James’ Lentil & Aubergine Lasagne
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
1 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 aubergines, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g can of green lentils, drained
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
6–8 dried lasagne sheets
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the white sauce:
650ml milk, at room temperature, not straight from the fridge
Freshly grated nutmeg
Veg Portions / Serving: 2
Recipe from James May’s Oh Cook!: 60 easy recipes that any idiot can make, published by Pavilion Books. Photography by Martin Poole.
Our witless and trusting bovine chums will thank you for making this vegetarian interpretation of the stratified minced beef, pasta and sauce standard. This version is better than you might think. Chop the aubergine and pepper very thoroughly in the ‘chopper upperer’ as you want a nice dense filling. Be meticulous about trimming your pasta sheets to fit your oven dish. You don’t want any crusty bits sticking out.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and cook until it softens – around 4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes. Keep stirring, you halfwit.
Add the aubergine and cook for another 5 minutes, until it starts to go brown. Throw in the pepper, tomatoes and lentils. Season and cook gently for 30 minutes. If the mixture becomes a bit dry, add a splash of water. Once cooked, stir in the chopped parsley and let it cool.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas 6.
To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan without letting it burn, then whisk in the flour, a little at a time, stirring until it’s well incorporated. It should stick together but not quite form a ball. Cook for a few minutes, whisking constantly, so the flour cooks out.
Slowly whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until it thickens. Keep stirring, then add in some freshly grated nutmeg.
In your baking dish, layer the veg sauce, followed by pasta, followed by more veg sauce, followed by white sauce. Add another layer of pasta and then repeat the layers, finishing with the white sauce. Trim and arrange the pasta sheets so there are no ugly bits sticking out.
Scatter the cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Serve on plates with cutlery. [!]
Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating.
Kids in the kitchen
Have the kids help you with assembling the lasagne by layering up the ingredients and scattering the cheese over the top. Older kids could help you with the cooking process by adding ingredients to the pan and stirring safely with careful supervision – a great way to learn about kitchen safety.
While getting kids to interact with veggies for real and using their senses to explore them is best, encouraging hands off activities like arts & crafts, puzzles & games or at-home science experiments can be a great start, particularly for those who are fussier eaters or struggle with anything too sensory. Use these veg-themed activities as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. We have loads of crafty downloads here, puzzles here, and quirky science with veg here.
Once you feel your child is ready to engage a little more, you can show them how to explore the veg you have on hand with their senses, coming up with playful silly descriptions of how a veg smells, feels, looks, sounds and perhaps even tastes. Find ideas, videos and some simple sensory education session ideas to get you started here.
The moments before food is offered can be a perfect opportunity for engagement that can help make it more likely a child will eat it! Giving children a sense of ownership in the meal can make a big difference to their feelings going into it and the pride they take in it. You know your child best, but if you aren’t sure where to start, we have some fun and simple ideas for easy roles you can give them in the serving process over here.
Jeanette Orrey MBE