All teachers know one of the most powerful ways to keep pupils motivated in class is to provide encouraging, relevant and timely feedback. Without this the kids have no idea how well they are doing and loose their focus entirely. Plus, everyone likes a compliment. 🙂 In this respect I am no different from my pupils.
The other night I cooked dinner for D and a couple of friends. It was a summery vegetarian lasagne that I’d made many times before and as I dished up the portions I was feeling rather proud: the vegetables looked colourful and juicy; the cheesy sauce oozed richly between the sheets of spinach pasta and the top had crisped up perfectly. Everyone loves the crispy bits!
Chatting happily with friends over a meal is one of the nicest places to be and this evening was no different. Spirits were high – we’d had a fun day in the Aviemore area and were heading out that evening again – and everyone was very animated. Then suddenly, as we were halfway through the meal, I realised that no-one had mentioned the food at all and I immediately felt quite dejected.
Was it not good? Was it bland? Did I make an error cooking vegetarian food for a group of meat eaters? Is it disgusting? Are they choking it down?!
By the time the meal had finished and we were clearing the dishes away I was seriously questioning my own palate! D saved the day. Having noticed I was furrowing my brow as I stacked the dishes beside the sink he asked what was wrong. When I told him he laughed heartily and simply stuck his empty plate in my face. Followed by another empty plate. Another. And another. He then walked out of the room chuckling, leaving me alone to remember that:
a) Compliments to the chef don’t have to be verbal
b) I should chill out. 🙂
One of the great things about this dish is that it can be prepared a couple of days in advance and then just popped in the oven. I tend to make it for guests when I know I’m going to be short on time.
1 large aubergine, diced
2 red peppers, cut into chunks
2 large courgettes or 4 small, sliced thickly
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
Whole bulb of garlic, separated into cloves
500g cherry tomatoes
1 tblspn dried oregano
8 sheets of spinach lasagne, cooked according to packet
1 ½ tblspn butter
1 ½ tblspn plain flour
150g grated mozzarella
Generous grating of parmesan
- Place the aubergine in a colander and salt. Leave for 30 mins then squeeze out the excess moisture in a clean tea towel.
- Put the aubergine, pepper, courgette, onion and garlic in large roasting tray (or 2). Season well, sprinkle over the oregano, drizzle with olive oil and mix with your hands.
- Place in a 180oC pre-heated oven for 25 mins.
- Remove tray from oven and add the cherry tomatoes. Mix well and place back in oven for 25 mins. Allow to cool slightly.
- Cook sheets of pasta according to instructions and drain.
For the béchamel sauce:
- Heat the milk in a large pan.
- In a separate pan, create a rue by melting the butter in a pan and adding the flour. Mix well and cook for two mins.
- Ladle by ladle add the milk to the rue and stir well to create a thick sauce. Once all the milk has been added cook gently for 10 more mins stirring frequently.
- Add the grated mozzarella and stir well. Remove from heat and season to taste.
- Add a layer of vegetable to a large oven proof dish (4 small separate dishes), pour over a little béchamel sauce and place 4 lasagne sheets over the top. Repeat.
- Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle generously with grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake in a preheated oven (180oC) for 30-45 mins until bubbling and crispy.
Serve with a green salad and garlic bread to mop up the juices.