The Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge

So I wanted to know if there was a quicker way to do lasagne than this.  That’s how, on Saturday, I set myself the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge.

Using just the ingredients I had in the kitchen, I had to make a vegan lasagna in 20 minutes or less (prep time).  I had no dairy free cheese and no tomatoes, passata, puree or even pasta sauce, so I was winging it to the highest level.  To time me, my husband put on an episode of American Dad, and I had to be back in the living room before the end credits were rolling.

Here’s how it turned out:

20 minutes to prepare, 100% vegan 100% tasty lasagne.
20 minutes to prepare, 100% vegan 100% tasty lasagna (lasagne).

And here’s what I did:

1. Pre soaked 2 lasagna sheets in the bottom of the Pyrex lasagna dish.

lasagne 93

2. Taking a big bowl of spinach, I tore it up into tiny pieces, pulling out any obvious stems but not going overboard.  I covered the bottom sheet with the spinach.

This is how much spinach I used and how much I tore it up.
This is how much spinach I used and how much I tore it up.
This is what it looked like once it was all in the dish
This is what it looked like once it was all in the dish

3. I had no tomatoes, so covered the spinach in 1/2 a jar of Spanish Chicken sauce!!  Turns out, it’s basically tomato sauce (and it’s vegan if you don’t pour it over any chicken, obv, otherwise it would not be in my kitchen).

4. Next, I soaked 2 more lasagna / lasagne sheets in boiling water from the kettle, holding them carefully over the sink and rotating them to get the bit I was holding, until they started to flex.  These went over the spinach/spanish sauce.

If you want this to be even quicker, go straight to step 8 after this and just pour on top of this sheet.

lasagne vegan

5. Next, I poured a whole tin of sweetcorn (drained) over the middle layer of lasagna.  That’s right, this is going to be a three layer lasagna.

vegan lasagne sweetcorn lasagna

6. I covered the sweetcorn in the rest of the Spanish sauce.

vegan lasagne lasagna sweetcorn

7. I soaked 2 more lasagna sheets using the same method as step 4, then put them over the sweetcorn/sauce combo.

8. I made some vegan white sauce (bechamel sauce), as follows: 1 dollop of vegan butter, sieve in some flower and mix until it goes golden yellow. Then add the soya milk very gradually, keep stirring!  Once the white sauce has thickened, it’s done.

vegan white sauce bechamel sauce

I poured it over the top of the most recent lasagna sheets

lasagne lasagna vegan uncooked fresh

I put my whole lasagna in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes.

Before...
Before…
And after!
And after!

The bottom most lasagna sheets were not quite as soaked as they could have been, but otherwise it was a great result.

This proves that you neither need vegan cheese nor vegan cheese sauce to make a tasty lasagna.  Serves 3 meals or 6 as an accompaniment with some other stuff on the side.  If you’re super hungry, it would probably only do 2 meals.

Nutrition: There is no protein in this.  Have some peanuts with it or something.  It’s worth 2 of your 5 a day per 1/3 of the whole thing.  I used gluteny lasagna sheets because I’m broke but you can buy gluten free ones and make the white sauce with gluten free flour (Dove Farm do a nice one) to make this totally gluten free.

What do you think?  Would you take up the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge?  Let me know in the comments or link to your article if  you’ve got a faster lasagna recipe!

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Meat Free Monday: Vegan Lasagna

Dairy Free Vegan Lasagna (In England, we spell it lasagne, but I’ve used the American spelling as I know most of my readers are American/Canadian):

This post contains an affiliate link.  This recipe takes some time (I take just over an hour) so do it on a weekend day!

What better way to celebrate rabbit awareness week than to start it off with a meat free, animal free lasagna?

You will need:
A box of lasagna/lasagne sheets,
A block of dairy free hard cheese that can be grated/melted,

The “béchamel” sauce (method here):
Flour (or gluten free)
Soya milk (or alternative of your choice)
Vegan butter
Grated vegan cheese (optional depending on whether you prefer traditional or cheese béchamel sauce)

Alternative béchamel (if you are in a hurry):

Some cream cheese,
Cornflour,
A tablespoon or two of soya milk,

The “innards” of the lasagna:
1.5 cups Vegan mince or TVP,
1 Onion (or 1 cup frozen onions),
1/2 carton Tomato passata,
1/2 tsp of vegemite or yeast extract,
Herbs: a sprinkling of basil (OBT),

You will also need a square glass dish. You may need to change your measurements to fit your glass dish, mine is medium sized and serves 4-5. If you don’t have one, this lasagna dish set looks perfect.

