Review: Hotel Chocolat Easter Goodies

I haven’t been writing a food blog for all that long, so when I was recently asked if I would do a review for the first time I almost fell off my chair. Especially since it was Hotel Chocolat doing the asking.

I’ve been a fan of Hotel Chocolat for quite some time. Whenever I walk past their shop in Bath I have to pick up speed and put my head down, as I know if I glance in, well that’s it. I’m a gonner. I’ll be in there spending the next week’s food budget on chocolate.

Hotel Chocolat invited me to review something from their Easter selection. Now, when I think of Hotel Chocolat, I think grown up chocolate. Dark, serious chocolate you need to take your time over and savour. Problem is, my blog is very much about family food. So I had to go against my instincts and choose something the whole clan could share, including my two girls age four and six.

Our family-friendly choice was You Crack Me Up, which Hotel Chocolat describe as

“an irrepressibly upbeat egg cast in 40% milk chocolate and bursting with our cheeriest chocolates, from smiley face pralines and happy chicks to classic Easter bunnies.”

We were all very excited when the package arrived in the post. Jessie’s jaw literally dropped. Straight off they knew this was going to be a little bit more special than their usual Buttons or Smarties eggs. And when the extra thick chocolate egg was opened up to reveal an assortment of fun treats, the girls wanted to dive straight in.

The googly-eyed funny faces in particular appealed to the girls: two chocolate brownies and two crunchy pralines.

And the fried eggs and white soldiers were rather popular.

The girls were also rather partial to the extra thick chocolate shell. I love Hotel Chocolat’s story behind this…

“When we first started making eggs 12 years ago, we were advised by industry experts to use the least amount of chocolate by making them as thin as possible and to arrange the chocolates around the outside of the egg to make it look as big as possible. We did the opposite and made ridiculously thick shells with all of the chocolates hidden inside for extra Easter excitement.”

It works. Opening up the egg to discover what lies within takes me back to my own excitement as a child at Easter time.

So my daughters were duly impressed. Although when asked if they preferred the Hotel Chocolat egg to their usual Easter eggs, Mia’s response was that she’d rather have Buttons “because they taste better.” She is only four of course.

And what about me and my husband? I think it probably goes without saying that we enjoyed the chocolate array. It’s bloody good chocolate after all. But the earth didn’t move. And it usually does for me when I eat Hotel Chocolat.

I think the problem lay in me trying to choose an egg that I thought the kids would enjoy too. Of course the children liked it but then, they would happily sit and eat the contents of a jar of Nutella if you let them. We thought it was a nice egg but nothing amazing. We preferred the shell to the cheery contents. But it just wasn’t intense enough. And we’d have been a bit disappointed if we’d paid £26 for it.

So lesson learned. If I had the choice again, I’d go for Your Eggscellency. One half of the shell is milk chocolate, the other half is dark. With 12 truffles filled with soft cream ganaches with Champagne, Amaretto, vodka, mojito and more. Much more grown up, and I imagine much more my kind of chocolate. When it comes to chocolate, it seems, you need to be selfish. Mother love has no place here. Ah well, we all live and learn.

You’ll find the full range of Hotel Chocolat’s Easter creations here.

Chocolate orange cupcakes

I am finally growing in confidence as a baker. For a long time I have thought of myself as a good cook but not a good baker. But slowly that is beginning to change.

Until recently I would never experiment with a cake recipe because baking just didn’t come naturally to me.

The world seems to fall into two camps: those who were born to bake and those who weren’t. I’ve always fallen into the second camp. But I’m gradually discovering  that baking can actually be learned. It’s as much about confidence in the kitchen as anything, a bit of practice and not giving up the first time things go pear-shaped.

In recent weeks I’ve come up with my own recipe for pistachio scones and tried my hand at hot cross buns (recipe coming soon). And I’ve also come up with this recipe for chocolate orange cupcakes, which I’m really rather proud of. They’re sticky and gooey and indulgent and satisfying. My little girls asked for seconds. What more can you ask for?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not inventing recipes from scratch. Far from it. But I’m having fun playing around with other people’s recipes.

My experiments don’t always work out. A few weeks ago I tried making my version of a lemon tart using polenta and caraway. It was truly disgusting. I wasn’t too impressed with my Cheerio crunchies either – my attempt at using up a bulk purchase of a breakfast cereal my kids once loved then decided they no longer like.

Anyway, back to the chocolate orange cupcakes. The idea for these came from the good old Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Well, where else? I’ve used Nigella Lawson’s recipe for chocolate-cherry cupcakes as my starting point and then quite simply swapped the cherry ingredients for orange ones. Perhaps I’m being too honest here? That sounds too easy now I’ve typed it. But it did honestly feel quite inspired to me at the time…

Chocolate orange cupcakes

Makes 12

125g butter
200g plain chocolate
280g orange marmalade
1 orange, zest and juice
150g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
100ml double cream
25g mixed peel

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat and then add 100g of the chocolate. When the chocolate starts to melt, remove from the heat and stir in the marmalade, orange zest and juice, sugar, salt and eggs.

When it’s all mixed together well, stir in the flour.

Place 12 muffin paper cases into your muffin tin and spoon in the cupcake mixture. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the cakes have risen and are springy to the touch.

Cool in the muffin tray for 10 minutes or so, and then transfer to a wire rack until they are completely cool.

To make the icing, break up the remaining 100g chocolate into a saucepan and add the double cream. Bring to a gentle boil and then remove from the heat. Stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the icing is smooth and thick. Use a tablespoon to ice the cakes and pop a few pieces of mixed peel in the middle of each one.

