ageing vegetables

my trip to borough market at the weekend, combined with a busy week, has resulted in lots of slightly past-their-best vegetables that need using up. roasted vegetables are always a great solution and the flavours can be varied enormously, depending what you fancy eating.

harissa and spices such as cumin, coriander and cinnamon are great if you want to have the vegetables with a north-african inspired couscous dish (add orange/lemon zest and juice to the couscous and serve with some mint yoghurt or the side).

today i decided to use more mediterranean flavours and make a lasagne. most of my vegetables roast well but i’m not keen on the flavour of roasted leeks so i decided to cook these on top of the cooker with the fennel.

you’ll see that i use crème fraiche instead of a white/cheese sauce – i find this makes the dish less rich, which is definitely a good thing when the weather is hot. i also like the slightly tangy flavour it gives. try it and see what you think.


roasted vegetable lasagne serves 6

for the vegetables:

2 red onions, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks

6 tomatoes, quartered

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 3cm chunks

5 small courgettes, chopped into 2cm pieces

1 medium aubergine, chopped into 2cm cubes

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4-6 tablespoons olive oil

25g butter

1 bulb fennel, cut into 1cm chunks

2 leeks, cut into 1cm slices

for the tomato sauce:

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 handful of chopped basil, plus a couple of large basil sprigs

1 teaspoon sugar

12-16 pieces of lasagne (fresh or the no-pre-cook type)

500g crème fraiche (low or full-fat)

1 ball of mozzarella, cut into small pieces

preheat oven to 200c.

in a large baking tray place mix the onions, tomatoes, pepper, courgettes, aubergine and garlic with the olive oil, so that everything is lightly coated. season with salt and pepper and roast for 40 mins, until the vegetables are softened and starting to brown at the edges. i usually stir everything part-way through to make sure everything remains coated with juices and doesn’t burn.

while the vegetables are roasting, melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the leeks and fennel over a low heat for c20 minutes, until the leeks caramelise slightly and the fennel softens. mix with the roasted vegetables when ready.

make your tomato sauce (again, you can do this while the vegetables are roasting) - fry the garlic in olive oil until you start to smell it. add the tomatoes, basil sprigs and sugar (this brings out the tomato flavour and removes the need to use tomato puree). let the sauce bubble away until the sauce has thickened (usually 10-15 minutes). remove the basil sprigs and stir in the chopped basil. season to taste.

assemble the lasagne as follows: half the tomato sauce, lasagne sheets, half the roasted vegetables, lasagne sheets, the remaining roasted vegetables, lasagne sheets, the remaining tomato sauce, lasagne sheets and finish with a layer of crème fraiche which is then sprinkled with the mozzarella.

bake at 200c for c45 minutes, until the crème fraiche is bubbling and the cheese has turned a golden brown.

serve with ciabatta/garlic bread and a green salad. if you have leftovers, this reheats well.