal and have ourselves a bit of sour cream, shall we?
If the thought of going through all ALL OF THE ABOVE scares you to tears, simply layer the mince into a regular lasagne dish and use the shop bought lasagne sheets. (The brand FINE FORM has a low GI lasagne)
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