Delicious favourites.jpg

Delicious favourites

By SHEENA RAWCLIFFE

Vegetable Lasagne

THE IMPORTANT thing for a fine vegetable lasagne is a good, fruity, well-flavoured sauce.  

Ingredients:

Sauce

• 2 tins tomatoes – chopped or buy them      whole and then chop them yourself. I           find kitchen scissors are best for      this job.

• Half a jar of tomato puree.

• 1 tablespoon sugar.

• 2 teaspoons dried oregano.

• 1 vegetable stock cube.

• 1 tablespoon Worcester sauce.

• 1 tablespoon dried chilli flakes.

• 2 cloves garlic crushed.

• 1 large chopped onion.

Vegetables

• Half small red pepper.

• 1 head of broccoli.

• Cauliflower florets (same quantity as        broccoli head).

• 100g mushrooms.

• 2 tablespoons sweetcorn kernels.

• Sheets of lasagne.

Cheese sauce

• 200g well flavoured cheese.

• 50g butter or margarine.

• 50g flour.

• Approx 350ml milk.

Also

• Cooking oil.

• Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

Sauce

Sauté the onion in a little vegetable oil and, when starting to brown add the crushed garlic. Cook for a minute or so to bring out the flavour of the garlic and then add all the other ingredients except the tomato puree. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer, cooking until nearly all the cooking liquid has disappeared. Stir in the tomato puree, remove pan from heat and allow to cool a little. Now is the time to add additional seasoning if required.

Pasta

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and, when the water is boiling, add one teaspoon of salt (salt water takes longer to boil than plain water). When a rolling boil is reached again, add one tablespoon of cooking oil and start cooking your sheets of pasta. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, making sure that you do not overcook them. Drain carefully on kitchen paper and place on a sheet of oiled aluminium foil to prevent the sheets sticking.

Thinly slice the mushrooms and the red peppers and separate the broccoli and cauliflower into small florets. Briefly blanch the broccoli and cauliflower in boiling water and drain, then mix with the broccoli, cauliflower, sweetcorn and tomato sauce. Add two teaspoons of crushed or ground black pepper.

Oil a dish suitable for use in the oven and place a layer of pasta on the bottom, ensuring you overlap the sheets. Spoon over half of the vegetable mixture and top with another layer of pasta. Repeat, ending with a layer of pasta.

Cheese sauce

Make the cheese sauce by putting the butter/margarine and flour into a pan. Mix together well and allow to cook for a few minutes (you now have a roux). Add the milk. You must do this as you feel comfortable. Adding a little at a time may work for you, but as long as you use a whisk and stir constantly, adding all the milk at the same time should give you the same smooth result. If, for any reason you are distracted during the cooking process and you end up with a lumpy sauce, just press it all through a fine sieve – and lo and behold no more lumps.

Retain two tablespoons of grated cheese and add the rest of the cheese to the sauce. It is important to use a strongly flavoured cheese in this recipe. Grating the cheese means that it will melt in the shortest possible time, but if you cannot be bothered, then cut it into pieces and stir – it will just take a bit longer.

Carefully pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese on top. Place in a preheated oven at 180ºC and cook for approx 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the whole dish is bubbling.

Serve with a light green salad or just on its own.

As with most of my dishes, this freezes well.

Spiced fruit compote

This is not a recipe, more a method, but like so many dishes, it is the base that makes or breaks its success.  

Ingredients:

• 175g sugar to 300ml of cold water.

• Fruit in season.

Method:

Place the sugar and the water in a heavy based pan and slowly bring to the boil. Turn the heat down slightly and continue cooking until the syrup takes on the colour of light caramel.  

Prepare the fruit you are using. Make sure that the fruit is not overripe. Overripe fruit tends to be flavourless and watery and will not give you the result you are looking for; the exception to this is banana.

Now add your chosen flavourings (if any) to the sugar syrup. During the summer months one of my favourites is to add bruised mint leaves (just lightly crush mint leaves with a teaspoon of sugar – the bruising releases the oils). You can also try finely grated zest of lime, lemon, orange or a mixture. During the cooler months, a stick of cinnamon added to the syrup while cooking gives a real buzz to the flavour.

Or, if you feel like something different that works particularly well with peaches, nectarines and citrus fruit, sprinkle a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes into the syrup.

Large fruit can be studded with cloves for a warming winter flavour – leave the cloves in when serving as they make an attractive addition to the dish.

The poaching time in the syrup will depend very much on your choice of fruit. Add the fruit with the most water content after other fruits, or they will disintegrate and you will end up with a lumpy jam consistency.

Fruit compote can be served hot or cold, with or without an accompaniment. The choices are unlimited – hot with ice cream and/or pancakes, cold with crème fraîche, clotted cream, ice cream, rice pudding and any leftovers can be served for breakfast on their own or with your preferred cereal.

If you make the compote for a dinner party, add a couple of spoons of your favourite liqueur –probably not a good idea to serve this for breakfast!

Again this freezes well, so make loads when your favourite fruit is in season, freeze some and you will always have standby pudding.