A confession: I am a Valentines Grinch.
Consumerist Emotional Blackmail Nonsense says I, and as far as those who are single are concerned, there’s no need to make us feel we’re sad or pathetic for not having a Valentine, we’re not: Many of us still get all the fun, but without any of the hassle, which is a bit of a win, really.
So! While other food blogs churn out cutesy photos and how-to’s for an array of heart-shaped chocolately things, I’m going to share a strange, savoury Ex Recipe – that being a recipe nicked from an ex – for those of us whose date on the 14th will be a bottle of something squiffy, a decidedly un-romantic DVD, and perhaps a nice, warm Italian dish (and possibly some food… cheeky).
This is a recipe I haven’t touched in years. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever touched it. This dish was made for me many times by the now infinitely estranged Bunny Rabbit, and I’m not sure what draws me back to it since nothing but nothing could ever draw me back to him (that was a bit dark… moving swiftly along…)
I should warn, it’s a peculiar recipe (a bit of research tells me it might, in fact, be loosely based on some sort of Greek side dish) and it’s not necessarily completely remembered as I never cooked it. I must have chopped the carrots or something, since I remember standing near the sink, being fed morsels of feta, and I don’t think I was just lurking there waiting to have cheese shoved in my face… And adding a splosh of white wine to the sauce was definitely my idea. What’s bothering me is that I can’t recall if there were any other vegetables involved apart from carrots and spinach. Part of my brain is adding a red onion to the proceedings and another part of my brain is telling me the onion thing is from Bunny’s coconut rice recipe (because no one could have two recipes involving onion…). I think there was no onion in this lasagne. I think perhaps there should be. And some black pepper. Bunny Rabbit, where ever you are, I’m messing with your recipe.
A word about the white sauce: I absolutely DO NOT remember the Bunny using any flour or butter for the white sauce – that is to say, I actively remember NOT having any flour in our kitchen and never, ever, buying butter. So it was not a Bechamel sauce, it was just… cheesy liquidy niceness (a highly technical culinary term) Ergo, I recall this being a slightly… soupy dish, which I quite liked, but as I’m already tinkering with this thing, I think I shall tinker further by adding a bit of flour, or perhaps extra thick cream… Will let you know by the time we get to the Ingredients part of the programme.
Which is relatively now-ish.
Bunny’s (Improved) White Lasagne
- Dry lasagne sheets (we used lasagne verdi)
- 2 Carrots
- Baby spinach
- 1 Red onion
- 1 block (200g) Feta cheese
- 25g Butter
- 25g Plain flour
- 2tbsp White wine (feel free to exclude – I’m always looking for ways to get booze into my cooking)
- 1 pint Whole milk
- 200g Grated cheddar cheese (as sharp as you dare)
- Ground black pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 175˚C.
To prepare the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour (this is called a ‘roux’, it’s a French thing) and white wine (if using) and stir to combine.
Remove from the heat and add the milk, stirring until smooth.
Return to the hob and bring the mixture to a boil, simmering for 8-10minutes, gradually adding the cheddar (keep back a handful or two for later) and stirring until melted and combined.
[May I say, on this occasion I used applewood smoked cheddar… You have no idea how amazing my kitchen smells right now.]
Season with a few grinds of black pepper and stir.
And now for some lasagne action.
Oil up a standard baking tin/roasting dish (I use a cooking spray for this) and cover the bottom with dry, uncooked lasagne sheets.
Cover these with a layer of raw spinach leaves and then a scattering of carrot coins (and red onions) and crumbled feta.
Top that with another layer of uncooked lasagne, spinach, carrots, (onion), and feta, and top off with uncooked lasagne sheets.
Finally, pour on the white sauce.
Cover with foil (so the dry lasagne becomes moist and tender as it cooks) and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
Uncover, scatter the remaining cheddar and bake again until the cheese melts and browns a bit. (As you can see, mine really went for the brown concept – I have an oven the size of a microwave and the poor lasagne was practically nose-to-nose with the grill… It’s still going to taste insane…)
Remove from the oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
Verdict: WIN! The wine adds a bit of a tang, the onions add sweetness, the black pepper wakes up the otherwise quite mild sauce, the pasta soaked up all of the liquid and was tender as you like, with a gorgeous, crunchy top layer. I might just have to buy myself a dozen roses, I love me so much right now.
Needless to say, this is wonderful comfort food, and if you too are snuggling up to no more than an inexpensive Pinot Grigio this Valentines, do treat yourself to a bit of this. You deserve it, you’re lovely, and you don’t need a greeting card or a box of reduced choccies on February 14th to tell you that.
Enjoy, with lots of love from me (and that good-for-nothing, son-of-a… Bunny).