Sunday, 25 August 2013

Recipe: Lasagne: cheaper than chips.

I can't call it 'vegetarian' lasagne because I believe that implicit in that term is that I have would have used specific vegetables, such as aubergines, and I haven't.  I used what I had available, which is the glory of a dish like this.  So it is 'vegetable lasagne'.

I set myself a challenge.  I saw some ready meal value pizzas, single (very small) portions, at 95p and I believe you can get them at Asda for less than that - 70p.  Now, I know that whatever I make will be much, much tastier but could it be cheaper?  It has to be vegetable based, not meat, because it will be for Beth as well as for me.  I could have used some minced beef I got from Aldi at £1.00 for 500g but not for a family meal!

So this is what I did.

The pasta:
100g pasta flour (I could have used ordinary/value but chose not to this time as it's the first time I've made lasagne)
1 egg (more expensive than usual because I won't be picking up my usual eggs until later this morning)
a very small splash of oil

I made the dough, did the usual with the pasta maker and cut the rectangles to suit the dish I was using.  There were some trimmings which I re-rolled and cut into short bits for use tomorrow).  I layered them with easy leave and left them in the fridge until needed.

The vegetable sauce:
splash of oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
half a small red pepper and half a small green pepper (from a value bag of five)
half a carrot, peeled and chopped
a squidge of garlic puree
1 courgette (from Beth's allotment) peeled and chopped
1 chestnut mushroom (quite large as chestnut mushrooms go) chopped
1 chilli (not very hot, but for the flavour), seeded and chopped fine
1 can chopped tomatoes (value)
40g red lentils
1 can kidney beans
Mixed herbs - to own taste - or use other herbs.  I could have used fresh but didn't because the dried needs using up
Marigold stock - a tbsp's worth
salt/pepper to taste
some chopped fresh parsley (from the garden)
half a tube of tomato puree (from Lidl, so a lot cheaper than Morrisons)

I heated the oil in a large pan, then added the onion and carrot and sauteed them gently for about six or seven minutes.  Then I added the pepper, chilli and courgette and continued cooking them gently.  Then in went the mushroom and some garlic puree.  After a few minutes, I turned up the heat, added the chopped tomatoes with about half a can of water, the lentils, the herbs, Marigold, salt and pepper.  I went easy on the salt but needed some because the Marigold is the low sodium kind.  After a good stir I brought it to a simmer, atill stirring, then turned the heat right down, covered it and left the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or so (while I made the cheese sauce).  Then I adjusted the seasoning before adding the kidney beans, the parsley and the tomato puree.  I gave it all a good stir and that was ready.  It didn't need to be all that sloppy because the pasta was fresh, not dried.

The cheese sauce: made in Thermione but it would be fine to do it the conventional way instead.
80g grated strong cheddar (I used some from Aldi that was 6p per 10g)
30g grated not-parmesan (i.e. supermarket value hard Italian cheese)
40g butter (value)
30g cornflour
250 mls milk (more or less - use however much you need)
salt/pepper to taste
pinch mustard powder

I used about 20g of the not-parmesan and 50g of the cheddar for the sauce and the rest went over the top.
This made a jolly good thick sauce and, as it was made in Thermione, it was beautifully smooth for no effort!

Then I layered it all up - two layers of vegetables, two of pasta, then topped with the cheese sauce with the rest of the grated cheese sprinkled over the top.  Then into the oven at 180 it went until the whole thing was bubbling and the cheese was browning on top.  Because the pasta was fresh, it didn't take as long.
It smells delicious.

Now for the maths.  All of the above made a dishful that will serve four very generously, more like six or seven if you are thinking supermarket portions which can be meagre, especially the value versions.  As well as that I have the left over pasta plus a good portion of sauce and a good portion of cheese sauce for tomorrow, so that's Monday's dinner sorted out!
The costing is rounded up rather than down, when necessary and, assuming five portions in total, comes to around 64p a portion.  If you count the lasagne as serving six, each portion will be around 46p (allowing for the extra for tomorrow).  It's all a bit imprecise but you get the general idea.

I could have made this a lot cheaper.  I could have been more frugal with the pasta, I could have used value frozen mixed veg, frozen peppers, less cheese, etc.  But I chose not to!

It's win-win!  The only thing it loses on is time.  It takes time to make from scratch.  Time and, I suppose, I bit of knowledge.  Time is a very valuable commodity in today's world.  So one could get some of those foil dishes (which are reuseable) and make individual portions to freeze when one has the time to do so.  Very satisfying!

I baked some bread this morning too.


  1. If you put a piece of cheddar in the airing cupboard in a paper bag for a while you will end up with very hard fake parmesan.