Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Let's talk about vegetarian lasagna.

I have to say I hesitated before writing about vegetarian lasagna. I mean, it brings up images of hippies, living in the country in some run down house on a ramshackle farm, milking the cows and collecting the free range eggs from their chooks and ducks and that's just not me...... Hmm, maybe I could have thought that opening paragraph through a bit more.

See I don't think that vegetarian and normal lasagna should be considered in the same space. I love meat based lasagna, the thick, rich, meaty, tomato sauce and the creamy layers in between. But my vego version comes from a different space. For a start there are no tomatoes. And it's a hell of a lot easier.

When I make a real 'I'm sure I have Italian blood in me somewhere' sauce for a lasagna, I like to cook out the meat and tomato sauce for hours, slowly simmering until my taste buds can take it no more. Of course, I don't always do this, sometimes I brown off some mince, wack in tinned tomatoes and layer up but it's not the same.

With the vego version all I do is throw a bunch of roughly cut vegetables into a roasting dish and slow roast. This time it was squash, garlic, cauliflower, carrot, mushrooms, zucchini and red onion but I also use eggplant, pumpkin, sweet potato, fennel and peas. Takes all of about four minutes to chop up. I'll lightly coat with oil and add some salt and other seasoning, cumin seeds or rosemary or thyme.

While that's roasting I make some pasta. It's not essential, but I have duck eggs and I find that duck egg pasta is the smoothest, silkiest, sexiest thing I've seen outside my marriage. But that's just me. Use the packet stuff if you want. Bash the dough in the fridge and make the white sauce.

I use lots of cheese with this. In this case that means a hunk of homemade camembert that is a bit strong to eat fresh, some homemade mozzarella and some cheddar. The more interesting and varied the cheese, the better the dish. That's one of the joys of cheesemaking, the mistakes you make can usually be thrown into a white sauce or onto a pizza.

Layer it up and bake until the white sauce is golden on top. I traditionally eat it after a three hour yoga session sitting in the lotus position, naked, under a full moon, but it will taste just as good fully clothed in front of the TV.


MF from my iPad


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bush Fruit

There is a native bush fruit you can get in TAS and some parts of NSW and VIC called the climbing blueberry. It produces little blue berries that look like mini capsicums, are blue to deep purple and no bigger than a small grape. Like a capsicum they have a firm outer skin, are generally pretty hollow (no flesh) and have plenty of seeds inside. They have a pretty bland, some people say slightly apple flavour and the seeds inside make it gritty, so its not really appealing to on its own. As Mick Dundee said "you can live on it but it tastes like shit", but you would probably struggle to find enough to live on. One thing it does do though is make really good jam.

My partner and I were at festival a couple of years ago and tried some blueberry jam. It was really different, very subtle flavour. We liked it so much we went out and bought some seedlings in the hope we could grow them ourselves and make our own jam. Unfortunately the local wallabies like the plant more than we do so they never grew big enough to fruit. a few weeks ago we saw a few plants on the side of the road so we went berry picking.

I went searching for a recipe but couldn't find anything, people didn't even realise you could eat it. Because the fruit was quite unusual I wasn't sure how the lack of flesh would effect the consistency, how much sugar to put in or if it would set on its own. So when I started I had a lemon and some jam setta ready. I added a couple of grated apples, mostly to bulk it out. The lemon juice was mostly for a for a bit of acid and some extra zing. I got lucky and the lemon juice was enough to set jam. I did have to use the stick blender as the fruit weren't falling apart.

The end result was lovely, very sweet (it is jam), with quite a subtle flavour. You can taste the apple, almost too much. As nice as it is though, it probably needs something else. For a first try with no real recipe to follow I was pretty happy. We tried another recipe with no apples, a teaspoon of vanilla and half a teaspoon of cinnamon, but the cinnamon was a little overpowering.

We'll have to wait until next summer to try again. The funny thing is we don't even eat jam. We did keep a jar but that will last us all year. Our mates liked it though. The plant is Billardiera longiflora or the climbing blueberry for those that want to know. The recipe is below. Enjoy!!!

450g Blueberry fruit
2 regular apples, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
450g sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup of water