Bean and Vegetable Lasagne (without the Lasagne)

OK so maybe it’s not really a lasagne as it doesn’t contain and pasta, but it’s just as tasty and, being low in wheat and carbs, it’s kind of healthy depending on how much cheese you put into your sauce.

Earlier in the year I thought it would be a good idea to plant some Swiss Chard. After a very slow start, it has taken off in abundance. The beautiful, bright stems glow in the autumn sunshine and they look almost too good to pick and eat. If you can’t get chard, use spinach leaves for the lasagne and diced carrot and celery instead of the stalks. Blanched savoy cabbage leaves may work too though their flavour is perhaps a little too strong.

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After several frittatas and quiches I fancied something a little different. It’s also quite hard to cook as the leaves wilt quite quickly whilst the stem takes much longer to soften. So how about removing the leaf from the stem and using as two separate ingredients. Use the stems as a vegetable in the ragout and the leaves make the perfect alternative to lasagne sheets. Add a few borlotti beans from the allotment to add protein and hey presto, a low carb version of one of my family’s favourite pasta dishes

I love borlottis but when they go this lovely deep red colour it means summer is well and truly over.

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This makes enough to feed 3-4 adults

A splash of olive oil
1 Onion – chopped
1 clove garlic – chopped or crushed
1 red of green pepper – diced
1 can passata
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and black pepper
The stems of 5-6 chards – sliced about 1cm wide
1 x 400g tin borlotti beans or equivalent fresh (If using fresh you must boil them first for around 30 minutes to remove toxins)
The leaves of said chard
large knob of butter
2-3 tablespoons plain white flour
1 teaspoon English mustard
Somewhere between 250 and 400 ml milk – depends on the size of your dish
Strong cheese – Gruyere is perfect, or very strong cheddar. About 150g or so

Heat the oil in a pan then ad the garlic and onion and cook gently for a few minutes. Now add the pepper and chard stems. Stir a little then add the oregano and cooked beans. If using tinned, drain and rinse to remove the nasty tinny taste.

Cook for around 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, over a medium heat. Now add the tomato passata and bring to a gentle simmer for around 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make a roux based white sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan and add a tiny splash of olive oil. Then add the flour and mustard and whisk gently until combined. Continue to cook for 1 minute then slowly add the milk, trying not to get any lumps. If you do get lumps, whisk like crazy until they have gone. Continue to heat gently, stirring all the time to prevent burning. When the sauce thickens, add the cheese and stir until melted and you have a smooth sauce.

Now you are ready to assemble. Put the oven on – 180C should do it.

Take an ovenproof dish and put some of the ragout in the bottom – just enough to cover the base. Add a layer of chard leaves, then cover with more reagout, then leaves, etc ending up with a layer of leaves. Pour the sauce over the top layer of leaves. Then bake in the oven for at least half an hour until the topping is brown and bubbly.

This one smelled so nice it was half gone before I had a chance to get the camera ready..

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