Friday, 18 January 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagne

I'm sure you get the picture now: Celebrate is a pretty good book and you ought to buy it if you like the sound of it.

But just for laughs here's one last recipe from it, for a butternut squash lasagne, which is really great.

I don't especially like butternut squash but I often feel, especially at this dark time of year, that one really ought to make an effort to vary one's vegetable intake, or you can go for months just eating cheese on toast and baked beans.

This is a very good thing to do for an awful lot of people and it's also, if this is a factor, incredibly cheap to make.

Don't be scared of the white sauce involved in this (also called a bechamel). I will talk you through it. Now is as good a time as any to learn how to make one if you don't know how already.

Butternut Squash Lasagne
Serves 8
this is not Pippa's precise recipe, but it's very close.

1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1.2kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and sliced into crescents about 0.5cm thick (that's about the width of a pound coin).
1 bunch sage leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
450g fresh spinach
some nutmeg
salt and pepper
12-15 fresh or dried lasagne pasta sheets
2 x 125g balls mozzarella

for the white sauce or bechamel
125g butter
125g flour
800ml milk
75 grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling between layers of lasagne

Preheat the oven to 200C

1 Put the butternut squash, onion and garlic on a baking tray and sloop over some light olive oil, a generous scattering of salt and pepper and a small handful of chopped sage leaves. Roast for 20 mins.

2 NOW - make your white sauce.

- Melt the butter in a pan. I know it seems like a lot, but this is how much you need, so just go for it. That much butter takes a while to melt, about 5-10 mins.

- When the butter is melted TAKE THE PAN OFF THE HEAT and then add the flour, a tablespoon at a time. Mix and mash together between spoonfuls until you have a thick paste.

- WITH THE PAN STILL OFF THE HEAT, splash over some milk and incorporate. Then splash over some more until you have a runny concoction.

- Now put this back over a medium flame and add the rest of the milk, whisking all the time. Keep stirring and whisking until this gets very thick, then take off the heat and add the 75g parmesan. Throw in a good pinch of salt and about 6 turns of the pepper grinder.

3 Put the spinach in a pan with about 1 cm water in the bottom and grate over a bit of nutmeg, about three swipes of the nut on the grater ought to do it as nutmeg is terribly strong and too much ruins everything.

Cook this for about 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Then drain in a colander or sieve and really squash it down to get all the water out. I also usually have a go at it with a pair of scissors, just to make it look and seem a less like a tangle of dead leaves caught in a drain.

4 If you are using dried lasagne sheets, you now have to blanch them for 3 mins in boiling water. Now, the minute I put my sheets into boiling water they stuck together, causing me to panic and burn my fingers off later frantically unsticking them by sliding a knife between the layers.

I have no idea how one is supposed to do this without the lasagne sticking together. A lot of oil in the water or what? All suggestions welcome in the comments box.

5 Now assemble your lasagne. Put a layer of pasta on the bottom, followed by the butternut squash and onion and the spinach. Then white sauce, then a bit of parmesan. layer this as best you can, it doesn't really matter what you end up with on top. Although if you finish with a layer of pasta, it's wise to make sure you've got quite a lot of white sauce left otherwise the pasta crisps up in the oven and crunchy pasta is a bit of a challenging mouthful.

6 Finish this off with sliced mozzarella. Stick in the oven for 25-30 mins. You can fry off some sage leaves in butter and stick them on the top if you're feeling really flash.

Alas, I just looked through my pictures and I can't find the one I took of this lasagne. Though I'm absolutely sure I did take one. Anyway I've written it now and I'm not writing up another bloody recipe for something I HAVE got a photo of - I've got SNOW to play in!!!! So you'll just have to imagine what it looks like.

Or buy Celebrate, it's there on p. 30 looking splendid.

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