Make the innards first:
1. Soak the TVP in some boiling water and mix in the Vegemite to add flavour.
2. Fry the onions and add the (drained if necessary) TVP, herbs, and the passata, mix well and set aside.

Then start to work with the lasagna sheets:
1. Follow the pre-soaking guidelines for the lasagna sheets. I usually pre-boil mine before using them so they’re not too hard.
2. Line the bottom of the glass dish with a layer of lasagna sheets, tearing and overlapping where necessary.

Then pour the innards over the first layer of lasagna sheets to totally cover it.

Next, put more lasagna sheets over the top of the innards.

Make the béchamel sauce next:
Here is the recipe you will use for the traditional béchamel sauce. If you’ve got all the ingredients, this one is the best one to make because it’s by far the most realistic. It’s your choice whether to include the grated cheese.
Alternative béchamel sauce using vegan cream cheese:
Put 1/3 of a tub of cream cheese in a pan, and heat it to soften. Mix in the soya milk and stir well. Add about 1 teaspoon of cornflour (sieve with a fine-mesh sieve to ensure no lumps, or just bung it in and live with the lumps) and mix well with a fork. Add more cornflour to thicken if needed.
Once the mixture is thick enough, pour over the top layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover them. You may need more sauce than this, depending on your dish size.

Grate the hard cheese over the top of the béchamel sauce to completely cover it with a decent layer of cheese.

To cook:

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes on 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 6.

Remove from oven and cut into square slices to serve. I use a wide flat spatula to get it out of the lasagna dish and a spoon in the other hand to stop the filling falling out.

To serve:

If it’s just to serve one, let the rest cool and cover then put in the fridge. When you wish to reheat, remove the amount you want to eat, and either oven it or microwave, depending on what you prefer.

Nutrition:

Approximately 1 of your 5 a day per serving and about 1/3 of your daily protein. For more of your 5 a day (so more vitamins), add some salad on the side or serve with a baked sweet potato and some boiled carrots.

Tips for success:

1. Get used to making the béchamel before you attempt the whole lasagna.
2. To save time you could pre-cook the béchamel for a different recipe the day before and set some aside for today’s lasagna.
3. Stir the vegemite fully into the TVP so you don’t get any lumps of yeast extract in your finished lasagna.
4. You can apparently just put the lasagne sheets in dry but I’ve always pre-soaked them and find this to make them cook better in the oven, as vegan cheese sauce tends to be a little too dry to soften the sheets in the oven.

Notes:
With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, replace your pasta with gluten free pasta and follow the rest of the recipe as normal. Most shops stock gluten free lasagne or lasagna sheets.

Next week: Pizza!

Bene cena!

Meat Free Monday: The King Of “Cheese” Sauces

Okay guys.  We’ve been building up to this for three weeks.  Today I share with you the ultimate vegan cheese sauce recipe, the one that you’ll want to make every time you do cheese sauce.  This is advanced sauce making.  It’s the one you can feed your parents and they’ll have no clue that there was no dairy in it.  The one you can use for vegan macaroni cheese, vegan cauliflower cheese or to do the top sauce for a vegan lasagna (leave out the “cheese” if you prefer a white sauce lasagna).

cheese sauce1

It requires the full arsenal of ingredients, but I make it a one-pan meal by cooking my broccoli or pasta in the pan, draining that then using the same pan to do the sauce.

You can measure the ingredients, but I don’t bother because it’s far more important to get a feel for how the ingredients interact with one another, and anyway, it utterly depends on how much sauce you want to make.  As long as there’s a good dollop of each ingredient in its packaging, you’ll be fine.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Equipment: Saucepan, butter or table knife, fine meshed sieve, fork, spoon (also: cheese grater if you’re not using cheese slices and wide meshed sieve as well if you need to get rid of lumps and don’t have a hand blender).

