Look at that piece of sunshine on a plate – a tried and tested antidote to this week’s grey skies and continuous rain.
These past couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting on how life might have been. An old friend described ‘sliding doors moments’ – when a last minute decision or event, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s missed train, literally changes your life completely. I was reminded of two such moments over Easter.
Twenty years ago I decided pretty last minute to attend a student pharmacy conference – my planned sailing trip had been cancelled and I had both money and time on my hands. I literally can’t imagine my life had I chosen not to go – most of our Christmas card list and Facebook friends are from my time with the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association - along with stories I won’t ever tell my mother or my children (including my bench in Bath, the lock-in in London, precisely which part of my anatomy was elected Chair of the Curry & Kebab Committee…). This weekend saw me celebrating at the 70th Annual Conference Ball – our dance moves haven’t changed in 20 years!
My other sliding doors moment was opening our home about eight years ago to a completely unknown person. As part of a year’s internship with our church, Rachel needed somewhere to live and Jonathan and I stepped up. Only after agreeing the details, which included providing an evening meal, did we learn that Rachel was a vegetarian – and us with our passion for raw fish and rare meat – oops.
The tale of Rachel (a lifetime vegetarian) and her conversion to a carnivore is a highlight in no 41′s annals. She swears it wasn’t us, rather the rotisserie chicken in the local supermarket and the doorstopper sandwiches in Dene’s Deli that tempted her (but I can’t deny we weren’t a little bit relieved!).
Last week Rachel’s parents came over to visit – what with one thing and another they stayed with us – and that slight anxiety returned. More than one vegetarian meal required. Feeding ‘proper’ vegetarians. The people that taught the person who taught me how to vary your protein intake (Rachel didn’t turn to meat the minute she moved in, I had a good six weeks of lessons). The tried and tested couldn’t be served three nights running!
This lasagne is based on Delia’s Spinach & Ricotta Lasagne, except I’ve bumped up the veggies and cut down on the cheese (good for protein, not so good for the waistline, although it did allow me to serve Nigella’s Schiacciata with gorgonzola and pine nuts alongside). Using a mandoline to give paper thin slices means you don’t need to precook the courgettes, a trick I also use with my courgette and quinoa tart.
- 1 oz butter
- 1½ oz flour
- 1 pint milk
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 300g spinach
- 250g ricotta
- 500g courgettes, thinly sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 125g fresh lasagne sheets
- 4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C
- Butter a small lasagne dish (mine measured 11 inches by 7 inches)
- Start with your béchamel sauce - heat your butter gently in a medium pan and stir in the flour when its melted. Cook your roux for a few minutes. Slowly add the milk until you have a smooth sauce. Season with salt, pepper and the freshly grated nutmeg.
- Wilt the spinach however you prefer (I like to blitz it in the bag in the microwave as it retains some bulk and you don't need to squeeze out shed loads of fluid).
- Mix the spinach with the ricotta and season with salt and pepper.
- Time to assemble the lasagne!
- Spread a quarter of the béchamel sauce on the bottom of the dish and cover with lasagne sheets. Spread half the spinach and ricotta mix on top.
- Next create a layer of courgette slices - you should use half the courgettes so it may be two or even three thick in places.
- Cover with a quarter of the béchamel sauce and another layer of lasagne sheets.
- And again with the rest of the spinach and ricotta, the rest of the courgettes, another quarter of the white sauce and the final lasagne sheets.
- Finish with the last quarter of béchamel and sprinkle over the parmesan.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes until it is bubbling and golden brown.
- Rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.