At one rather lavish dinner party I attended, the conversation focussed on the food being presented and its preparation.
Recipes were discussed and shared.
The hostess addressed me:
“What’s your favourite recipe Alison?”
Favourite recipe? I don’t do recipes. I just cook.
I racked my brain for a recipe. Any recipe.
Gasp. Silence. Delicacies balanced precariously on forks frozen in mid-air. All eyes that were not cast downward in shame gazed at me, mouths agape.
Realising my remark needed explanation to rescue these poor souls from the apparent guilt of their extravagance, I quickly explained:
” Well, I live alone you know. No need to keep a fridge chocker-block full. And I don’t really use recipes, I just make it up as I go along, and whenever my fridge is empty, I’m forced to be more creative and I always come up with the best dishes.”
More gasps. This time of relief.
“Isn’t she clever!”
The room erupted with laughter. Food was quickly ushered into patient mouths.
“So tell us, one recipe Alison.”
Here then friends, is a recipe evolved from one of those empty fridge sessions. This one was so good the first time I made it, I actually bought ingredients to make it again.
Let me know how it works out for you.
- 125 grams fresh, baby spinach leaves (washed and spun to remove excess water)
- 225 grams thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
- 3 thinly sliced small fresh tomatoes
- 1 roasted eggplant (aubergine), peeled and torn into thin strips
I had a baked one in the fridge when I made the recipe a second time, though the first time there was no eggplant and it was still delicious, so if you have no eggplant around or can’t bother to pre-bake one, leave it out.
- pesto sauce thinned with milk
The remains of a bottle rinsed with milk, but go on, use the bottle when there’s a good dollop left in the bottom!
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely slivered
I prefer slivers to minced as while eating you get occasional sparks of intense garlic, yet the garlic hasn’t overwhelmed some of the more delicate flavours.
- salt, pepper, herbs
- 100 grams haloumi cheese, thinly sliced
In the empty fridge version I used organic mature Farmhouse cheddar, which has a sharper taste, which I think is preferable. Use your favourite cheese.
- 2 ripe pears, peeled and thinly sliced
In the 1st version, I had only one pear and it was enough, two is divine
- seasoned olive oil
The left over oil from a jar of sun ripened tomatoes, this one had herbs, I think mostly basil, and garlic – that’s right save it and use it. I never throw away anything like that!
- no cook spinach lasagne noodles
I used the Co-operative brand
- hot peppers
- green olives
- Preheat oven to 200C
- Drizzle the oil in the bottom of a baking dish
- Cover with a single layer of lasagne noodles, avoid overlapping (use a noodle to spread the oil around)
- Cover with the spinach (reserve about a quarter of the spinach for the top layer) and drizzle with a little more of the oil
- Lightly sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt, black pepper
Go easy on the salt and pepper as this is added to various layers.
- Add the mushrooms, dot with about half the garlic, and sprinkle again with salt and pepper,
- Add another layer of noodles and press down to squish the spinach and musrooms and make room for the next layer
- layer the tomatoes on top of this, sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs
- lay the strips of roasted eggplant on top of that, salt, pepper, dot with remaining garlic
- put the remaining spinach leaves on top of that
- add another layer of noodles
- drizzle the milky pesto sauce on top of that
- cover with thinly sliced pears
- top with thinly sliced haloumi
- dot with hot peppers and whole green olives
- loosely cover with aluminium foil
- bake for 1 hour
After about 25 minutes turn the oven down to 175.
Remove the tinfoil for the last 15 minutes to grill the cheese.
…then turn the oven off, recover, and leave in the hot oven for another 15-30 minutes.
If you have a warming oven you may want to put the lasagne there. You want to keep it warm/hot while the noodles on the bottom absorb the juice. You don’t want it to dry out.
When I made this the first time I used the type of noodles you have to pre-cook. The second time, it smelled too delicious and I was way too hungry to let it sit, and the bottom layer of noodles were still a bit hard. Then I went out for the evening and when I came home had a little piece, and the noodles were completely softened. So although I haven’t yet tried leaving it sit in the oven, I think this will work. Play around with it. Let me know how it works out for you.