April 22, 2014

Chestnut Lasagne – real comfort food

What’s not to like about the intriguing chestnut?  With a good flow of chestnuts dropping off into local grocers all around me, I could not resist the temptation to bring home a big bag full.

The alluring and delicate sweet tasting chestnut also has many benefits nutritionally and much to my surprise and excitement share  some super attributes with my deep green leafy green friends!

Chestnuts may not be a green vegetable, however they are rich in folate which are often found in deep leafy greens. Folate is important for many reasons; one being the neurological development for a foetus and also infants.  This is quite a unique feature for nuts and seeds. They are also the only nut with Vitamin C, in fact 100gm provides 72% of the daily recommended intake.

Like all plant foods, they are free of cholesterol and virtually fat-free with only a trace detected. The list goes on…high in fibre and filling too!

They are the perfect comfort food for all, particularly for pregnant women who need nutrient dense foods as well they are suitable for gluten-free diets.

My choice? Chestnut lasagne; a meaty lasagne without the meat; oozy chestnut sauce of course packed with loads of green living things I have sitting in my fridge, remember that half a bunch of kale leftover from my Green Goodness Soup? You could use a large number of finely chopped vegetables so here is my recipe. I will say that it does take a little bit of time, so it’s the perfect weekend meal when you want something indulgent but nourishing at the same time. Whatever might be leftover you can also freeze easily for another day.

Chestnut Lasagne

Ingredients:

400gm chestnuts (choosing larger rounded ones are best as opposed to flattened smaller ones)

2 Tablespoon of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

200gm pack of lasagne sheets (fresh or dry)

1 brown onion finely diced and chopped

1 carrot finely chopped

1/2 red capsicum/pepper finely chopped

1/2 green capsicum/pepper finely chopped

3 x garlic cloves (crushed)

4 celery sticks finely chopped

1 cup chopped button mushrooms finely chopped

1/2 bunch kale leaves washed and chopped (stalks removed)

1 teaspoon Italian herbs; or any variety; oregano, marjoram

250ml vegetable stock (I prefer an organic, gluten-free one)

250ml tomato passata

1 Tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce or balsamic

handful of fresh sage leaves

Bechamel sauce:

2 Tablespoons butter

2-3 Tablespoons plain flour sifted

2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups of grated cheese of choice* (I use 1/3 each of mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar)

good pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper

Method: 1 hour prep time, 1 1/2 hour cooking time.

1. Preheat oven to 190 C (fan-forced). Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and drop chestnuts in for 30 minutes. Drain and when slightly cooled, cut in half and scoop out flesh into a bowl which should look like a cream coloured crumbly texture. (ensure you don’t leave any bits of the internal shell casing in there)

2. In a deep large fry pan, heat 1 tbl olive oil on a medium heat and add onion, carrot, capsicum, celery, garlic and herbs until just softened. Add soy sauce/balsamic, stock and mushrooms let simmer down for 5-10minutes.

3. Meanwhile, spread scooped out chestnut flesh on a baking tray under grill for 5 minutes to toast up a little and remove.

4. Stir in tomato passata and add kale and chestnut flesh for a few minutes until sauce is thickened but not dry and turn off heat. Tip: you could blend half of this mixture in a food processor to make it more child-friendly.

5. Start making bechamel in a saucepan by melting butter over medium heat until foaming. Quickly stir in flour with a wooden spoon for about 1-2 minutes until it just comes away from the pan. Slowly pour in milk and add nutmeg while constantly stirring and bring to boil to prevent any lumps…do not stop stirring for five minutes or so until it thickens. Turn heat down to low and stir in cheese until it just melts. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

6. Lightly grease a square baking tin with a half a tbl of oil, I used a 23cm length x 23cm wide x 5cm deep so if you use a larger one you can double the recipe.

7. Spoon a layer of the chestnut sauce over the base of the dish. Arrange lasagne sheets over mixture breaking sheets to fit, cover with a layer of bechamel sauce and repeat, ensuring lasagne sheets are covered with sauce and when finished cover with a sheet of foil, place into oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Stand for 5-10 minutes.

8. In a non-stick fry-pan heat remaining half tbl of oil on medium heat and throw in handful of fresh sage leaves. They will start to curl and crisp up in a minute or two. Remove from heat, scatter on the top of the lasagne and serve.

Note: There are so many vegetables packed into this dish that it is a delicious filling meal on its own or with a complementary side salad of rocket and baby spinach leaves and a splash of balsamic and avocado oil.

* You could use fontina, jarlsberg or pecorino as other options.

Enjoy!

 

4 comments

  • Kristen Pigram

    Hi, just want to thank you not only for a yummy recipe but for the philosophy of “nurturing nutrition” . It had been a hard week with all the boys in the house sick with the flu … Including little Phoenix (4months) and then followed by routine immunisations . A nice distraction for an anxious first time mum was sourcing the veggies and chestnuts from our local growers market and creating a nurturing meal made with love for family and friends ! It was a great way to focus on having a healthy mind as well as Tummy when sleepless nights and charged nervous systems were abundant xxx

    • admin_ami

      Hi Kristen, your feedback is honestly heartwarming! I am so happy to hear you felt nurtured with this recipe and understand the exhaustion factor with a young baby, and a sick household too! With several vegetables packed in there and the nutrient dense chestnuts I hope that you are all back on your feet and feeling healthier very soon. regards,

      Ami xx

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