Recipes for versions of Lentil Lasagne abound online and in cookery books, but I just couldn’t find a definitive one we really liked. They had a tendency to be dry tasting and a bit bland. I wanted a sauce base starting with onion, garlic, mushroom, tomato and a selection of other flavoursome vegetables we like plus, of course, red lentils to soak up the liquid. I decided to make a similar mixture to the Masoor Dhal (Red Lentil Dhal) I serve with Indian food, adding extra vegetables, but keeping the spice mix much simpler: fragrant but definitely no heat plus some of our favourite fresh coriander. After that the mixture could be simply layered with sheets of lasagne, white sauce and cheese in a similar way to traditional meat Lasagne al Forno made with Ragu Bolognaise.
There is not really an original recipe to acknowledge for my Spicy Vegetable Dhal Lasagne, however as my starting point one of the main recipes I used was this one for Lentil Lasagne from Forkd, which was tweaked and adapted until it became my own Spicy Vegetable Dhal Lasagne. I chopped the vegetables into quite small pieces, but they could be left larger for a more chunky lasagne. We were delighted with the tasty result: here it is.
Spiced Vegetable Dhal Lasagne
1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, quartered
200g/60zs red lentils (masoor dhal)
1-1½ pints water
1tsp vegetable bouillon powder
1 x 400g/14oz tin tomatoes, chopped
15ml/1tbsp tomato puree
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
1 large courgette in small dice (or 4-6 baby courgettes in small slices)
1 large yellow pepper (or red if not available), chopped2tbsp chopped fresh coriander, reserving a little as a garnish
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
200g/6ozs grated mozzarella or mild cheddar
9-10 Lasagne sheets
For the sauce:
1tsp butter or margarine
½tsp mild French mustard
½tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry together the onion, garlic, celery and mushrooms until soft but not brown.
3. Check the lentils and remove any stones or twig and add to the pan with at least 1pint of water, the tomato puree, well chopped tinned tomatoes, sugar, ground coriander, ground cumin and stock powder. Stir well, bring to the boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils start to soften (about 20 minutes).
4. Add the grated carrot, diced courgette and chopped pepper. Stir well. Add salt & black pepper to taste. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes to allow the vegetables to start to soften. If the mixture becomes to thick then add some more water. The lasagne sheets need to absorb plenty of liquid from the dhal mixture or they will not be soft enough.
5a. Meanwhile make the white sauce. Blend the cornflour with a little of the milk. Heat the remaining milk and combine with the blended cornflour. Pour this mixture into a saucepan and stir continuously over a moderate heat until the mixture thickens. It should be a pouring consistency so add a little more milk if it is too thick.
5b. Gradually combine the milk with the cornflour in a microwave proof jug. Heat in 30 second to 1 minute bursts on a high heat, stirring well between each burst of heat, until the mixture starts to thicken. It should be a pouring consistency so add a little more milk if it is too thick.
6. Stir the French mustard and nutmeg into the thickened white sauce and mix well.
7. Mix most of the chopped fresh coriander into the dhal mixture, reserving a little for garnish if you wish.
8. Starting with spoonfuls of dhal mixture, layer the lasagne: sauce, about 2tbsp white sauce, a sprinkling of grated cheese and sheets of lasagne. Continue in this way ending with a final layer of dhal mixture. I usually add some more boiling water at this point around the edge of the lasagne, which will either be absorbed by the pasta or evaporate in the hot oven.
9. Pour the remaining white sauce over the final layer of dhal mixture and cover with the remaining grated cheese.
10. Bake for 30-40minutes until the top is golden and crispy and the water has completely disappeared.
11. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.
12. This dish does not really need extra vegetables, but a simple side salad makes a good accompaniment. For extra hungry diners it could be served with a garlic bread. Leftovers can be frozen but, as usual, should be thoroughly reheated before serving.