To celebrate Brighton’s never-ending love of food we are introducing ‘Finding Food: Brighton’s Big Recipe Share’. The premise is simple – we nominate one person to share their favourite recipe and answer some questions about their love of food, the nominee will then ask someone to do the same and the share begins from there! We are starting this in-house with our staff writer Georgia and her infamous (amongst her friend’s) vegan lasagna.
Who taught you how to cook? My parents were always really keen for me to cook from quite a young age and it’s definitely made me a better cook later in life. Me and my dad used to use Jamie Oliver’s Italian cookbook as a basis for a lot of our recipes. I grew up vegetarian so there was always adaptations and imaginative thinking in the kitchen. I would say it was a joint endeavour with my parents and to this day there’s a very competitive nature when it comes to who is the best cook in our kitchen.
Where is your favourite place to eat in Brighton? This is almost impossible for me to answer but I love Beelzebab and Morelli Zorelli as their vegan choices are absolute killer. Being honest though i’d always rather make my own food – I just don’t always have the time or energy!
What is the first meal you remember making? My father and I used to make an extra special pasta bake which is one of my earliest cooking memories I have and of course I used to bake cakes when I was very little with my mum and grandma. The first meal I ever cooked entirely on my own was a homemade tomato and ginger sauce with pasta. I overcooked the pasta so much that it terrified me out of the kitchen for a good while after!
What inspires you when you cook? Flavour! I find this is particularly with vegan cooking. There’s a lot of trial and error before you get the perfect flavours but once you work out how to replicate things and use weird and wonderful ingredients to your advantage, the possibilities are endless. I like big, bold flavours in my food and cooking with vegetables a lot of the time can get kind of boring so an extensive spice cupboard is a must!
What is the most disgusting thing you’ve ever tried? Easy question – a vegetarian bratwurst from a Berlin Christmas market. I can’t even express how bad the taste was but it was watery, smoky and eggy with sauerkraut and the most overcooked tasteless spinach. The flavour still haunts me when I think about it now.
Dirty Vegan Lasagna with Homemade Garlic Bread
The beauty of this recipe is that you can adapt it as much or as little as you like. You could change the bolognese-style sauce into one with chunky roasted veg instead of soy mince or you could take out the ‘cheese’ sauce and replace it with something even more inventive! The dish is on the expensive side of food to make but lasts for a while (and can be frozen) and will make for the perfect centre-piece at a special meal. I have made this lasagna time and time again for both vegans and non-vegans and the very last morsel has always been scraped from the dish.
For the garlic bread –
3/4 head of Garlic – chopped finely
Garlic powder (optional)
1/2 bunch of Fresh parsley – chopped finely
1/2 bunch of Fresh basil – chopped finely
For the Bolognese-style filling –
Soy Mince (I always use Sainsbury’s frozen veggie mince – it’s £1.50 and delicious)
1 can of plum tomatoes
Tomato pasta sauce of your choice (I tend to use Lloyd Grossman sweet pepper and courgette)
1 medium red onion – medium sliced
2 cloves of Garlic – chopped finely
One stick of celery chopped finely
A handful of frozen peas
One head of broccoli – chopped very small
1 medium carrot – diced
Kale or spring greens (or a leafy veg of choice)
For the ‘cheese’ sauce –
1 tbsp of vegan butter (Vitalite is the best brand for the butteriest taste)
(Just over) 1 tbsp all-purpose or sauce flour
One carton of oat or soy cream (Oatly or Alpro soya are recommended)
A dash of oat milk (or dairy-free alternative of choice)
Nutritional yeast (this is important for the nutty and cheesy flavour)
2/3 of a block of vegan cheese (optional but will add the cheese texture and flavour even more)
Two flat portobella mushrooms – sliced
A handful of Spinach
1/4 bunch of Parsley
2 cloves of Garlic
One small leek
- Add a big glug of olive oil into a deep saucepan and heat until almost spitting.
- Quickly add the onion, celery, carrot and small dash of water to soften. Season well.
- Cook until soft with a slight crunch still in the carrot and add the mince to the pan.
- Stir all ingredients together for around 5-7 minutes, making sure the mince doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the tomato sauce and stir. Leave on a low heat for around ten minutes.
- With a fork, lightly break up 3/4 of a can of plum tomatoes and add into the sauce. At this point add the finely chopped broccoli, kale and peas and mix well.
- Add a small amount of balsamic vinegar and season to taste. If you have any dried herbs lying around (basil, oregano etc), add around a tsp of each for additional flavour. Leave on a medium-low heat until the tomatoes have cooked off a little bit.
- Whilst the ‘bolognese’ is cooking you can begin on the ‘cheese sauce’.
- Begin by adding around 2 tbsp of oil to a pan. Once hot, add the mushrooms, leek, parsley and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms and leeks are soft. Put spinach leaves on top and cover with a lid until the spinach is wilted. Drain off any excess liquid and leave to one side.
- Melt vegan butter on a low heat in a large saucepan. Once melted add the flour in slowly to create a roux.
- Once a roux has been made, slowly add the cream into the pan and raise the temperature slightly. At no point should the sauce start to boil.
- Once you have a very thick sauce slowly add in the milk and whisk until the consistency is to your taste. Add the nutritional yeast and whisk well.
- At this point the sauce will thicken again so you’ll need to add a little more milk. If you’re adding vegan cheese now is the time to do it!
- Wait for the cheese to fully melt and then add in the fried vegetables from earlier.
- Now it’s time to assemble!
- Cover the base of your dish with the leftover, broken up plum tomatoes, and tear some basil leaves – this will help the bottom layer of pasta to cook and will prevent it from sticking to the dish
- Add your layer of lasagna sheets and then a layer of ‘bolognese’. Repeat.
- Once you have two layers of ‘bolognese’ pour a majority of the cheese sauce to create the ‘middle layer’. Add a layer of lasagna sheets and again, repeat. Once you’ve run out of space/bolognese sauce add one final layer of sheets and pour the remaining cheese sauce on top. Add vegan cheese and cover in foil.
- Bake for 30 minutes in the oven.
- Whilst the lasagna is in the oven make the garlic bread. Add oil into a small bowl and mix parsley, minced garlic, basil and the optional garlic powder and stir well. Slice the baguette in diagonal cuts (as you would see in a shop-bought bake-at-home version) and add the garlic-y filling in between each slice. Bake for around 10-15 minutes.
- Once the garlic bread is in the oven, take the foil off the top of the lasagna dish and bake for a further 10-20 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
The next nominee for ‘Finding Food’ will be Liv Carder, manager of Larder, this time next Tuesday. Keep your eye out and your belly empty in anticipation of the next great recipe!