Hi folks, I hope you’ve had a great week. I sure have. Remember how I mentioned that I was starting studying again? Well, I’ve cleared that course now. I took the final exam after 3 weeks, passed with an A, and now I’m jumping straight into something roughly equivalent to high-school level Swedish. With any luck, this will be the last step I need before I can enter university here, although this step of learning is split into three parts, and most certainly will not take three weeks but I’m on my way at least!
Before moving on to the food today it’s time to announce the winner of my giveaway I posted last week! Yep, after a week of caffeine-fuelled excitement, I’m now summoning up the powers of random.org to pick the winner. There were 32 valid entries in total, based on my count of parent comments which met the minimum required (and subsequent optional) criteria, so without further ado, the winner is…
[learn_more caption=”Click to view winner…”]
Nazneen, from Coffee and Crumpets
How apt! Too bad I wasn’t doing a crumpet giveaway. Congratulations Nazneen – please get in touch with me here, or by email within 48 hours to claim your coffee!
Time for pasta-less lasagne
This is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while. It was actually my wife’s idea (though my own execution, I must add) and I must say that it’s really worth a try. Think lasagna, but pull out the pasta. Ok, let’s replace the pasta with something, but what? Why, leek my old friend – your long, thin layered leaves (are they leaves?) make a perfect replacement for pasta. Of course, if you’re not a fan of leek, you could try instead my aubergine pasta-less lasagne, which works just as well!
You end up with a great pasta-less lasagne, with very clearly defined layers, just as you would with regular pasta. The only potential pitfall is that the leek layers aren’t the easiest thing to cut through and you risk ruining the structure of the dish. As a result, I’d recommend using scissors to cut through the lasagne, or, alternatively, steam the leek “sheets” for a while before use. I used them raw which worked fine, but you can always play with the recipe to suit your needs.
My lasagne was a little flat – only two layers – but I made it in a huge pan, so you can of course stack it up as high as you like, depending on the size of your dish. I also added in some beetroot to the meat sauce because, well, beetroot is awesome and brings a delicious earthy sweetness to dishes. I crumbled some feta over the top as well for a bit of variation which worked very well with the beetroot in the lasagne.
Enjoy the pasta-less lasagne folks! I’ll be back next week with a gourmet twist on a crowd pleaser – although I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to make them but if they end up looking like they do in my head then they’re going to be fantastic!
For the meat sauce400g minced Beef
- 1 large Onion
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 140 g Tomato concentrate ~4 tbsps
- 2 cans 800g crushed Tomatoes
- 2 large boiled Beetroots, grated
- 200 ml Water
- ~6 tbsps Olive Oil
- 1 tsp dried Oregano
- 1 tsp tried Thyme
- 1 tsp Salt
For the béchamel sauce50g Butter
- 4 tbsp Plain Flour
- 0.6 litres Milk
For the layers2 large Leeks, with ends and tops cut off.
For the topping200g Hard Cheese, such as Cheddar, grated
- 100 g Feta Cheese crumbled
- In a large pan, start off by heating the olive oil for the meat sauce. Finely chop the onion and garlic and sauté in the hot oil until starting to turn translucent. Add in the minced beef. Mix well and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through and browning.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato concentrate, water and grated beetroot and mix well before finally adding in the oregano, thyme, and salt and stirring in.
- Cook the sauce on a medium heat, stirring from time to time, until it has reduced down a little and thickened up.
- In another pan, melt the butter for the béchamel sauce and then add in the flour. Whisk together and cook the flour and butter together until a light caramel in colour before adding in the milk a bit at a time until you have a velvety sauce. You may need a bit more, or a bit less milk depending on how thick (or thin) you like your sauce.
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and then slit the leeks down their lengths and peel off the first 6 or so outside layers (the leaves will get thicker towards the centre). Wash the leaves thoroughly and line the bottom of a lasagne dish with 2 or 3 or them.
- Place some sauce into the dish and spread out before topping with some béchamel sauce and some more leek. Add some more sauce, béchamel, and leek layers, and keep on going until finally finishing off with a layer of leek and pouring the rest of the béchamel sauce on top.
