I promised myself that I wouldn’t join any new blog challenges this year. I participate in too many already. But then the ever wonderful Vanesther from Bangers & Mash launched Recipes for Life and I just couldn’t say no.
For not only is this challenge brilliantly creative, but it is also for a good cause. Vanesther has teamed up with SWALLOW, an amazing charity that supports adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives. As part of their remit, SWALLOW run cookery courses to help their members prepare simple, inexpensive and nutritious meals. And this is where Recipes for Life comes in.
Each month Vanesther will be calling for tasty, wholesome and easy-to-cook recipes that revolve around three main ingredients. The best of these recipes will be featured on the SWALLOW cookery courses and may even be included in a new charity cookbook to be published by SWALLOW later this year.
For February, Vanesther is calling for recipes that include sausages, onions and tomatoes. Other accompanying ingredients are allowed but they need to be basic, store cupboard items.
For us food bloggers who have a tendency towards the experimental, creating a simple dish can pose a challenge in itself. So I’m not 100% confident that my lasagne fits the bill. It’s certainly tasty, wholesome and pretty inexpensive. But is it the easiest dish in the world to make? Well, no, probably not.
But I’ve decided to submit it because in many ways, this recipe is about more than just a single dish. Because if you can make a tasty tomato sauce and a simple white sauce then you are half way there to producing so many other dishes. I’m thinking cauliflower cheese, bolognese, mac n’ cheese and a whole host of other pasta dishes.
Plus lasagnes are so easily adaptable. You could of course use minced beef in place of the sausage or my personal veggie favourite – butternut and blue cheese.
The method of making tomato sauce that I have used here is a recent discovery for me. It comes from Dinner with Julie via Korena in the Kitchen and it’s truly brilliant. Who knew that you could make such a delicious pasta sauce with just a tin of tomatoes, an onion and some butter?
For the white sauce, I have used cornflour rather than regular flour as I find it a little more forgiving. But that’s the good thing about lasagne. If your white sauce is a little lumpy, you won’t really notice in the finished dish! As an alternative, you could try a trusted Jamie Olive tip of using a tub of creme fraiche mixed with a little milk instead. Easier but a little less thrifty.
If you can stretch to a jar of fennel seeds for your store cupboard, they make a good lasagne something really special. But feel free to leave them out if you wish.
- 400g tin of tomatoes
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
- 100g butter
- 4 tbsp cornflour
- 600ml milk
- 8 skinny sausages or 6 fat ones (pork, lamb or beef are all good)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional but good!)
- 6 lasagne sheets
- generous handful of grated cheddar cheese (about 75g)
- salt and pepper
1. Put the tomatoes and onion in a small pan with half of the butter. Cover and simmer whilst you prepare the other ingredients (or until the onion is soft.) Using a stick blender, puree the onion and tomatoes to make a smooth sauce.
2. Melt the remaining butter in another small pan over a low heat. Stir in the cornflour. Add the milk a little at a time whisking quickly after each addition. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Remove the skins from the sausages and place the sausage meat in a frying pan with the fennel seeds if using. Fry over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, breaking the meat up every so often with a wooden spoon. It needn’t be cooked through but you do want some nice crispy golden bits to start forming. Remove from the heat.
4. Pour a third of the white sauce into a deep baking dish (about 20cm x 20cm) then place 2 lasagne sheets side by side on the bottom. Scatter over half the sausage meat then pour over half of the tomato sauce. Top with two more lasagne sheets and another third of the white sauce, followed by a layer of sausage meat and the rest of the tomato sauce. Finish with the remaining lasagne sheets and white sauce.
5. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake at 180C/160C fan for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.