Monday, 14 December 2009

Deluxe spinach, mushroom and pumpkin lasagne

So here's another meal that falls into the hearty fare category. I first had a version of this veggie lasagne with butternut squash when it was made by some good friends. Obviously the memory remained strong, and a mere two years later I decided to try my hand at making the dish myself.
This was partly influenced by buying a 'culinary' pumpkin in the supermarket, that was billed as having more flavour and sweetness than a traditional carving pumpkin. And also by the ready availability of fresh pasta sheets, which I hoped would remove past issues with 'crunchy' lasagne.

Recipe (enough for a least six people)
Two thirds of a small pumpkin
Small amount of oil
Around 500g frozen spinach (defrosted)
4 large flat mushrooms
3 large cloves of garlic (crushed)
250g ricotta cheese
Nutmeg for grating
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Around 5 0r 6 sheets of fresh lasagne depending on the dimensions of your baking dish

For the cheese sauce (quantities are approximations as I usually do this by eye)
Around 30g butter
Around 30g plain flour
Around 1/4 pint of milk or enough to make a smooth sauce
Small handful grana padano cheese
Large handful cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Making any lasagne is really pretty simple as it's mostly assembly but it does require preparing the components in advance.
Firstly peel and chop the pumpkin into small pieces, season, drizzle with a little olive oil, and roast in a medium oven (gas mark 6) for around 45minutes or until tender and cooked through. Set to one side to cool.
Cut the field mushrooms into thick slices and fry gently in a little oil. Add in the defrosted spinach (the same sort as used here), and the crushed garlic. When heated through mix in the ricotta cheese, season to taste and grate in some nutmeg (you want to be able to taste it but don't go overboard). Again set to one side to cool.
For the cheese sauce, simply melt the butter in a saucepan, put in the flour, stir and then gradually add in the milk. Beat like hell with a whisk to stop everything going lumpy and stop adding milk when it reaches a thin-ish sauce consistency. Keep stirring on a low heat for around 5mins to cook out the flour. Add in the cheese and then season to taste.
To put it all together I layered pumpkin and spinach, followed by a sheet of pasta, a thin layer of the cheese sauce, more pumpkin, spinach and pasta, finishing with more sauce and final sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Bake in the middle of an oven at around gas mark 6 for about 30-40 minutes or until the top of the lasagne is golden brown. To make this a 70's retro feast serve with garlic bread and salad.

This is a pretty deluxe lasagne with both ricotta and a rich cheese sauce, but the culinary pumpkin was a bit of a let down. It didn't really have much flavour and the texture was strangely watery but still fibre-y. I will be sticking to butternut squash in the future. But the fresh sheets of lasagne worked very well, with no sections left uncooked as I've experienced previously with dried pasta. I'm a fan of Quorn products as meat substitutes but have to say in this case (even with the disappointing pumpkin) the vegetables made for a much more flavoursome final product.
Thank you to A&A for the original inspiration.

Culinary pumpkin
I rate it 5/10
Cost: Around £0.70 for a smallish one

Tesco fresh lasagne sheets
I rate them 8.5/10
Cost: Around £0.80 for 6-8 sheets

PS What to do with a third of a culinary pumpkin left over from making lasagne following soon.


meemalee said...

"Culinary pumpkin" - that sounds silly :)

Shame it wasn't as good as butternut - the recipe itself sounds delish - and the photo looks so good I wish I could stick a spoon into my monitor!

TheFastestIndian said...

Aww, thank you- I do take pride in my 'taken in 30watt lighting' photography!

The Ample Cook said...

That looks delicious. My sister is a veggie and I think she'll love this.

Thanks for the tip with the butternut :)