January calls for comfort food

January is a miserable month, in my opinion, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s also the month of my birthday, so I need to make an effort to stay positive. It’s now getting too cold for gardening – we are hovering at zero degrees C or just below, without the upside of actual snow. To compensate, there is reading and eating, both essential for good winter hibernation.

So here’s a meal that really lifted my spirits this dismal Monday in January, and whilst being classic oven-baked comfort food, is a healthy version. If anyone’s looking to cut down on meat and minimise dairy, as well as increase fibre, I recommend it. The wholewheat lasagne pasta actually makes it even tastier, it got the thumbs up from my somewhat fussy 13 year old as well as my slightly less fussy but not-a-natural-vegetarian husband.

Healthy Veg and Feta Lasagne

The recipe if anyone’s interested (this serves 3 people):

  • 8 or 9 strips of wholewheat dry lasagne sheets
  • 2 finely cut shallots
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • a generous handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tin of whole tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of dried herbs: herbs de provence, dried celery and sage
  • Salt and pepper
  • One pack of fresh feta cheese
  • Basic bechamel sauce: 1 tablespoon plain flour, 250 ml milk, 2 bay leaves

Method: Heat your oven to 180 degrees. Fry the shallots in vegetable oil until soft, then add the garlic and red pepper. Add the spices, then the mushrooms. When the veg softens slightly, add the tinned tomatoes, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste (just a pinch of salt, as the feta is quite salty). Allow to simmer while you make the bechamel sauce. Heat some vegetable oil in a pan, add the flour, then stirring quickly, add the milk, stir continuously to avoid lumps. Crumble one third of the feta cheese into the sauce and add the bay leaves. Allow to thicken.

Find an oven-proof dish, and add some of the tomato-veg sauce to cover the bottom. Layer 2 or 3 sheets of lasagne on top, then top with more tomato-veg sauce, followed by a layer of bechamel sauce. Continue to make layers in this way. For the third and final layer, top with bechamel and then place strips of the remaining feta cheese on top.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Serve with a fresh green salad. We had watercress and tomatoes. Feel duly comforted!