Fancy some Italianesque indulgence that comforts and fills you up like a proper, creamy pasta dish does but without any pasta, grains or cheese? Look no further. You wouldn’t know that this very clever Courgette Leek Mushroom & Pine Kernel Lasagna wasn’t the real deal unless I told you so.
Many people reject the hoo-ha of subscribing to a home-cooked, organic, low-carb diet and thereby default to eating agrichemical-ridden fruit, vegetables, grains, sugar, factory farmed animal-centric aberrations and other bona fide junk because they simply can’t be arsed. What’s worse is these same people attack my dietary preferences and erroneously label me the “weirdo”. They have no idea how liberating it is to eat plentifully for pleasure without getting fat and sick. I wish I could persuade them…
A LCHF diet combined with exercise and intermittent fasting turns back the clock on most aspects of ageing, including an ever expanding waistline that comes from eating high carbohydrate, sugary, processed and/or low-fat diet foods. Excess body fat tends to creep up on you exponentially in middle-age, which is also the time you’re likely to find that your knees have finally given up on trying to help you outrun your fork. Kate Moss was slated for saying so, but “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” has more than a grain of truth in it, especially when counting chemicals not calories is the priority. A low carb diet needs to be high in fat to fuel your energy needs and because fat tastes so good - think fat bombs - there’s none of the dietary deprivation associated with calorie counting.
Based on the latest, scientifically proven nutritional principles, Primal Plate recipes are a wonderful, practical guide to eating for health. Admittedly, organic ingredients do cost more but if you want to be on the right side of healthy and you’re on a budget the advice is: Cook from scratch, eat less meat, buy seasonal, grow your own and know the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’
In my experience, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or primal, there are socially negative consequences for being selective about your food and drink. You may have to sacrifice eating out at what used to be your favourite restaurants and come to terms with being a Billy no mates. No matter, when it comes to making intelligent food choices, the law of consequences will demonstrate soon enough that the proof of the pudding was in the eating. There’s no time like the present to choose healthy!
Meanwhile, as today’s recipe for Courgette Leek Mushroom & Pine Kernel Lasagna shows, if you can’t beat ‘em you can at least give the impression of joining them. This is food to share when you’re not hanging out with like-minded low-carbers (aside from my immediate family, did I ever?). A hearty, savoury pasta dish layered up with a classic creamy bechamel sauce is, according to the masses, the epitome of relaxed party food so this gorgeous lasagna that I’ve adapted from a Jackie Le Tissier recipe in Food Combining For Vegetarians, easily slips under the radar.
Served with a generous glass of red wine and a crisp, garden-fresh salad, this amazebells grain-free and meat-free lasagna creates a warm and friendly Italian vibe that invites you to sit back and watch the most intransigent dining companion make the unconscious but very healthy transition from high carbohydrates to high fat, without being any the wiser. High five me!
I think it’s the perfect recipe to bring family and friends together for a relaxed, non-segregated meal. Now that’s what I call community spirit!
Courgette Leek Mushroom & Pine Kernel Lasagna (Serves 4)
2 tbsp organic cold-pressed virgin olive oil
450g organic leeks, very finely chopped
250g organic mushrooms, very finely chopped
250g organic mushrooms, finely sliced
3 tbsp fresh organic marjoram leaves, finely chopped (if you can’t find marjoram use 2 tbsp oregano leaves instead)
1 tbsp organic tamari soy sauce
¼ tsp freshly grated organic nutmeg
sea salt and black pepper
2 large organic courgettes (or 3 medium plump ones), ends cut off and sliced lengthways into 3mm slices (best done on a mandolin)
4 tbsp pine kernels
Ingredients - for the pine kernel sauce
150ml organic double cream
450ml freshly filtered water
100g organic pine kernels
sea salt and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200℃ / 400℉ / Gas mark 6
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and cook the leeks covered over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the sliced and chopped mushrooms, the pine kernels, tamari and marjoram and cook uncovered over a medium-high heat for a further 5-6 minutes, or until the liquid released by the mushrooms has evaporated.
Remove the pan from the heat and season with the nutmeg, sea salt and black pepper. Set aside whilst you prepare the pine kernel sauce.
To make the pine kernel sauce: Dilute the cream with the filtered water by mixing the two together in a glass measuring jug.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat and then stir in the ground almonds to make a ‘roux’.
Gradually add half the diluted cream to the roux, stirring constantly as you go until the mixture comes together and is free of lumps. Tip the mixture into a blender, then add the rest of the diluted cream and the pine kernels and whizz everything together until you have a smooth, creamy white sauce.
Tip the contents of the blender back into the saucepan, return the pan to the heat and bring to a gentle boil stirring continuously until the sauce thickens - this may take a while. If the sauce seems too thick, add an extra tablespoon of filtered water to thin it out slightly.
Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and black pepper.
To assemble the lasagna: Place a layer of the mushroom, leek and pine nut mixture in the base of a deep, square or rectangular oven-proof dish. Top with a layer of courgette slices to cover completely, and then add a little of the sauce.
Repeat these layers twice more, leaving enough sauce to finish with a thick layer.
Sprinkle the surface with 4 tbsps of pine kernels.
Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown and tender.
Bring the dish to the table and serve with a crisp green and/or tomato and basil salad.
If you’d like the lasagna to be more browned on top, you can finish the dish under the grill. N.B. You’ll need to watch it like a hawk as pine nuts swiftly turn from golden brown to scorched under direct heat.
If you have a Vitamix or similar high powered machine, you can thicken the sauce in the blender by letting the machine continue to run for an extra 3-4 minutes or so i.e. you can omit transferring the sauce back into a saucepan to thicken it. The reason I choose to transfer the sauce mixture back in to a saucepan and thicken it by hand is because it’s less time consuming than trying to get all the finished sauce from around the base and blades of a Vitamix container!
72g fat 20g protein 15g carbohydrate - per serving