I’m on a bit of a Hairy Bikers’ roll at the moment. I keep flicking through their books and spotting things that I absolutely have to make. I can honestly say that every single recipe of theirs that I have ever made has been exceptional, and I have made a lot – perhaps 50 or so over the years.
I have fancied a lasagne for weeks now, but it’s a rich, heavy dish and it is just after Christmas after all, so who needs all those calories? So, I almost jumped for joy when I spotted this recipe, a genius way of making a lasagne that has all the rich, creamy unctuousness of a traditional lasagne, but coming in at only 343 calories per serving.
We had this for dinner last night, and while my wife was extolling its deliciousness I told her that it was a low-calorie dish. She looked at me unsure whether I was pulling her leg: surely something this good couldn’t be diet food?
Yes it is. The Hairy Bikers = nothing short of genius. They have used a few tricks here: limiting the amount of pasta, being extremely judicious with the amount of oil used and, perhaps most importantly, roasting vegetables for the filling rather than mince. If you’re a meat lover you’ll be amazed – you won’t miss it at all.
RECIPE serves 6
for the tomato sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
for the vegetable filling:
1 aubergine, halved lengthways and cut into 1cm thick crescents
200g pumpkin or butternut squash, sliced into thin wedges
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
2 red and 1 green pepper, diced
10 garlic cloves, in their skins
low-calorie spray oil
for the bechamel:
600ml semi-skimmed milk
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
10 black pepper corns
150g dried pasta
50g low-calorie cheddar. grated
25g Parmesan, grated
First make the tomato sauce, the further ahead you can make this the better the flavour will be.
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, cook gently for a minute until aromatic, then add the chilli flakes and oregano. Cook for a further minute, allowing the flavours to infuse the oil, then add the tomatoes and fish sauce. Mix thoroughly, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for an hour to allow the sauce to reduce, thicken and intensify.
After an hour, add the red wine vinegar, cook for a couple of minutes then check the seasoning. At this point you can set the sauce aside for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavours to develop further.
Preheat the oven to 200C/ Fan 180C/ gas 6.
Arrange the aubergine, pumpkin, onion, peppers and garlic on two baking trays, spray lightly with the oil and toss thoroughly to ensure everything is coated. The oil will prevent the vegetables from burning, while encouraging internal steaming and external caramelisation. Don’t be tempted to try and squeeze everything onto one tray; when roasting, everything needs to have airflow around it otherwise it might steam instead.
Roast for around 30 minutes until everything is soft and just beginning to caramelise.
Meanwhile, make the bechamel. Put the milk in a saucepan with the onion, cloves, bay and peppercorns. Heat until the milk is at scalding point (just short of boiling), then turn off the heat and leave the milk to infuse with the aromatics until it is almost cold.
Strain the milk into a jug and dispose of the solids, wash the pan out and put the milk back into it. Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk to make a thin paste, reheat the milk and pour the cornflour paste into the pan. Gradually bring the milk back to the boil, whisking or stirring constantly to ensure that no lumps form. When the sauce is hot and as thick as double cream, turn the heat off and season it. Set aside for now.
Meanwhile, soak the lasagne sheets in just-boiled water until ready for use.
Retrieve the roasted garlic cloves, squeeze the cooked flesh from the skins and mash with a fork. Add the mashed garlic to the tomato sauce that you made earlier, stir it in well and heat the sauce back up.
To assemble the lasagne: spoon half the tomato sauce into the bottom of an ovenproof dish and top with half the roasted vegetables. Spoon over a small amount of bechamel, then top with half the pasta sheets. Spread the remaining tomato sauce on top of that, followed by the other half of the vegetables and another small amount of bechamel, then the final pasta sheets. Pour the remaining bechamel over the top and smooth out, then sprinkle the grated cheese over the top with a good grinding of black pepper.
Bake in the centre of the oven at 200C/ Fan 180C/ gas 6 for around 45 minutes until the top is crunchy and golden brown, and the lasagne is piping hot.
Serve with an apple and celery salad, the perfect combination of texture to match the creaminess of the lasagne, while the sharpness of the salad cuts through the richness. Perfect.