If you take the time to make this meal I promise that you will think it tastes just as good as the meat version. Puy lentils provide the backbone to this hearty, warming and healthy dish but still provides all those satisfying feelings we love to get when eating one of our favourite Italian dishes. Why not accompany it with a home-made garlic bread/baguette and it will feel like the real thing (that is if you need it to?!) I must admit puy lentils are one of my favourite lentils and sources of protein when cooking vegetarian food. They hold their shape when cooked. They have a good texture with a slight bite making them a superb substitute to meat. I like to use them in soups too and they go perfectly with some locally grown leeks.
So, this is what you will need – this will make a large lasagne which will serve 4. You will need a shallow lasagne dish or individual dishes if you prefer. I used fresh lasagne sheets but if you would prefer not to eat wheat and keep it gluten-free then sliced aubergine are a superb substitute. Simply slice your aubergines length ways, brush with oil and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Place in a hot oven for 15 minutes until they are cooked, and keep checking them just so they don’t burn around the edges.
6 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions thinly sliced
8 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
4 tbsp tomato puree
1 tinned of chopped tomatoes
250g puy lentils
370ml water or vegetable stock
1 cinnamon stick & 2 dried bay leaves
2 large bags of baby leaf spinach (place in a colander and cover with boiled water, leave to cool and squeeze the excess water, season with pepper and a little grated nutmeg)
Heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil (or whichever oil you prefer) in a large pan and put the onion and garlic in the pan, allow them to cook until soft but don’t let them burn. Add the tomato puree and cook over a high heat for a minute or so. Add 100ml of water whilst on a high heat and just let the mixture cook down slightly. Then add the lentils, the tinned tomatoes, the cinnamon stick and the remainder of the water/stock. Bring slowly to the boil and leave to simmer with out the lid for 45minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Leave to one side to cool and season, whilst you prepare the cheese sauce. Remembering to remove your cinamon stick and bay leaf.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees so that it is ready when your lasgne has been assembled.
Prepare your spinach as described above.
Cheese sauce – this sauce cuts through the tomato mixture beautifully. It is the ingredient that makes it taste like lasagne, the creamy, cheesy flavour against the acidity of the tomatoes.
Melt 75g of butter in a pan, remove from the heat and add 75g of plain flour, mix quickly until you have a smooth paste, then return to heat and gradually add 570ml of full fat milk, continuously whisking so that no lumps appear. Allow the sauce to come to a gentle bubble and keep stirring for a couple of minutes, reducing the heat to a gentle bubble. Finally add 100g of your favourite cheese. I like a strong cheddar but you may prefer a Gruyère or even some parmesan. Season to taste.
Assemble your lasgne
Cook/soak your lasagne sheets as per the instructions on the packet. I like the fresh pasta as it only requires a couple of minutes soaking before you can use it. Place a layer of tomato and lentil sauce in your chosen dish, then add your pasta/aubergine, a layer of spinach and a layer of sauce. Repeat until you have used all your ingredients making sure you finish with the pasta/aubergine and some sauce.
Place in a pre-heated oven for 25minutes until golden and bubbling.
Serve with garlic bread, sweet potato chips or solo. It is lovely the next day too and makes a satisfying lunch.