Sunday, 24 November 2013

chicken & pumpkin lasagne

Baked pasta dishes, and especially lasagne are loved by most people i know. My trouble is that as much as I think they're delicious I often find that healthier versions don't always hit the right spot. What I've tried to do with this recipe is create 'lighter' version by upping the veg quota, cutting down on the pasta layers and not having too much meat. You could very easily make this an entirely vegetarian dish by using more mushrooms, no chicken and using vegetarian cheeses.

Pumpkin & Tomato Sauce
600g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into 3cm chunks
6 large cloves of garlic
1 tbsp vegetable oil
400g can of peeled plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
25g butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

White Sauce
500ml milk
30g butter
30g plain flour
200g grated cheese (I used a mixture of parmesan and cheddar)

250g cooked chicken (about 1 chicken breast), cut or shredded
handful of green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
couple of handfuls of spinach, washed
200g oyster mushrooms
1 medium aubergine
1 medium courgette
dried lasagne sheets
small bunch of basil
ground all spice
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Tomato & Pumpkin Sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the peeled, cubed pumpkin and un-peeled garlic cloves on a baking tray, pour over the oil and rub everything together with your hands so that everything has a coating of oil and is in a single layer. Roast in the oven for around 40minutes or until the pumpkin is cooked through and slightly coloured on the edges. Take care not to burn the garlic.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the tomato sauce base by placing the tomatoes, halved onion, butter and oregano in a saucepan, place over a low heat and leave to gently bubble away, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon if you wish for about 30 minutes. Once the tomatoes have reduced down and are not all watery remove from the heat and take out the onion.
  3. In a food processor or blender put the pumpkin chunks, tomato mixture and peeled, roast garlic and blitz until smooth. You may need to add a little water to loosen it up - you're aiming for a thick, pouring consistency. Taste then adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and ground allspice as needed.  

White Sauce
  1. Put the butter and cornflour in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir constantly until the butter is completely melted and you've got a thick paste. Cook the flour out for a minute. 
  2. Next add the milk a little at a time, stirring thoroughly as you go. Make sure you have an even consistency before you add the next bit of milk. Continue you until you have a fairly thick white sauce and cook out for a couple of minutes and the taste of raw flour has disappeared. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. 
  3. Remove from the heat and stir through 160g of the grated cheese, a little ground black pepper and a pinch of allspice or nutmeg. 
  1. Slice the courgette and aubergine lengthwise to a about half a centimetre thickness. 
  2. Put some oil for shallow frying (about a centimetre depth) in a wide frying pan over a medium heat.
  3. Once the oil is at temperature (you'll know it's ready when a piece of aubergine sizzles as soon as it touches the oil) fry off the courgette and aubergine slices in batches until the are a light golden colour on both sides then set to one side to drain on kitchen paper until you're ready to assemble the lasagne. NOTE: If you want to be particularly healthy don't fry the aubergine and courgette slices instead griddle them. I didn't because I don't currently own a griddle pan.
  4. In a pan of gently boiling water quickly blanch the green beans for about a minute then remove and place straight away in ice cold water. 
  5. Heat another pan, add the chopped, washed spinach and quickly wilt it then remove to a colander to allow the excess water to drain away. Set to one side.
  6. Chop up the oyster mushrooms.

Putting it all together
  1. Preheat the oven to about 200C. Combine the chopped mushrooms, beans, cooked chicken and pumpkin and tomato sauce.
  2. Place a little of the white sauce on the base of your oven proof dish then put a single layer of lasagne sheets. Spread over the spinach followed by the aubergine slices, half the reserved cheese, half of the chicken and pumpkin mixture and scatter over some of the basil leaves.
  3. Next place another pasta layer, followed by the courgette slices, the rest of the cheese, remaining chicken mixture, basil leaves, and top with a final pasta layer followed by the white sauce.
  4. Put the dish in the oven for around 30 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown on top. Serve with a crisp salad and maybe some garlic bread too.

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