- Sprinkle over the grated cheese and crumbled feta and then place into the preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the feta is starting to brown slightly. Serve, and enjoy!
Hotly Spiced says
Congrats on passing your course with an ‘A’. Good luck getting into uni. I didn’t know you were thinking of studying full-time. Congrats to Nazneen. I love the look of your lasagne but was wondering how the leek would cut! I think steaming it is a great idea xx
Thanks Charlie! I wasn’t, really – it’s just recently that I decided going (back) to University was the way forward for me 🙂
Congratulations on passing your last Swedish language course and good luck on the next phase, Charles. Even the thought of going back to school is a little stomach churning to me so I compliment you on your courage and determination.
Leek is such an innovative replacement for the pasta.
Thanks A_ – it’s a scary thing, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I thought about taking the easy way out and, well, just “not” doing it, but in terms of personal satisfaction and future job prospects, this is by far the right choice!
Coffee and Crumpets says
Woohoo! Yeah baby! Sorry, yes I’m excited I won! I will email you shortly 🙂 Also, congrats on your result! Pretty awesome. I didn’t know you were planning on going back to uni, that’s great! Good luck with everything.
This lasagne looks great, I love bechamel in all my layers so that’s what I’d do. Is it hard to peel the leek layers? I’m thinking steaming may make them easier, like you do with cabbage. This looks delicious! Thanks again Charles, I can’t wait to dig into some Swedish coffee and finally discover what the hype in my book is about 🙂
Congrats again Nazneen!
Peeling the leek is easy… slicing not so much. It was easy if you don’t mind using scissors, but otherwise steaming is the way to go 😀
What a fabulous idea to use leeks as the “pasta”! I’m assuming the get tender enough to cut. What a beautiful lasagne with the beetroot filling and I’m with you on having two layers of bechamel. Great recipe Charles and congratulations to Coffee and Crumpets. You’re right – what a fitting winner. 🙂
Hi MJ – they do, but they can still be a bit resistant, and depending on the pan you’re using you might not want to go nuts with a sharp blade. I think steaming them before layering them would be a good idea, otherwise cut the slices with scissors!
Anneli Faiers says
Great idea Charles. Love the beetroot in their too. And congratulations on your A…thats fantastic 🙂 Keep up the good work xx
Thanks Anneli 🙂
Laura (Tutti Dolci) says
I love leeks, what a delicious alternative to pasta!
Thanks Laura! Leeks are yummy aren’t they?!
Chica Andaluza says
What a great recipe idea and I love the beetroot! Well done to you on th studies and to the winner of the giveaway 🙂
Eva Taylor says
I don’t want to seem like a sore loser but damn! I really wanted to win ;)! Congrats to Nazneen.
I love the idea of pasta-less lasagna Charles and your execution looks quite lovely. The flavour of the leeks would be wonderful too. I also rather like the addition of beet root, nice earthy flavour. Very creative and so much healthier than the regular pasta variety, I’m putting this on my list to try!
Haha, well, since coffee is such a “sought after” thing, maybe I’ll make that the prize for a future giveaway too, so fear not! You’ll still have another chance!
Thanks for your compliments – I totally didn’t cut the lasagne when it was cold or anything, no siree bob, ahem :p
What a great idea!
It would be a much lighter version calorie wise too, and less gluten as well. I like the bechamel sauce layered throughout my lasagne too 🙂
Congratulations on your A grade!
Thanks GG – yeah… it’s gotta have great big squirts of béchamel all the way through – yummy!
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef says
Congratulations on top marks! I love the idea of this pasta-less lasagne. I also like the pasta-full lasagne too!
Thanks Maureen 🙂
Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says
Wow, Charles, I would have never guessed that you could use leek successfully as a strata in lasagna. Fabulous idea Chef Wife! :). I made one with alternating layers of zucchini and chipotle tofu when I first started blogging and was surprised how well it held up. Now how did you like the beet in here? Did the flavour dominate? I love beet I’m just not sure I would want it overpowering the delicate leek/bechamel sauce (licking my lips as I type ;-)). I was trying to identify the slight mauve colour in your photos – now I get it! By the way, what are those rings in your salad Charles? What a great looking meal.
