Pasta and vegetables in white sauce

Cover a large handful of pasta in boiling water, add a little salt, and cook on a roiling boil until the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile, fry 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced, 2 mushrooms, thinly sliced, 3-4 okra, thinly sliced and a handful of green beans, thinly sliced, in a little oil until beginning to brown, then set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the vegetables; rinse out the saucepan used for the pasta and return to the heat. Melt 2 tbsp (25g) butter then add 2 tbsp plain flour and stir until a thick, bubbly paste is formed. Cook for a minute on a medium heat, then add 2/3 cup milk in small increments, making sure the sauce has thickened enough to leave the sides before adding more milk. Stir in the pasta, vegetables, and a large handful of baby spinach, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat once the spinach has wilted.

Serves 1 generously

Variations:

  • For a cheese sauce, add a handful of grated cheese to the sauce with the pasta and vegetables.
  • For vegan, substitute the butter for dairy free margarine and the milk for slightly less of a non dairy alternative such as soya or hemp. Don’t use coconut milk – it doesn’t work well for a white sauce.
  • Other green vegetables such as peas, courgette, broad beans etc. will work well. Chard or pak choi can be used instead of the spinach, although it’s best to separate the leaves and stems and cook the stems with the rest of the vegetables.
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Lentil Lasagne

Takes some time and practice, especially the sauce, but it’s an old favourite of mine.

Cover 1/2 cup red lentils with boiling water and leave to stand. Fry 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced and 1 red onion, thickly chopped, in a little oil over a medium heat until beginning to soften. Add 1/2 medium sweet potato, cubed, 1/2 bell pepper, thickly chopped and 1/4 red cabbage, thickly chopped, and fry for five minutes, stirring. Strain the lentils and add to the pan with 4-5 mushrooms, quartered, 1/2 can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard and 1 tsp cumin seeds. Leave to simmer while preparing the sauce.
To make the sauce, melt 2 tbsp butter (about 1cm cut from a 100g block) in a small saucepan, then at add 2 heaped tbsp plain flour and stir thoroughly. The mixture should be thick and gluey, coming away from the side of the pan. If it’s thin, stir in a little more flour. Stirring constantly, slowly add 1 cup milk in increments – allow the sauce to thicken before adding more. Continue to cook the sauce for 2-3 minutes, then add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp paprika and/or a handful of grated cheese if desired.
Spoon half of the lentil mixture into a large casserole dish and cover with sheets of lasagne (the amount you need will depend on the size of your dish). Pour over half of the sauce and smooth it out. Don’t worry if the sauce is thin – it will taste fine. Add the rest of the lentil mixture, cover with lasagne sheets, and pour over the rest of the sauce, making sure the pasta is covered. Crack pepper over the top and place in the oven at 180°C for 40 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and easily cut with a knife.

Serves 3 generously, easily frozen

Variations:

  • For vegan, substitute the butter for margarine and milk for a non-dairy milk. I think soya milk works best for this recipe – better than dairy milk – but other milks should be fine. I’ve tried making white sauces with coconut milk, though, and I wouldn’t advise it.
  • Any of the vegetables can be substituted out for others; hard vegetables should be added with the cabbage and soft with the mushrooms and tomato. Particular favourites of mine are aubergine, peas, carrot and cauliflower.
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes can be arranged on top of the lasagne before baking. Particularly impressive if you have guests.
  • The lasagne sheets can be replaced with thinly sliced aubergine, although it will take longer to cook in the oven.