Saturday, 23 April 2011

Aubergine Lasagne

More than a month after the Canada trip I'm still battling to lose those extra pounds. That's canadian pancakes up there. For breakfast. With bacon. In case you wondered what exactly I ate to gain them.
My newest angle is metabolic typing, and according to that, I need more protein and wayyyy less carbs. So, I'm aiming for a low calorie high protein content in my food. Not easy, I tell you.

Pasta? Off the plan. Bread? Suddenly a guilty pleasure. And it's not like you can just dig in the bacon and egg, either - too much fat, and you overshoot your calorie goal. And that's the tricky part - not a lot of protein rich food out there that doesn't also contain a lot of fat.

Well, nobody said it's gonna be easy. All a girl can do is try, right?

So here comes my lasagne - I substituted the lasagna sheets with dried aubergine (that's eggplant, for you american folks). It wasn't perfect, but worked out pretty well for a first try. Things to make better: more aubergine slices, and possibly take off the skin - they turned out a bit chewy, which I mostly liked (and suspect will be fine tomorrow, when I reheat the lasagne). But worth a try to see if leaving the aubergine skin out makes it better.

Aubergine Lasagne (feeds 4):

1 large Aubergine (keeping in mind my previous statement about improvement, you might wanna go with two)

500g lean beef mince
1.5 cups of cooked Lal Chori Dal (Cow beans)
1 small red onion
1 rib of celery
1 clove of garlic
1 can of chopped tomatos
2 tbsp of tomato paste
some water

2 tbsp of butter
all purpose flour
1 cube chicken stock

salt, pepper, chili flakes or powder, paprika powder, ketchup
grated cheese (in my case, mature cheddar)

Step One:
This can be done the day before you make the lasagna. Or at any point, really, as you can easily freeze the dried aubergine slices.
Slice the aubergine thinly lengthwise (not more than 5mm). Salt sparingly, lay out on a tray lined with baking sheet and put it into the oven. Turn once after a couple of hours. At 80C mine took about 4 hours. They should be dry, but not crisp.

Step Two:
Cook Chori Dal. For above mentioned reasons, my tomato sauce is half beef, half lentils - you can mix like I did, go full veggie by omitting the beef, or leave the lentils out. Up to you :D
If you use the Chori Dal (more protein, more fibre, less fat ... not that I'm preaching!), clean them carefully. Soak for at least 2 hours, better overnight. I used 1.5 cups dried lentils, and had leftovers for a salad. Put them on to cook with ample water covering them. Don't salt them just now, that stops them from getting tender. If you like, you can flavor them with bay leave, garlic, chili, other herbs. I used a bay leave, a chili and a slice of ginger.

Step Three:
Make bolognese.
Chop the onion, the garlic and the celery finely. Fry in a pan over medium heat until soft, add beef mince, turn heat up and fry till browned. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika. Add tomato paste, the can of tomatos, and some water if it's not saucy enough.
Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Add a splash of ketchup.

Step Four:
Make bechamel sauce.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add flour - I apologize for being a bit cryptic on measurements here, but I never measure. I learned to make this by "adding flour till it forms a ball", and that's still how I make it. Well, actually, I'm going for a less bally than thick pasty look of butter-flour-mix these days, but you get the drift. So, add flour until it nearly forms a ball (ha!), then add a splash of milk. Stir with a whisk. Add more milk. Stir more. Go on like this, adding a bit of milk at a time (about 2 tbsp) until you have a thick, but liquid sauce. Add more milk to desired consistency (Gluey - you know, not fully liquid, but by no means like pudding. That's how I call it, anyways. Thick cream would work, too).
Season with salt, pepper, and a crumbled chicken stock cube - you might want to add a piece at a time, to avoid overdoing it. In my case, it came out needing one exactly.

Step Five:
Start with a layer of beef-lentil-sauce. Layer the auberine slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with bechamel. Another layer of aubergine. Then more tomato sauce. Drizzle some bechamel over it, top with cheese.
Into the oven it goes, at 180C for 30 - 40 minutes.

Step Six:
Food coma. I'll leave this to your imagination :D

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Soy mince bolognese

While I thought I'd blog a lot more when taking a sabbatical between jobs, the opposite happened ... then the new job started with a 4 week trip to Kelowna, Canada, and I realized that I never stayed in a hotel for 4 weeks. Nor do I wish to repeat the experience. It sounds quite luxurious to eat out every night (and morning and lunch), but in fact it's rather depressing. The food was good, mind you, it just wasn't my food. And of course I put on an undisclosed amount of extra weight.

Which is why now a lot more vegetables are featuring on my menu. And low-calorie substitutes for staples. Like soy mince for beef mince.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe:

Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce 

1 pack of soy mince
700 ml pureed tomatoes (a big tin of canned tomatoes will work, too)
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium carrot
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chili (optional)
1/2 cup of red wine (optional)
a handful of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh basil
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil 
 salt, paprika, black pepper

If you use them, soak the mushrooms for at least 15 minutes in cold water.
Cube the onion and carrot, finely chop the garlic and chili.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and fry gently until translucent. Add the chili, garlic, and carrot. Add a sprinkling of salt, and continue to fry for another few minutes. Add the soy mince (be careful to read the instructions, they do differ, some ask for being soaked.), fry shortly, then add the wine. Let the wine cook away a bit, then add the tomatoe puree or tomatoes.
Bring to a boil, turn heat down low. Add bay leaves, sugar and the chopped mushrooms. For a bit earthier flavour, you can also add the soaking water. 
Let the whole lot simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the sauce has the desired consistency.
Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste, and the basil. Serve over spaghetti with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.