The first purchase today was a takeaway coffee, and I remembered my keep cup for that. Gold star to me!
I actually forgot entirely about plastic free July until Saturday, after I’d done the Big Shop ™ so between that and the contents of the freezer I’ve still a chunk of plastic around. I’m gonna flag things I buy in the month separately to things I’m using up from the pantry though, as that needs clearing out too.
First up, veggie lasagne with this beastie! It’s fresh vegan mince!
I’ve used various meat subs over the years, but this was my first time seeing this on a supermarket shelf. It was in the veggie chiller, with no fanfare at all, so hopefully we shall see more of this type of stuff in the future.
So, on with the show. This takes quite a bit of time overall, in bursts, so usually I make the ragu one day in the background of another dinner, and then the white sauce and assembly happens the next. I went wholesale for it today though. At least it’ll keep us in leftovers for tomorrow!
Onions, garlic, celery, finely chopped, get things moving. In with the mince. It’s treated like meat for cooking purposes.
After a bit of sautéing, in go a couple of cans of plum tomatoes, squished, some tomato purée, veggie stock, dried thyme and oregano,and a couple of tablespoons of Braggs seasoning. If you’re not familiar with the last one, it’s sort of like a Worcestershire sauce, or soy. Lots of umami. Used by vegans and coeliacs extensively as it’s animal and gluten free.
Looks appetizing, huh?
I add a fistful of red lentils to mine here. Completely unorthodox, I know. It is partly to make the meat go further – especially important with red meat – partly for a nice fiber and protein boost, and also when the lentils cook down they help thicken the sauce without the need for flours.
About an hour over a very low heat, and there’s a delicious smelling ragu. Low and slow is very much the key with this, to get that lovely richness. Adjust seasoning, and we’re good.
While that was simmering, time for the white sauce. I do a bechamel type, with a roux.
It’s also a great way to use up odds and sods of cheese.
Today, it’s the tail end of some cashel blue, half a bag of grated cheddar that I bought for tacos, and some Red Leicester and cheddar sliced cheese that we didn’t use for sandwiches during the week.
Layer of ragu first. About a third of the pot. First layer of pasta on top.
Cheese sauce, then more ragu, then another layer of pasta. This used to seem a completely weird way of layering it, but it’s the method used in almost every authentic Italian cookbook I’ve owned or read.
Then the final saucing.
Bake at 180C for about an hour.
Some pasta brands take longer than others. This was Barilla and definitely needed more time. The last brand I tried was Roma, and that needed less. De Cecco is my favourite, but can be tricky to track down outside the city centre.
Proper lasagne should stand up under its own steam on a plate. It should not ooze or slowly slide out into a puddle of goo in front of you. This just about passes the test.
It won’t pass as meat, but it’s very nice as a veggie substitute. In fact, I think that some veggies or vegans might not like this at all as it’s too close to meat for them. It’s not one to “fool” your friends with (not that I agree with those shenanigans anyway) but if you’re trying to cut down your meat consumption, it’s worth a nom.
The ragu in this was totally vegan (and damn tasty!) and could be used as a bolognaise quite nicely, especially with the addition of some mushrooms and a liberal sprinkling of nutritional yeast on top.
Glad I tried it, and I’ll be looking out for their burger patties to try at some point.