Although I come from a very conservative family, I have never been called conservative. My ebbing towards the left wing became more pronounced when I married the very hippy Mr NQN. His values has rubbed off onto me although I look like a conservative compared to his family. I've never really looked into vegetarianism but have always recycled and tried and use natural treatments where possible.
Mr NQN's mum Tuulikki once put me onto a line of skincare products that were said to be 100% natural. I stocked up buying plenty of each as I tend to do when I find something that I like. I even bought the entire line of products (obsessive, moi?). Some things worked well for a while but I found that the deodorant wasn't particularly effective. I don't actually sweat much at all (a genetic problem, more a curse than a gift at times) but suddenly I was quite stinky and it was the height of summer.
I picked up the bottle and that's when I saw the ingredients list: "purified sea water, mineral salts". I had been spritzing water on my armpits and wondering why that wasn't effective. "Hippies!!!" I muttered to myself throwing it into the bin in disgust. Somehow they managed to charge $9.95 for this item. "Rich hippies!!!" I said sounding like a demented conservative.
All of these vegetables went into the lasagna
So whilst I will never fully embrace my in laws' lifestyle and use water on my armpits or go vegetarian I do see value in eating lots of vegetables. It's just I eat them with chicken. This lasagna was put together after a massive shop at the markets. I know Autumn and Winter aren't exactly the most exciting seasons for fruit but they're still great seasons for vegetables and I was able to get lots of fantastic, colourful vegetables for my lasagna.
Lasagna is a definite labour of love but the reward is that this lasagna makes nine filling serves and for me, that means that I just make a huge one at the beginning of the week clearing out much of my vegetable crisper and serve it up for Mr NQN for the following few nights. I like making this for him when I go away as it can feed him for a week. I won't say that it isn't time consuming, it is because you're dealing with so many types of vegetables but it tastes fantastic and you'll certainly get your serves of vegetables in this dish alone.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried water deodorant?
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Chicken & Vegetable Lasagna
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
Makes 9 serves
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes plus 15 minutes plus 50 minutes
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 onions, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- 3 sticks celery, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 650g/23ozs. chicken breast, minced (you can also buy chicken mince)
- 150g/5ozs. mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 long red chillies, sliced (optional)
- 410g/14.5ozs tin tomatoes, pureed
- 250g/8.83ozs. cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 2/3 cup chicken stock
- 500g/1lb. Japanese eggplant, thinly sliced
- 500g/1 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced
- 350g/12.36ozs. sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 cup grated cheese
- Salt and pepper
- 200g/7ozs. packet of instant lasagna sheets
For bechamel sauce
- 150g/5ozs butter
- 2/3 cup plain flour
- 3 1/2 cups milk, heated
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Step 1 - Make the chicken base. Heat a large saucepan on medium heat and add the oil. Fry the onion and garlic until fragrant. Then add the celery and carrot and cook until soft. Add the chicken mince and fry until almost cooked. Add the mushrooms, chilli, tinned and fresh tomatoes, oregano, tomato paste and stock. Simmer, uncovered for 25 minutes until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 2 - Heat a kettle full of hot water and pour the boiling water over the eggplant slices to soften them slightly. Drain.
Step 3 - Make the bechamel sauce. In a medium sized saucepan, heat the butter until melted and bubbling. Add the flour and using a whisk, remove any lumps. Add the milk half a cup at a time whisking between each addition until it is all added and you get a smooth sauce. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
Step 4 - Preheat oven to 160C/320F. Place one third of the bechamel sauce on the base and then layer with the vegetables. When you use the pasta sheets, I like to wet them quickly under a running tap just so they don't suck up all of the moisture from the sauce. I used two layers of pasta sheets as I preferred to use vegetables instead. Keep layering reserving a third of the bechamel for the last layer on top of pasta sheets.
*Step 5 - *Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes. Increase heat to 190C/374F and bake for another 20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown on top. Lasagna is best served after standing it for a couple of hours as it will cut neater that way.