Yesterday was another warm sultry day in London – oh joy! Summer is here and our fingers are crossed in the hope that it will last the course!
All the past wet and gloomy summers now a hazy memory; the sun is out and we couldn’t wait to get out into the garden and open a bottle of something - I settled for my usual Campari with soda and John went for a bottle of ale, each to his own I say. The cats as usual followed us to the back of the garden which is where the sun moves to after 5pm. Our garden is a typical long and narrow London garden which backs off to a railway embankment overgrown with tall native trees, which means we have our very secluded patch surrounded by trees and the sky and cats of course! It’s almost like being in the country if it wasn’t for the trains, but we love them too and feel blessed and lucky.
Illu and Shimizu, sharing the seat with me (out of the picture!)
Irina is a “he”! The cat rescue lady thought he was a she hence the name! It doesn’t bother him so Irina it is and she doesn’t suffer from a personality disorder either – he’s a big time hunter! naughty cat
Part of the back garden
Then there’s dinner to think of…… we weren’t inspired by the thought of a salad as we had skipped lunch and needed some proper food and lasagne got our vote. I didn’t feel like something tomatoey and John had just been to the shops and come back with fresh spinach and mushrooms ….. not surprising then that I was inexorably and irretrievably drawn to a dish of spinach and mushroom creamy lasagne, possibly with a green salad – this was voted in and off I went to the kitchen to soak the cashews for the ricotta.
Not everyone loves spinach but I promise you this spinach, mushroom & ricotta lasagne will make you change your mind – just give it a go! I will shortly post a recipe for a more traditional lasagne with tomato sauce and vegetables (when we are next in the garden sipping Campari!) but for this I plumped for a béchamel sauce with ricotta. The sauce and ricotta give it a smooth, mild and creamy texture and the spinach and fried mushrooms make for a happy marriage – perfect for a summer’s meal in the garden.
Lasagne no doubt requires a little preparation - works in stages and you do have a few pans and dishes to wash after - however, the good news is all the steps are short and easy and the result well worth it.
I have used 800ml of soy milk for the béchamel sauce because John doesn’t like it too saucy and that’s ok by me! moreover, I couldn’t fault it as it was very juicy and moist - the ricotta in the spinach makes a lovely, creamy filling. However, if you prefer it sloppier, add another 100ml of soy milk and a little more cornflour (about half teaspoon) to thicken the sauce. Serve with a fresh green salad and see their faces light up!
Approximately 12 sheets of pasta (the sort which doesn’t require pre-cooking!)
Oblong ovenproof dish (mine is 11x8x2½ inches)
200 grams firm or medium tofu (Blue Dragon do a firm silken which is the firmest I can find)
½ cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
100ml unsweetened soya milk (almond or coconut is fine too)
Good pinch of salt
For the filling
500 grams fresh spinach (you could use frozen too; defrost and squeeze water out and chop - no need to cook)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
300 grams basic white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
800ml unsweetened soya milk (almond or coconut is fine too)
7 teaspoons cornflour (this makes a runny sauce and keeps the pasta moist)
Quarter of medium onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons margarine (I used Vitalite dairy free)
2 bay leaves
A little salt and some black pepper to taste
- Put all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth
- Steam fresh spinach for about 15 minutes, squeeze out water and chop roughly. Add oregano and stir in the ricotta – set aside
- Fry sliced mushrooms in olive oil for about 5 minutes – set aside
- Add cornflour to a little milk (about ¼ cup) and mix thoroughly – set aside
- In a saucepan, gently fry onion, garlic and bay leaves in margarine for 3 minutes – don’t brown, fry on very low heat
- Add rest of milk to the onions and garlic and slowly bring to the boil
- When boiling, lower heat and slowly add the cornflour paste to the milk, stirring all the time – cook for about 2 minutes on low
- Add salt and pepper to taste
Putting the lasagne together
- Pour about one-fifth of the béchamel sauce into the base of the dish
- Lay 3 sheets of pasta, pour another one-fifth of the sauce on the pasta, top with mushrooms and spinach
- Lay another 3 sheets, pour another one-fifth of the sauce on the pasta, top with mushrooms and spinach
- Repeat twice more and top with remaining béchamel sauce – I used 12 sheets of pasta in my dish which is 11/8×2½ inches
Bake in pre-heated oven at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 40 minutes