Very Homemade, Very Non-traditional, Lasagne


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Pasta. Pasta. Pastaaaaah.

I have never been the biggest pasta fan.  Not that I do not think that it can be a great ingredient, but my cuisine is typically Asian- or Indian-inspired, hence more-so using rice or quinoa over pasta.  My charming partner, however, is a massive lover of traditional Italian dishes.  Those traditional Italian dishes that consist of three ingredients: meat, pasta and sauce.  Dishes where the only vegetable used is tomato. (And even that is controversial).  Yes, my darling partner squirms at the thought of me tainting his beloved Bolognese with carrots and celery.

And Lasagne! Ohhh we have had some doozies about lasagne.  Previously being a full vegetarian, and always being a die-hard vegetable fan, I think the best lasagne is one packed full of roasted vegetables, lentils and fresh herbs.  On the other side of the scale, however, is the traditional lasagne.  You know, the one with said meat, pasta, and sauce, no added vegetables.  The one my partner LOVES.  So how do we compromise? It's almost impossible.

Sometimes I think I understand where he is coming from.  After all, isn't Italian food characterised by its use of only a few simple ingredients?  A few simple ingredients which have been carefully chosen in order to create ultimate taste sensations?

But I hate being traditional.  I dislike being confined and constricted and controlled.  (Yes, I know.  Control freak, right?).  I am not Italian, nor am I Indian or Asian.  I am Australian - and doesn't that mean I am multi-cultural?  Doesn't that mean I can incorporate multiple cuisines in one dish, that I can modify the traditional and make it my own?

Well that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Up until just recently I have been full vegetarian.  Vegetarian for ethical reasons - I hate abattoirs, I hate capatalism and I hate how people don't think twice about the souls they are disrespecting and frankly, destroying, even before death.  And although my vegetarian status is changing, my beliefs are not.

*Rant Warning.  RANT WARNING*

My views on vegetarianism changed when I met and worked alongside Jude Blereau.  The first thing she said upon hearing I didn't eat meat was "Aren't you a young woman and expecting one day to have children?".  My response was to immediately be on the defence and think "pfft I know, I know, that's what they all say".  That's when it hit me.  They do all say it.  All of my major nutrition influences believe that this is true - my Grandma, my boss, Sally Fallon, among other great nutrition authors.  I myself have always said that if I worked as a nutrition professional I would never recommend anyone to be vegetarian.  But I would always advocate sourcing out good quality products.
So why haven't I?  Why haven't I taken a leaf out of my own book and sourced out some organic, free-range, ethically sound meat?
What makes it even worse, is that I know for a fact that here in Queensland, we are extremely lucky to have access to many up-to-date organic, ethical meat producers.

Ok, now here comes the bit that, right now, I am extremely passionate about, and that I have been ranting on about to anyone who has two ears, hearing or not.
The main reason I have decided to eat meat is not only because it contains many essential nutrients we are hard-pressed to find a comparison for, but because I am supporting the local producers of meat who are doing their best to do the right thing.  But my tiny monetary support is minute, and alone will not keep these guys above water, above the billion dollar corporations, above the smaller profit margin they are getting for their animals because they care more than others do.  Which is why I rant.  And why I urge you to really consider buying ethically, if you are not already.  (And I'm sorry, that 'organic' chicken you buy at that supermarket that I shall not speak of it's name but is taking over Australia, is really not good enough.)
Do your research, before you buy.

Another time I will delve further into the intricate details of nutrition from animal sources.
I bet you can't wait!

Ok, so back to the lasagne.  After not having eaten meat for such a long time, it is really quite daunting getting back into it.  Or am I just being soft?  Before I decided that I was going to include meat in this recipe, I had always thought about making a lasagne with mung beans.  I thought that these little babies would be perfect to make a vego 'mince'.  Or I probably just wanted to push boundaries again and use a traditionally Asian/Indian ingredient in this Italian dish.  No matter, I was soon to discover that mung beans not only added nutrition and unimposing flavour, but made the dish a little easier to digest for this adapting carnivore.

And I really should give a little more credit to my poor partner who has to put up with me changing (or in his words - ruining) his favourite meals with no compromise at all.  (Yeh, you know who wears the pants).  So I don't think I could ever eat a lasagne that did not have vegetables in it.  He knows this, and accepts it with (almost) no complaints.  He knows he can eat traditional, vege-free variations, out, at restaurants.  But at home, when I'm cooking, its my way or.... hungry, really.
And I really think he secretly loves my vegetable-laden lasagnes.

