Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chicken, lentil and vegetable lasagna

Suprisingly this might be one of the best lasagnas I have ever eaten, and the men and the kids happily ate it too (well the 4yr picked out the spinach). It sounds a bit healthy but all the white sauce and cheese makes up for that and it is very filling and full of vegies. This is based on a lentil lasagna recipe from the back of an Edgell's tin that my friend Jenny (also the source of the fantastic brownie recipe) gave me. I have made the original version which was good but it was even better with chicken. I am still off red meat so this satisfied my lasagna craving without having to cook beef mince. I prepared the lasagna last night, then tonight I just had to put it in the oven, so easy.
Chicken, lentil and vegetable lasagna
serves 6+
This makes a large dish of lasagna (mine is 20x30cm), if you don't need that much then halve the recipe or cook two smaller lasagnas and freeze one, or freeze half the sauce for next time you want lasagna. You will need a very large frying pan with high sides to cook the sauce, if yours isn't then fry each step in a frypan then transfer to a larger pot.You could use any meat in place of the chicken or leave it out, and add whatever vegies you like or have.

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/3 sweet potato, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 zucchini, finely diced
1/2 eggplant, finely diced
alternate vegetable options: mushrooms, pumpkin...
500g chicken mince
400g tin of brown lentils, undrained
800g tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
handful basil, chopped
2 packets lasagna sheets (enough for 3 layers in your dish)
handful grated mozzarella
White Sauce (if including spinach ricotta layer you will only need 2 C worth)
90g butter
5 tbsp flour
3 C milk
3 handfuls grated cheese (tasty or mozzarella)
Spinach and Ricotta layer (optional)
200g ricotta
3 C baby spinach, stems removed

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and fry onion, carrot and sweet potato over low heat until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Scrape onion mix into a bowl (or larger pan if your frypan is too small).

Heat a bit more oil in the frypan and fry zucchini and eggplant over medium heat until browning and softened. Add to onion mix.

Fry chicken mince, breaking it up as it cooks. When nearly cooked through add vegetables back in. Add lentils, tomatoes and paste, simmer for 15 minutes.

To make bechamel, melt butter in a saucepan. Add flour and stir with a whisk for a couple of minutes. Gradually add milk and continuing whisking to form a smooth paste. Continue stirring over low heat until thickened.

Microwave the spinach to wilt (about 30 seconds). Then pat dry on a teatowel and chop. Stir through the ricotta.

To assemble, spread a little lentil sauce over the base of a 20 x 30 cm lasagne dish. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, a 1/3 of the lentil sauce and a 1/3 of the white sauce. Repeat layering, replacing the white sauce in this layer with spinach and ricotta mix if using (it is easier to layer this first then lentil sauce). Finish layers with lentil sauce, white sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

You can make it in advance up to this point and refridgerate, I prepared it the night before.

Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C (375 F) for 25 to 30 minutes, longer if it has been refridgerated.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yum cha feast - dumplings, prawn toasts and wontons

I am finally feeling better and actually feel like cooking. So on Friday I gave up my opportunity to sleep, in order to prepare a feast of yum cha goodies. I have been craving dumplings for some time and given there is nowhere to get good ones where I live I had to make my own. The menu included prawn wontons, crispy prawn wontons, pork potsticker dumplings and sesame prawn toasts.
The prawn wontons and sesame prawn toasts were the picks of the night. They really don't take that long to make (when you don't make four things at once with two different sauces) so I will definitely be making them again soon.

We ate them one course at a time and  they were so tempting once cooked I didn't remember to take a photo of everything, need to work on this blogging thing!

Prawn wontons with spring onion, ginger and vinegar dressing
makes 16 small wontons, beware this may not be enough! The dressing is really delicious and makes the dish. I forgot to photograph these twice, on the night and when we ate the leftovers!

300 g (~9) uncooked prawns, peeled, deveined and diced (~150g prawn meat)
1 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaf
1 tbsp finely sliced spring onion scallions
1½ tsp finely diced Ginger
1 tsp shaohsing wine or dry sherry
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Oyster sauce
¼ tsp white sugar
¼ tsp Sesame Oil
16 fresh wonton wrappers about 7cm square ( I used shanghai wonton wrappers)
2½ tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp coriander roots and stems, finely sliced
2 tbsp ginger, finely diced
2 tbsp spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp kecap manis
2 tbsp malt or rice vinegar
¼ tsp chilli Oil or chopped chilli
1/2 tsp sesame Oil

Combine soy sauce, coriander, ginger, spring onions, kecap manis, vinegar and both oils in a bowl and set aside.

Combine prawn meat and remaining ingredients, except wonton wrappers, in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Next fill and shape the wontons. You can just brush the edges with water and fold in half to form a triangle, or try some of these shapes:
Gold ingots
8 wonton shapes 

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drop wontons, in batches, into the water and cook for 2 minutes or until wontons are just cooked through. To test the wontons you will need to remove one using a slotted spoon and cut it through with a sharp knife to see if the prawns are just cooked through.

