week 6

FRIDAY: dinner out
SATURDAY: lasagne + caesar salad
SUNDAY: shrimp & sweet potato curry
MONDAY: black bean burgers + potato rounds
TUESDAY: lamb burgers + greek salad
WEDNESDAY: thai yellow curry +
THURSDAY: kale tahini bowls

i’ve been making vegetarian lasagne of late. it’s easy and delicious. but my son was whinging for either a meat sauce version or my friend’s pesto chicken version. i’d planned on making a traditional meat sauce one but then i realised i don’t actually really like the recipe i’ve been using for years. which i suppose explains why i’ve been only making vegetarian lasagne of late. 😏

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my friend served this pesto chicken lasagne at a dinner party some time ago and i set about recreating it. saturday night was my second attempt and i think i actually got it. i served it with halved sun gold tomatoes tossed in olive oil and salt instead of kale salad cos i was too lazy. also, colour 🍅🍅🍅

pesto chicken lasagne

pesto:

1 cup packed basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, halved
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste

béchamel sauce:

50 g butter (i use salted)
50 g all purpose flour
1¾ cup milk, warmed (i used skim milk – higher fat will result in a thicker sauce, just add a bit more to get the right consistency)
1 egg yolk
50 g freshly grated parmesan
pinch nutmeg
freshly cracked salt and pepper, to taste

chicken filling:

2 chicken breasts
½ tsp coarse salt
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chicken stock, and more if needed
freshly cracked salt and pepper, to taste

assembly:

12 whole wheat lasagne noodles (i always cook a few extra to fill in any holes when assembling)
1 – 500 g tub ricotta
1 egg
1 cup shredded mozzarella

first things first: pre-heat your oven to 375°F; and bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil.

make the pesto:

add the basil, garlic, and pine nuts to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. with the motor running, add the oil in a stream and process until fully incorporated and smooth. season with salt and pepper. transfer about ¼ cup of pesto from food processor and place it in a small mixing bowl; set aside.

make the béchamel sauce:

melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. while it’s melting, warm the milk. add flour all at once to the melted butter and stir quickly to combine. cook and stir for a few minutes but make sure it doesn’t brown.

add a few tablespoons of warmed milk, just enough to moisten the flour/butter mixture and stir thoroughly. add the remaining milk, whisking constantly and vigorously, till thickened. remove from heat.

add egg yolk and mix well. add nutmeg and salt & pepper, to taste.

make the chicken filling:

arrange the chicken in a single layer on the bottom of a pot. it’s okay if they overlap a little bit. sprinkle salt over top. pour in enough water to cover chicken by an inch or two. place pot on stove over medium-high heat, and bring water to boil. reduce heat and simmer for about 10 or so minutes (i make a cut to see if it’s cooked all the way through). remove chicken from poaching water and rest on cutting board.

meanwhile, in small skillet, warm the oil. add chopped onion and cook till transparent, about 5 minutes. add garlic and stir for another minute. add a good splash of chicken stock to loosen and get any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. season with salt & pepper.

chop the poached chicken into small pieces and place in medium mixing bowl. add onion & garlic mixture and pesto sauce from food processor, plus about ¼ cup béchamel sauce and stir well. add enough chicken stock to achieve desired consistency.

assemble the lasagne:

meanwhile, cook lasagne noodles for about 5 minutes. i find them easier to work with when they’re slightly undercooked. drain in colander.

in small mixing bowl, beat the egg. add ricotta and mix well.

lightly grease a 9 x 13″ casserole dish. take a couple spoonfuls of béchamel and coat bottom of dish. then layer 3 noodles on top. evenly distribute half of pesto chicken mixture on top. layer 3 more noodles on top. spoon ricotta mixture on top and spread evenly. layer 3 more noodles. add remaining chicken mixture and distribute evening. last 3 noodles on top. using a spatula, spread remaining béchamel over top noodles, and then added grated mozzarella.

remember that small bowl of pesto? add a bit of chicken stock to thin it out to a pourable consistency and drizzle that on top of the lasagne.

cover pan with aluminium foil. now bake that whole thing in your preheated 375° oven for about 20 minutes. remove foil and rotate pan 180 degrees. continue baking for another 15 minutes till top is bubbly. remove from oven and let sit for about 15 minutes. that’s always the hard part for me but it slices way easier and you’re less likely to burn your mouth off.

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years ago a friend of ours went to vietnam on holiday. we lived vicariously through her pictures and stories. she emailed me a recipe for vietnamese shrimp & sweet potato curry and for whatever reason, i never made it. oh sure i’d pull it out and look at it every now and then but i guess i found it intimidating so would file it away. not sure what made me finally make it one day, but my goodness! we LOVED it! perhaps it takes a bit of time, what with all the chopping, and yes you do have to make a quick caramel, but that’s easy! it’s the perfect combination of heat hot and spicy hot, especially with this colder weather. i will probably make this a bunch of times between now and spring.

vietnamese shrimp & sweet potato curry

2 Tbsp hot Indian curry powder, or garam masala
1 Tbsp ground turmeric
1 lb. medium-sized raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 large shallots, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp gingerroot, freshly grated
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, finely diced
1-2 thai red chiles, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried chili flakes)
3 Tbsp fish sauce
400 ml coconut milk
1 cup water (a little less than ⅔ of the coconut milk can)
3 medium sweet potatoes (approx 2 lbs), peeled and cut into ¾” cubes
3 Tbsp sugar (i used coconut sugar)
1 small bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch thai basil, coarsely chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

in a small bowl, mix together curry powder and ground turmeric. mix half of spice mix with shrimp and coat well. set aside.

heat coconut oil in a flat-bottomed wok or large saucepan over medium heat. add shallots, garlic, ginger and lemongrass and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.

add remaining spice mixture and chiles; stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. add fish sauce, coconut milk, water and sweet potatoes; mix to combine. bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer, cover and cook until sweet potatoes are soft yet firm.

while sweet potatoes are simmering, make a caramel sauce by heating the sugar in a small saucepan with 1 tbsp of water, over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup turns golden.

when sweet potatoes are soft yet firm, mix in shrimp and caramel, and continue to simmer  4-5 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft and shrimp is cooked through. season to taste with salt & pepper; stir in half of the chopped cilantro and basil. transfer to serving dish and garnish with remaining herbs.

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tried out a new recipe on tuesday night: lamb burgers with mint-feta pesto. i looked high and low for mini pitas to stuff these into but couldn’t find them anywhere so we went pita-less. didn’t matter; they were tasty as is!! bonus points for being quick and easy to make.  ground lamb mixed with a bunch of chopped herbs, garlic, shallot and dijon mustard. grilled on the bbq and then topped with a super yummy pesto. i served them with a simple greek salad on the side, plus some roasted rainbow carrots from my garden and cipollini onions from the farmers market. two thumbs up. will definitely be making this again. with or without the pitas. (altho truth be told: they DO look really good stuffed in pita with shredded lettuce and feta.)

and that’s it. the rest of the week was a bit of a  bust… thank goodness for leftovers.

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