Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sweet Poh-tay-toe, Sweet Po-tah-toe

I do love a good lasagne, all those layers of yummy Italianness, hot tasty cheesy tomatoey...ok, stop me. I think I've made my position clear: I love it. I haven't cooked it very much of late though, which is curious as it is relatively inexpensive to make, it's freezer-friendly and it makes a thoroughly satisfying winter meal. Well, to be honest I find it a little high-maintenance. The sauce and the simmering and the can take a while. And then there's the not-entirely-healthy aspect - though, this is only half an excuse really, as you can clearly see from everything else I cook that the need for healthiness is conveniently overlooked whenever I feel like it. The jam-packed Donna Hay mag that I treated myself to recently has a great feature on baking food in paper, which keeps the steam in the package with the food and helps retain the full flavour of all those tasty ingredients. One of her lovely surprise oven-baked packages is a sweet potato and ricotta lasagne, which I felt was a less labour-intensive alternative to regular lasagne, and also possibly a slightly healthier option. See, there I go again with the convenient overlooking - just wait until you see the spare tyre-inducing, artery-busting amount of cheese in this wee beauty.

I decided that it was an embarrassment to have such a pristine publication, so I plonked it down slap-bang in the middle of the kitchen, right where I could make it well and truly fit right in with the other cookbooks and magazines on my shelves.

Now, here's the cheesy bit - brace yourself: 25g grated parmesan, 100g grated mozzarella and 500g ricotta. To my immense annoyance, the only place that I was able to get my hands on ricotta was in Tesco. GRRR. I even tried Marks and Spencer before I went there. Anyhow, I wasn't particularly convinced by the whole grate the mozzarella thing - it came apart as mozzarella will do anyhow, and so I felt it wasn't particularly necessary. Plus it was one more thing to wash up.

Enter the redemptive sweet potato, a healthy antidote to the fluffy calorific cheese. 400g, thinly sliced.

Then straight into the layering - see how it fast forwards through all of the pre-assembly steps required with regular lasagne. Just line the ingredients up and it practically makes itself. Start with a fresh lasagne sheet, placed on top of a piece of baking parchment. 

Then layer up half of the cheese mixture, half of the sweet potato and then half of a tin of chopped tomatoes. No faffing around making tomato sauce, just simply spoon them out of the can.

Repeat with one more layer of the same, then top with another 50g mozzarella.

Then another layer of baking parchment goes on top, the two scrunch up together to make a little sleeping bag, and into the oven with it at 200 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Now, at the start of the recipe Donna tells you to make the topping that you drizzle over it at the end. If, like me, you get very hungry very quickly and tend to hop impatiently around the kitchen from the minute your dinner goes into the oven then it makes more sense to kill some time doing this while you try not to chew the knuckles off yourself with the hunger. It only takes a minute, and it's basically some chopped up basil, olive oil and lemon rind. 

It's very exciting when something comes out of the oven in a package, you get a little apprehensive about unwrapping it, but it's such a treat to uncover the steaming stack of lasagne layers.

It's such a smart move not to add the basil until the very end, because the fresh, oily, lemony mix is a zippy finish to the tang of the cheese and the filling, slightly-resistant pasta.

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