For the love of cashews!
Cashews, oh cashews. I have never liked a nut so much, and this is coming from someone with a family full of nutters. If one more meat-eater says "oh but what do you eat?! It must be horrible to eat the same thing every day," then I'm... well I'm going to laugh to myself and continue reserving my pity for them. I would say I'd invite them over for dinner, but the people who say things like that are generally not the receptive type (and even if you do feed them something yummy they promptly forget and ask the same round of questions the next time you see them).
Wait, if you do invite people like this around, a vegan lasagna is still a good meal to serve.
The additional smoky flavour...
My husband said to me "you're not going to like this, but do you know what this tastes a little like?"
But he was eating the lasagne by this point and had said it was good, so I figured it couldn't be that bad.
"Smoked salmon, a little."
So the taste of salmon is apparently more tolerable than the smell, which hubby knows is a sure fire way to keep me out of a property for at least the several hours it takes for the smell to go away. That is perhaps the reason he began the conversation with the foreboding "you're not going to like this, but..."
Hey, I can live with that so long as it doesn't smell like salmon (even before I became veg at the age of 12 I was never a seafood person. Don't tell me it's because I never had good seafood; I'm from Maryland).
Okay, so cashews. The "cheese" component of this lasagna is made with these delicious nuts. The trick is to soak them in hot water for a little bit so they are soft enough to blend into a smooth sauce. You could even plop them in some water or soymilk and leave them overnight for the same effect. In the recipe I suggested adding ¼ teaspoon salt to the mix, but for those who like salt (I use a minimal amount) then you may wish to add more. My husband suggested a little more salt may help to replace that lost in not using cheese and salted butter in the recipe. Further, you may wish to blend the smoked tofu in with the cashews if you prefer that to crumbles of tofu in the layers.
The smoked tofu adds a unique flavour to the dish, but it is not a compulsory ingredient. If you do use it, however, you can use any brand or type (it doesn't need to be home made from SoyQuick soya milk as in my recipe).
I used a 26cm x 18cm Le Creuset dish for the recipe, but anything in that region will do (that's about 10 by 7 inches). If you want to double the recipe then go for the standard 9 x 13 inch sort of size (measurements need not be exact).
Smoky Vegan Spinach Lasagna
- First preheat the oven to 200 celcius before moving on to the cashew cream. In a medium bowl, combine the boiling water with the cashews and set aside for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the lasagne filling and red sauce.
- Add the margarine to a frying pan until melted. Add the onion and fake minced beef until just browned. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant. This doesn't have to be completely cooked as it will cook further in the oven.
- In a large saucepan add 1 tablespoon of water along with the spinach (no, you don't need more water than this) and cook over a meium-high heat until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the spinach in handfuls as it cooks down until it's all cooked. Drain and toss in with the mince mix above.
- For the red sauce simply fry, on medium heat, the garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil for about 30-60 seconds. Don't let the garlic brown because it will ruin the flavour of the sauce. Stir in the tomatoes (I prefer them to be skinned, but this isn't mandatory) along with a pinch of salt and sugar and allow to cook a further 5-10 minutes.
- Finish the cashew cream by putting the cashews and their soaking water into a high-powered blender or small food processor. Add the basil leaves and ¼ teaspoon of salt before blending to a smooth and creamy sauce.
- Don't forget the pre-cook the lasagne noodles if needed. Follow the directions on the packet (if it's homemade pasta my personal preference is to dunk in boiling water for 30 seconds first).
- To put the dish together put a few tablespoons of the red sauce on the bottom of a 10" x 7" (-ish) rectangular baking dish. Place one layer of noodles on the sauce and top with half of the spinach and mince mixture, along with a handful of crumbled tofu. Pour ½ of the cashew cream over this as well as several tablespoons of red sauce before adding a second layer of noodles. Add the other half of the mince and the rest of the tofu crumbles. Pour another ½ of the cashew cream and a few tablespoons of red sauce on top before adding your third layer of noodles. Top the third layer of noodles with the rest of the tomato-based sauce.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until browned lightly around the edges. You may need to reduce times for fan/convection ovens.