Remove wontons with a slotted spoon and drain. Repeat process with remaining wontons.

Arrange wontons on a platter or in individual bowls and serve immediately drizzled with dressing.
Recipe by Kylie Kwong on Lifestyle Food
Crispy Prawn Wontons with Sweet Chilli Vinegar Sauce
These are the same wonton recipe as above, only deep fried with a different sauce. I used egg wonton wrappers which deep fry really well.

1 C rice wine vinegar
3/4 C white sugar
5 tbsp fish sauce
2 large red chilli's finely sliced on the diagonal
vegetable oil for deep frying

Place vinegar and sugar in a medium-sized heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced by almost half and slightly syrupy. Remove from stove, stir in fish sauce and chillies and set aside.
Prepare wontons.

Heat oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly (you don't want it too hot as they will brown quickly but not cook through). Add wontons in batches and deep-fry for about 2 minutes or until just cooked through and lightly browned. To test the wontons you will need to remove one using a slotted spoon and cut it through with a sharp knife to see if the prawns are just cooked through.

Remove wontons with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen paper. Repeat process with remaining wontons.

Serve immediately with a bowl of sweet chilli dipping sauce.
Recipe by Kylie Kwong on Lifestyle Food

Pork Potsticker Dumplings
makes about 20. These are those dumplings with a crispy base and soft steamed topped, the Japanese version are known as gyoza.

3 dried chinese mushrooms
250g pork mince (you can substitute some of this for prawns)
1/4 C coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced or grated
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
3 water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 pkt gyoza, gow gee or wonton wrappers

Soak the mushroom in warm water for 20 minues, then squeeze out water. Remove stem and finely chop.

Combine remaining ingredients (except wrappers).

Lay out a wrapper and brush the edges with water. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre. Fold up the edges and pinch together to seal, gathering one side as you go.

Heat a dash of oil in a non-stick frypan (for which you have a lid) and add dumplings, cook on medium high heat until the bottoms are golden brown, about a minute or two. Pour in 1/2 C of water and quickly cover, the steam with cook the dumplings through for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until liquid is evaporated and bottoms are crisp. You don't want to over cook as this will make them tough.

Serve with a sauce of soy sauce with a dash of chinese black vinegar, or with the ginger, spring onion and vinegar dressing above.

Sesame Prawn Toast
makes 12. I served these with the sweet vinegar chilli sauce above. This is a photo of them before they are fried. Once fried we ate them too quickly to photograph, sorry!

6 slices white bread, stale or lightly toasted, crust removed halved into rectangles or triangles
500g prawns, peeled and deveined (~250g prawn meat)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg white
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds
oil for deep frying

Set aside 6 prawns, halfing them down the middle.

Place remaining prawns, garlic, ginger, spring onions, sugar, salt, egg white and sesame oil into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. You can do this in advance.

Spread a tablespoon of paste on each piece of bread and spread to the edges with a mound in the middle. Lay one reserved prawn half on top. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Heat oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Fry pieces a few at a time, about 1 minute each side until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with dipping sauce.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bacon, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach pasta

I watched SBS Italian Food Safari a couple of weeks ago and Guy Grossi made a yummy looking pasta with broccoli, rapa and pancetta. Of course his was on hand made orrechiete! There you go, I just found it on the website, it was called Orecchiette con cime di rapa.

We always have bacon in the fridge (it makes a good meal at any time of day!), and mostly broccoli so I made my own version, also with cauliflower, silverbeet from the garden and rashers of bacon. One of my daughters likes broccoli and the other cauliflower, so this way I can split it between them and everyone is happy. Neither like spinach so I just pick that out of theirs, or scoop out their sauce before I add it.

Pasta with Bacon, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Spinach
serves 2-3 adults or a family of 2 adults and small children that don't eat very much!
1/2 packet of pasta
olive oil
4 rashers bacon, chopped into strips
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 head broccoli
1/4 head cauliflower
large handful of spinach, silverbeet or baby spinach leaves
handful parsley leaves, chopped
parmesan, grated

Cut the broccoli and cauliflower in quite small florets and then finely chop the stalks.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the pasta and cauliflower florets. Add the broccoli florets halfway through the cooking time, they need atleast 5 minutes.

Meanwhile in a large frying pan heat olive oil and fry bacon for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat down and add garlic, chilli and finely chopped stalks. You want to cook this slowly to cook the stalks through, if the garlic starts to burn add a little water. Add spinach and cook to wilt.

When the pasta is cooked, drain but retain some of the cooking water (just put a bowl under the colander). Add to the frying pan and turn to coat, add enough of the cooking water to keep moist and maybe a slurp of cook olive oil. Add parlsey and a handful of parmesan, season to taste and mix.

Serve with more grated parmesan. If you haven't added chilli because you are sharing with little people you might like to add a sprinkle of dried or fresh chilli now.