Hi Kelly – the beetroot flavour was… “there”, definitely, there’s no doubt about that. I loved it, but I am a big fan of them. It gave a gorgeous sweetness to the dish, but not in an overpowering way I think. By the time I’d grated them up the quantity of beet was actually quite large – I was surprised, so if you’re worried about it taking over then you could reduce it by 50% I guess.
The rings – they’re “white peppers”. I saw them in the store and got sucked in by their crappy advertising. Admittedly they did look gorgeous, all pale and creamy, and the package said “crisp and fruity”. Yeah, right. Crisp, I’ll give them that, but more like flavourless and watery. [Sigh] – winter isn’t a good time to buy… anything, except maybe potatoes in northern Sweden :p
Jean | DelightfulRepast.com says
Charles, besides the leeks (I love leeks!), I like your addition of beetroot to the meat sauce. Lovely! Congratulations on your high marks, too!
Thanks Jean – leeks are great aren’t they?! Sometimes I’ll forget they exist and won’t eat them for weeks or months and then suddenly I see them and I’m like “yaaaaaargh, must have now!” :D.
Bam's Kitchen says
Congrats Charles! It is time for a celebration for completing that rough part of the language training. What a perfect way to celebrate with your low carb and diabetic friendly delicious pasta less lasagna. I also love the addition of the feta and the beetroot.
I feel your pain regarding learning a language. As I am writing this, I am listening to my Chinese language on MP3 and only catching about 50 percent of everything. Somedays I swear I forget more than I remember. Take Care, BAM
Thanks Bam – I don’t know your family situation, but I do find that I have a distinct advantage over other students. Since my wife is Swedish I can talk to her any time, I can talk to my parents-in-law in Swedish, I think it’s only through this that I’ve had such luck in picking it up so fast!
Shashi @ RunninSrilankan says
What a brilliant idea to use leeks for the pasta layers – and adding beetroot to the meat sauce is beyond brilliant!
Congrats on passing that course – hoping you ace the beginning level Swedish class too!
Thanks Shashi – here’s to hoping! 😀
Congratulations for passing the test. You must be very smart. And I think you’re brave. Going back to school terrifies me.
Best wishes. Wow! this looks fantastic!
Thanks Nipponnin – I think it helps that my wife is Swedish! I could never have picked it up so fast if it weren’t for this!
[email protected] Chef in disguise says
Congratulations on passing the course with an A 🙂 and good luck with the rest of your studies
Pasta-less lasagna has been on my list of recipes to try forever. I love the addition of beets and feta, they must add a tasty new dimension to the lasagna
Thanks Sawsan – the beets were a really lovely addition… such a beautiful earthy sweet flavour!
Charles, it looks beautiful, but I was much more stunned by beetroots than by leeks instead of pasta sheets 😉 Then, I should know: you are THE beetroot fan! From what I remember Swedes eat a lot of beetroots (I think I once saw somewhere a Swedish beetroot and meat balls…). Anyway, great winter alternative to lasagne with aubergines, which are now quite tasteless.
(By the way, looking at your salad I must boast I have recently finally started to play with pomegranate and I love it! I discovered such sweet ones in my organic shop… I now buy them almost in bulk…Before, all those I stumbled upon were unripe and sour).
Oh yes, Swedish do eat a lot of beets… Christmas beet salads for example, although that doesn’t stop the fact that there’s plenty of crazy beet haters here too!
Haha, I bet in about 10 years I’ll have more beet recipes on my blog than any other site on the internet. Well, here’s to hoping! That can be my claim to fame: Charles Smith – Beetroot Expert :p.
Well done on playing about more with pomegranates. They’re lovely when they’re sweet and ripe aren’t they?
