Butternut squash lasagna

Butternut squash is in season right now and is one of my favourite veg with good reason – it’s high in cancer-fighting antioxidants and chock full of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, E and B1, 3, 6 and 9, plus magnesium, potassium and manganese.

Lasagna is one of the great comfort foods. You can make this much better for you without losing any taste by swapping the regular lasagna pasta sheets for thinly sliced butternut squash. It’s still got the same delicious cheesy sauce and is both low carb and gluten free.

 

INGREDIENTS

300g Tomato sauce (if you want to make your own, check out the recipe below. For speed, you could opt for a herby passata, from supermarkets)

400g thinly sliced butternut squash (buy this ready-done from supermarkets or use a mandolin to slice your own)

1tbsp ghee or extra virgin olive oil

700g minced meat (beef or pork)

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp sea salt or pink Himalayan salt

A few generous grinds of black pepper

500g ricotta cheese

2 large eggs

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

230g grated mozzarella

45g grated parmesan

 

METHOD

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

If you’re cutting the butternut squash yourself, use a mandolin to cut to about 1/4cm thick.

Put the oil or ghee in a large non-stick pan and add the minced meat, cooking for 5-7 mins, stirring frequently.

Add half the tomato sauce and the dried oregano. Season with half the salt and pepper.

Next make the cheesy ricotta layer by mixing the ricotta, eggs, and chopped fresh herbs. Season with the remaining salt and another grind of pepper.

Spread the rest of the tomato sauce on the bottom of your dish (choose one about 26 x 7cms). Add a layer of butternut squash (you’ll have three butternut squash layers in total).

Spread half the mince mixture on the top followed by half the ricotta mix on top of that.

Add a second butternut squash layer followed by the remaining mince and the remaining ricotta mix.

Top with the last later of butternut squash then add the grated mozzarella followed by the parmesan cheese.

Cover your dish with foil and bake in the oven for 45 mins.

Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 mins until golden brown.

 

TOMATO SAUCE

The sauce can be frozen if you make in batches and keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. It’s a great base for sauces of all kinds.

 

INGREDIENTS

150g chopped tomatoes (fresh or tinned)

A handful of fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic

1 shallot or small white onion

60g tomato paste

60ml olive oil

A generous pinch of salt

A good grind of black pepper

 

METHOD

Roughly chop the onions and garlic then add to a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.

Whizz to a smooth consistency.

Watercress salsa verde.

Watercress is in season right now (April) and it’s one of those foods brimming with nutrients. You can easily squeeze it into your diet in place of regular lettuce or rocket, where it brings a lovely peppery flavour. It adds a lovely bite to smoothies and juices and is surprisingly mild in soups.

What I want to share with you this month is a lovely sauce you can whip up in a flash and use to perk up white meat, pork or fish.

Here is an example paired up with pork.

Pork medallions with watercress salsa verde
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
2 pork medallions
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 anchovy fillets
15ml capers, rinsed
30ml fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
15ml fresh basil leaves
good handful of watercress
freshly ground black pepper
30ml extra virgin olive oil
15ml lemon juice

METHOD
Preheat grill and grill the medallions for 15 mins, turning halfway.
To make the salsa verde, place the salsa ingredients in a mini food processor and blitz until the sauce is well combined. You can also do this by hand by chopping everything very finely and mixing it together with oil and lemon juice. Serve a dollop of the salsa on top of each medallion.

(Taken from ‘The Hybrid diet’ by Patrick Holford)

Castagnaccio

Castagnaccio is a popular Italian winter cake made with chestnut flour. There are many variations to this cake according to which Italian region you visit, however this recipe has been taken and adapted from the book ‘Pausa Pranzo’ written by my amazing talented friend (and chef!) Stefano Arturi.

Chestnut flour is a great nutrients dense option as chestnuts are rich in complex carbohydrates (which are digested slowly giving you even energy levels), vitamin c, potassium, copper and magnesium.

Ingredients:

-250g chestnut flour
-500ml of coconut milk

-2 tsps vanilla essence
-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra to sprinkle on top before baking)
-1 cup (100g) of pine nuts
-50g of raisins (soaked in water for 15 min)

-2 tsps chopped rosemary
-2 grated apple
-zest of 1 orange
-4 tbs maple syrup
-pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients (except from a tablespoon of pine nuts and the rosemary) in a large bowl. Pour the mixture in a greased baking tin and top it up with the pine nuts the rosemary and a little extra olive oil.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 30/40 minutes or until the surface starts to dry up.

This cake has no yeast, so it won’t raise at all.

Traditionally this is not a very sugary dessert and the taste is quite strong. If your kids are used to very sugary treats, they might need to try it a couple of times and develop a taste for it before they get to like it!

 Please notice that if you are allergic to nuts this flour might not be suitable for you.

Summer drinks

Summer parties are often filled with sweet, alcoholic drinks that can lead to weight gain and unbalance your blood sugar levels.

If you are trying to avoid sugar and alcohol, it’s not always easy to know what to drink instead without feeling deprived.

Here you are a few delicious and refreshing alternatives for you to try.

 

Strawberry lemonade

Serves 8

2 litres water

8 squeezed lemons (around 280 ml)

1/2 -3/4 tsp liquid stevia (try NuNaturals)

250g strawberries, sliced

In a large jug combine water, lemon juice and stevia. Simply stir in sliced strawberries and serve over ice.

 

Cucumber, mint + lemon fizz

Serves 6

1.5ltr sparkling water

half a sliced cucumber

10 mint leaves

1 sliced lemon

Put all the ingredients in a large jug, chill and serve.

 

Sparkling cherries

Serves 2

4tbsp Cherry Active (you can buy this in any health food store)

500ml sparkling water

Add sparkling water to the Cherry Active and serve with ice.

 

Garden Sour

Seedlip Garden (a distilled, non-alcoholic drink*), 50ml

Cloudy apple juice, 35ml

Lemon Juice, 15ml

Cider vinegar, 5ml

Sprig of rosemary & thyme

You might have heard of Seedlip, it’s a premium distilled non-alcoholic drink. The price may make you wince (it’s no cheaper than buying alcoholic spirits) but it’s hot news this year and making an appearance in all the top bars!  Find it at www.seedlipdrinks.com

 

Sparkling kombucha

Kombucha is a healthy alternative to sparkling soft drinks known for being full of naturally occurring vitamins, acids, and beneficial bacteria.

You can make your own kombucha – to be honest I haven’t tried yet….as you know I am pretty lazy when it comes to kitchen experiments- or you can buy it ready made in pretty much all the health stores out there.

 

Cheers!