Ingredients:

1. Vegan butter.  I am currently preferring the Pure Soya spread.

2. Flour.  Recipe books always say to use plain flour for sauces, but I use self raising because I don’t “cook” (as in, make recipes that are nutritionally void and generally require some sort of flour) enough to have two types of flour in the house, and usually what I cook is cake, so self raising is just more useful to me and it’s never made a difference to my cheese sauces.  If it matters so much use plain flour.

3. Soy milk.  I haven’t tried it with other dairy free milk but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work, although rice milk is very watery.  I use unsweetened soy milk.

4. Either grated vegan cheese (e.g. Tesco soya medium, Cheezly, Scheeze block cheese or Violife block cheese) or slices of Violife, torn into small pieces (don’t kill yourself, it’s still gonna melt if it’s big pieces).

5. Something you want to cover in cheese sauce.  I go for pasta, cauliflower or broccoli, but it’s entirely up to you.

Method:

1. With a knife, get a dollop of butter and put it in the pan.  I use a small non-stick pan so there’s nowhere for lumps to hide later on.

2. Put the heat on a high medium (electric 4, or gas 20 past, with highest being half past if your cooker knob was a clock).

3. As the butter turns to a puddle but BEFORE it bubbles, grab a fine meshed sieve and pour a bit of flour in there.  You want a 1:1 ratio of flour to butter,

4. Stir continuously with a fork until you’ve got little balls of flour stuck together with butter, in a slightly orangey colour (not brown, that’s burnt, if it went brown, start again).

The flour and butter should look like this.
The flour and butter should look like this.

5. VERY gradually add the milk:  Add a dollop, mix it together until it’s starting to form a thick liquid then add more milk, never stop stirring and never add loads of milk all at once.  If your sauce goes lumpy, it’s because you added the milk too quickly or didn’t stir out all the lumps.  Squash any solid lumps with a fork as you’re doing this.

This is lumpy and watery.  Keep stirring out the lumps and don't add any more milk until this has started to thicken.
This is lumpy and watery. Keep stirring out the lumps and don’t add any more milk until this has started to thicken.

6. Stop adding milk once your sauce is a nice thick sauce-like consistency.  Remember you want it to cling to the pasta or broccoli, not slide off.

7. Add the cheese and stir it in until it’s all melted.

This has thickened and has had the cheese added and is ready to serve.  Or add more cheese if you prefer.
This has thickened and has had the cheese added and is ready to serve. Or add more cheese if you prefer.  Or get rid of any lumps (see below).

8. If your sauce is super lumpy, as mine was (usually when I used dairy free Vitalite to do this), you have two options. Either use a wider meshed sieve (if you have one, the sort that you couldn’t drain quinoa through, but you could drain rice through) or a hand blender.

Lump Removal Method 1: With the sieve, get the bowl ready, put the sieve over it (bowl must be wider than sieve, unless you tilt the sieve so all the sauce falls from one place, or you will have cheese sauce everywhere), pour the cheese sauce into the sieve, and wait for the sauce to drain out, then throw away the lumps that are left.

Lump Removal Method 2: With a hand blender, leave the sauce in the pan and just blend out the lumps.  It usually thickens when you do this (because the lumps are the flour and butter that is also the thickener that gives the sauce its consistency).  If it’s too thick, stir in more milk, a little at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.

9. Use the spoon to get all the sauce out of the pan and enjoy that sauce!  If you’ve made too much, put the rest in a separate bowl in the fridge and enjoy it again tomorrow.

A note on cleaning: Get that pan straight under water if you’re not washing up before you eat.  That stuff can set really quickly.

A note on nutrition: Add a handful of peanuts for protein, and boiled kale for 5 a day if you’re putting this with pasta.

A note on gluten: This DOES work with GF flour, although it tends to require the usual liquid adjustments – but this is another reason why I didn’t give measurements, so just add liquid until it reaches the right consistency.  The chemistry of this recipe is exactly the same.

So there you have it.  The ultimate cheese sauce recipe.  If you were into your cooking before you became vegan, you may notice this is the standard white sauce + cheese recipe, and I’ve fully explained it so you can avoid all the pitfalls I have made with this recipe over the ten years I’ve been making it.

What will you eat yours with?  Do you have any better cheese sauce recipes?  Let me know in the comments!