Congratulations, Charles! (Sorry, only now checking once more this post I saw I have missed the beginning of your post…. I went straight to the recipe 😉 I suppose I was hungry). Living in a country where you speak the local language must make your life easier and you must feel more integrated (though I have heard Swedes speak English but it’s not the same…).
It’s fantastic! I wish I could progress so quickly with Japanese… unfortunately it’s a bit difficult (though seems easy at first because of the pronunciation, lack of plural, only two tenses, etc.), and I have no contact with the language apart from weekly lessons… not to mention big breaks between teachers which change all the time… You will be my inspiration! I must work harder!
Yeah, pretty much every Swedish person below a certain age (around 50 or so) usually speaks incredible English. Movies and TV shows are never dubbed, just subtitled. What I do find though is that they’re often a little shy about speaking English. If they’re working in a service industry it’s usually no problem, but in normal life, once they figure out that your Swedish is at least halfway passable then that’s it – no chance of getting a word out of them in English, haha 😀
[email protected] says
Wow, I am impressed, you got an A on your course and you are going back to school…I can’t help but admire that. All the best! Congrats to Nazneen…who better to win than her!!! Your take on lasagne is very interesting!!
Thanks Minnie 🙂
Gosh, I came over and read this a few days ago, then got in a hurry and rushed off before commenting. Such a great idea, pasta-free lasagna, and especially to use leeks as your replacement…I’d never have thought of that! Congrats to you on your continuing education. I’d planned to get a masters at some point, but never did it. Right now I’m studying tutorials on web design…my own little way to move forward, perhaps. Best of luck with your studies, Charles. 🙂
Thanks Betsy. Feels good to be moving my life forward in a good direction! You should try and get your masters if you’re interested… it’s never too late!
Let me know if you want any web tips – I do some freelance work building sites for people every now and again so I could help you out a bit if you wanted it!
fati's recipes says
Awh this is a lovely alternative to the carby dish. I especially like the addition of beetroot to the sauce. I’m going to give it a go next time I make lasagne. Even if it’s not pasta-less 🙂
Thanks Fati – the beet was a great addition… lovely earthy, slightly sweet flavour.
Congrats Charles! Although I must say i had no doubt you would pass with flying colours.
That is a stroke of genius with the leek replacing pasta. Even for those not looking to go on a carb-free diet, it’s just a wonderful idea and a lovely twist that would make a great talkign point for a dinner party! And not even just for lasagne, but other dishes calling for sheets of pasta, or maybe even dumpling wrappers! I am stealing this idea.
Thanks Shu. Don’t mention dumplings… I’ve craving those. I’m sure you probably have a recipe on your site, perhaps? I bought my wife a bamboo steamer for Christmas and I’m eager to steal it and make some dumplings!
Well you had me until the beets. 😉 I can’t believe that is leek lasagna! It looks like pasta. I’m going to have to give this a try (minus the beets). Or perhaps I’ll go for your eggplant one. That sounds really good to me too. Oh, I’m getting so hungry getting caught up on blogs this morning. I have way too many cravings happening at once, but lasagna usually tends to win out. It’s hard to beat a good lasagna. 🙂 Congrats on finishing the first level of your studies. I’m sure you’ll be on to the university before you know it!
Thanks Kristy! You know, next year, if you have another chopped challenge and I’m elected to provide a suggestion for ingredients… there’s gonna be beets in there! Doesn’t matter if it’s starter, main or dessert… I’m gonna turn you into a beet lover yet!
Nami | Just One Cookbook says
WOW, congratulations on passing the course with an A!!!! You are such a hard worker! Especially after kids were born, my brain turned useless and I can’t remember anything. Names, ages, schedule…. all blank. Foreign language? Forget it. =P I can barely speak and write English correctly. You’re impressive! Pasta-less lasagne? Nice! I love leek and using it as layer is as good as pasta!
LOL, thanks Nami! Your English is just great! It’s especially admirable since Japanese is completely different to English. At least with Swedish the alphabet is (almost) the same as English and many words are very similar. I always have so much admiration for people who learn Japanese or Chinese or something similar (or the other way around, like you!)