Chicken and Mung Bean Lasagne 

2 cups spelt flour*
3 eggs
pinch of pink salt
water if required

200g organic AND free-range chicken mince
200g mung bean sprouts
500g tomatoes
3 large red capsicums
2 large spanish onions
5 large garlic cloves
1 bunch of fresh basil
lots of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Roasted vegetables of your choice

300g organic sour cream
100g organic ewes fetta**
200g pecorino***
salt and pepper

* I chose to use spelt flour as it has similar properties to it's close relative, wheat, however is a lot more easier digested. 
** Milk and other products from sheep are more easily tolerated by humans than cows milk as it's nutritional profile is closer to that of our own milk.
*** Pecorino is a hard cheese, similar to parmesan, that is made from ewes milk.

Making the lasagne sheets

1. Sift spelt flour into mixing bowl, then add the salt.

2.  Whisk the eggs and, after making a well in the centre of the flour, add them in.

3.  Mix using a dough hook or fold with your hands.  If dough seems to be too dry, or is not coming together, add a drop or two of cold water. 

4.  Start to knead the dough in the bowl with your hands, and once it has formed a nice ball, take out and place on a well-floured surface.  Continue to knead to activate gluten.

5.  Wrap tightly with cling wrap and put in fridge for at least half an hour or until you are ready to use it.

6.  Take the dough out of the fridge and place on well-floured surface.  With a rolling pin roll out the dough until it is thin enough to put through a pasta machine. 

7.  Starting on the number 1 setting (the widest), put the dough through the rollers on the pasta machine. 

8.  Fold one edge (about a third of the dough) inwards.

9.  Repeat with the other side, and then flatten again with the rolling pin. 

10. Repeat steps 7 through to 9 at least twice more before continuing on with setting 2.  

11.  Roll the dough through the rest of the settings on the pasta machine.  You don't have to repeat steps 7-9 for these settings, just put it through consecutively. 

12. Once the dough has been put through all the settings you can divide the length into good-sized squares.

13.  Bring water up to the boil in a large pot or sauce pan. Place a few of the pasta sheets into the boiling water, one pasta square at a time.  After about a minute (or until the pasta is tender) remove the squares from the boiling water, using a spider, and place in a cold-water bath.  

14. Drain the pasta squares, and they are ready to use in your lasagne!

Making the filling

1.  Finely dice the onions.  Saute over medium heat with a good quantity of EVOO* until browned.
* Some evidence has come out that states that no side effects arise from heating olive oil.  It is the impurities in olive oil that burn and potentially become carcinogenic, so if you use a good quality extra virgin oil this should not be a problem. I use olive oil in this recipe as I think it brings that traditional Italian flavour but I never bring it up to high heat.  

2.  While sauteing the onions, finely mince the garlic cloves, and roughly chop the tomatoes and capsicums, removing all inedible bits. 

3.  Add the garlic, tomatoes, and capsicums and cover with olive oil.  Simmer.  

4.   Cook off the chicken mince.

5.  Roughly chop the vegetables of you choice.  Carrot, zucchini, eggplant, squash, pumpkin and broccoli are what I typically use.  Put them in a baking tray with some EVOO and roast on about 180C until they are tender.

Making the sauce

1. In a saucepan add the sour cream, crumbled fetta, grated pecorino and seasoning.  On high heat, stir continuously until cheese has melted and has thickened the sour cream.  Taste and add more seasoning if required.

 Assemble the lasagne by layering all components in a deep, lined, baking dish. 

1. Pasta sheet

2. Grated Cheese

3. Chicken and mung beans.

4. Basil leaves

5. Veggie mince

6. Cheese sauce

 7. Another pasta sheet...and so on and so on, finishing with the cheese sauce and extra grated cheese.

Cook at about 180C for half and hour or so, until cheese has melted and is golden brown.

Traditional or not, this lasagne was Bellissimo!


Just found your site through another blog and thought I'd hop over to check it out. I subscribed to your blog feed and can't wait to see what your next post will be :-)

Wow, what a non-traditional but very cool lasagne!

Congratulations on being chosed as a top ten Australian Food Blogger by!

Thanks so much for your love CJ and Maureen!

CJ my next post will coincidentally be my recipe for high(er) protein brownies that are also 'sugar' and gluten free, which you may be interested in!

And Maureen, what is Sorry I am still kind of in my own little corner of the blog world but would like to know more about what goes on... :)

Awesome photographs. Made me very hungry and it's only 3PM !

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