The Two Girls were invited to join Melanie Tait for pot luck dinner a couple of weeks ago.
Along with being delightful, Evenings’ producer, Sarah, is gluten free and a vego, so we constructed a menu that we hoped they’d both enjoy.
Lasagna is synonymous with comfort food and with a few cooler nights still ahead of us, there’s still time to enjoy it before we’re flicking through recipe books looking for something lighter.
The Other Girl is less inclined towards meat eating this day and finds herself choosing more vego options. Vegetarian lasagna is not as stodgy as meat based pasta and the caramelisation that comes from roasting of the vegetables brings depth to the dish.
Normally she’d use anchovies to give the tomato sauce a bit more flavour, or beef stock; but with Sarah in mind, she used semi-dried tomatoes and they worked a treat.
- 2 – 3 sweet potaotes, peeled and sliced
- 3 – 4 eggplant, sliced
- 1 large bunch silverbeet, leaves and stalks, chopped finely
- 1 packed fresh lasagne sheets
- Béchamel sauce (see recipe)
- Tomato sauce (see recipe)
- 110g butter
- 110g plain flour
- 1 litre milk
- 1 cup grated pizza or pasta blend sauce (or just use a mix of cheddar and mozzarella if you don’t have the blend)
- 1/2 nutmeg, grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the flour, cook for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the milk, using a whisk to blend everything together and stop any lumps. Once all the milk is added, cook on a medium heat until the sauce thickens, constantly whisking so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Once thick, add the cheese, nutmeg and salt and pepper, whisk until the cheese is fully melted then remove from the heat and let cool.
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 1/2 cup semi-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 – 2 tbs oil from the semi-dried tomatoes
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped or grated
- 1 400g can of diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried sweet basil
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped or torn
- 2 tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (or more if you wish)
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the onions, garlic and semi-dried tomatoes in a little of the oil from the tomatoes. When the onions are soft add the canned tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens a little. Then add the herbs, chilli and salt and pepper. You might find you need to add a few more herbs, depending on your taste.
While your sauce is cooking, slice some sweet potato and eggplant, coat in a little oil and then bake in the oven at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes, or until soft and turning golden.
Steam the silverbeet until just cooked and then let cool. Once cool, squeeze as much of the water out of the silverbeet as you can so your lasagna doesn’t end up soggy.
Spoon a little of the tomato sauce on the base of a 20 cm square lasagna dish (if you make it bigger, you’ll need to make additional sauce and bake extra veggies).
Layer the sweet potato, eggplant and silverbeet and top with the tomato sauce, then a layer of fresh lasagna and top with béchamel sauce and repeat layers until you finish with a top of béchamel sauce. For a little more indulgence you can add a double layer of lasagna and béchamel sauce to the top. Cook for at least 1 hour on 180 until the top is nicely browned. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
To go with the lasagna, the Other Girl made a simple green salad of baby salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, avocado and crumbled fetta. She used this Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette for the dressing.
Hazelnut meringue and raspberry mousse
Meringue is one of This Girl’s favourite desserts. It’s easy when you know how. This recipe is from Philip Johnson’s Brisbane restaurant called e’cco bistro. This Girl visited years ago on a business trip where I had a self-professed Harry met Sally moment. I’d had a couple of their tasty margaritas and two delicious courses. I remember one was sous vide tuna and it was the first time I’d eaten something made with the technique but it was the dessert that was the most delicious – a glass of little hazelnut meringue pieces, chocolate, some gooey caramel date sauce, roasted hazelnuts and cream. I was oblivious of the gasps and moans I was making while I devoured the dessert. Something made me look up mid-mouthful to see the chefs laughing and watching on from the kitchen. I bought the cook book and fled the restaurant. Johnson’s inscription – ‘food without passion is unforgivable’.
Later I wrote and asked for the recipe. I’ve made it for dinner parties, and had positive but not as effusive reactions. I’ve since misplaced it otherwise I would have made it for our pot luck dinner. No doubt it’s caught up in paperwork somewhere and I hope the Executors of my will have the common sense to try the recipe if they uncover it on my death.
Tip: Have your egg whites at room temperature and make sure your bowl and beaters are super clean. Rinse them in a little lemon juice or white vinegar and then hot water to get rid of any grease. Grease or fat from the egg yolks will prevent your egg whites from fluffing – the hallmark of a meringue.
I chose an alternative from the same cookbook, ‘Decadence’. I like the hazelnut meringue and raspberry mouse because it has colour, taste and texture. The white chocolate provides sweetness and cuts through the acid of the raspberry making for a delectable mousse. It’s a relatively quick dessert to make that is easy to plate up. Here is the recipe – Hazelnut meringue and raspberry mousse.
I’ve read the instructions many times and they’ve confused me every time. This time I read them three times, decided I had it straight and almost made 24 discs. Word to the wise, draw three discs on two pieces of paper, smear with half the mixture and cook. Repeat. That way you’ll end up with 12 discs that don’t get misshapen because they’ve bled into each other during the cooking.
Flourless apple, almond and ginger cake
It wasn’t until an hour before I was due to walk out the door that I realised that the meringue was not in fact gluten free. I reached for left over slices of Saturday night’s cake and cream to take to Sarah. It wasn’t much to look at but I didn’t get any complaints either. When I make it again I will probably do half raw and half caster sugar because I find the raw sugar does not dissolve to my liking when cooked, leaving a gritty bite to the cake. It is a wet cake so in my oven I’ll reduce the temperature 5-10 degrees and cook it another 10 minutes making sure it’s covered in baking paper for about half the time. I’d also reduce the ginger slightly because it was overpowering for my taste buds. Otherwise, a delicious, earthy, gluten free cake that is great warmed with ice cream for dessert. This recipe is from the Monday Morning Cooking Club – The Feast Goes On – Flourless apple, almond and ginger cake.
Here’s the first time we were on Evenings 936 ABC – Making Dinner for Melanie Tait.