I just had a bit of a wobble and almost changed my mind about posting this recipe. Another blogger, a proper baking blogger with tonnes of followers, has just posted their recipe for chocolate orange cake. My confidence in my own food was zapped in a matter of seconds. But do you know what, I am going to press that ‘publish’ button. This isn’t a competition, after all. Is it?

Meal plan: 18 March 2012 (and how to poach eggs)

In the words of dear Britney, oops I did it again.

It’s been a fortnight since I last posted a meal plan. And I’m ‘supposed’ to put them up at the end of each week. I don’t suppose the world is going to crumble as a result now though is it?

The last couple of weeks have been really busy. I’m working full-time at the moment, three days in-house for a client and the remainder working from home on a number of freelance projects. It’s proving really rather challenging fitting in the blogging around the working and the cooking and the being a mum and a wife. And trying to fit in some semblance of a social life.

But what I have discovered this last fortnight is just how much I enjoy blogging. When I haven’t very much spare time, I’ve found that blogging has been one of the things high up on my priority list. What started as a bit of an experiment is turning into a bit of a passion.

But something I’ve also promised myself is that I won’t beat myself up on the days when I find it hard to fit in the blog.

Anyway, time for the highs and lows of the last couple of weeks in the Bangers & Mash kitchen…

The highs

It was my birthday last weekend and to celebrate my husband cooked one of my favourite dishes: Elizabeth David’s poulet a l’estragon. It was a gorgeously summery dish on a beautiful spring day. Superb.

Tarragon chicken for my birthday lunch cooked by my husband. I'm a very lucky girl.

Everyone knows how popular sausages are in our house. They appear regularly on our weekly meal plan and I’m always looking for new ways to cook them. We tried out this sausage, onion and potato bake from Lavender & Lovage and it was an instant hit and one I’m sure we’ll be cooking again and again.

Sausage potato and onion bake. Cheap and cheerful, this truly is fabulous family food.

Eggs are in my eyes a real super food. If you have a carton of eggs in the cupboard, you can fix yourself a meal in minutes. I love eggs cooked all ways but think I’m addicted to poaching these days, particularly for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

Just a couple of months ago I wouldn’t have dared poaching an egg. But at Christmas I offered friends staying with us a cooked breakfast in the morning and asked how they wanted their eggs, fried or scrambled. Jake asked instead for a poached egg. When he saw my face, he went on to give me the best ever instructions on how to do it.

I'm rather partial to a poached egg

There are no tricks other than using the freshest eggs possible. Simply crack your egg into a pan of boiling water and cook for three minutes. Don’t worry about how it looks. When you come to serve it, the egg white all comes together on your serving spoon. I was amazed at how easy they are. No vinegar. No swirling the water. And now I’m making them all the time.

Pasta appears regularly on my meal plans as a quick mid-week meal when my husband and I are both working. I tried this pasta, peas and pancetta dish from the Legal Tart, and highly recommend it. It’s very easy and very tasty.

Pasta with peas and pancetta - a great quickie dinner

The lows

I’m quite pleased to say that from 14 days of eating I could only come up with one low point. I cooked a beef pie and had very high hopes for it.

In the morning I put the casserole in the aga to slow cook while I was out at work and it was smelling fantastic when I returned home. I popped on a simple pie crust and I was almost there. I had the camera out ready to get some great close-ups when it came out of the oven. And then I went and burned it. It was still edible. Just. But not particularly pretty.

And now it’s time for those meal plans in blow-by-blow detail…

Monday 5 March
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: homity pie with spring greens

Tuesday 6 March
Lunch: hummus and cucumber rolls
Dinner: Chicken with mushrooms and cream, boiled rice

Wednesday 7 March
Lunch: tuna pasta salad 
Dinner: grilled chicken breast with baked fennel

Thursday 8 March
Lunch: carrot and coriander soup (F)
Dinner: cauliflower cheese

Friday 9 March
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: beef casserole and cornbread

Saturday 10 March
Lunch: leek and potato soup with garlic bread
Dinner: sausage onion and potato bake

Sunday 11 March
Lunch: poulet a l’estragon
Dinner: cream tea

Monday 12 March
Lunch: chicken sandwiches
Dinner: spaghetti with tomatoes and peas

Tuesday 13 March
Lunch: cheese and salad rolls
Dinner: pasta with peas and pancetta

Wednesday 14 March
Lunch: chicken pasta salad
Dinner: beef and vegetable pie

Thursday 15 March
Lunch: hummus, breadsticks and salad
Dinner: chilli con carne

Friday 16 March
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: pumpkin and parsnip cassoulet (F)

Saturday 17 March
Lunch: hot cross buns with Cheddar cheese
Dinner: homemade pizza

Sunday 18 March
Lunch: pub lunch for Mother’s Day
Dinner: cheese and beans on toast

F = from freezer

Pistachio scones for a Mothering Sunday tea time treat

My mother’s favourite tea time treat is a plate of warm scones served with jam and cream. So when I started pondering on what recipe to post for Mothering Sunday, I really didn’t have to think for too long.

Unfortunately since my mum lives in Spain I won’t be able to bake these for her tomorrow, but I send these pictures to her with love and the promise I’ll make them for her the next time she’s over.

Until recently I’d only ever baked plain scones. I felt the whole scone experience was more about the indulgent toppings rather than the scone itself, which seemed to me essentially a carrier.

But as an avid fan of the Lavender & Lovage and What Kate Baked food blogs, I’ve realised this month just how versatile scones can be. The theme for their March Tea Time Treats challenge is scones and I’ve already heard on the Twittersphere of some delicious-sounding entries, from white chocolate to feta, tomato and caramelised onion.

So I’ve put my thinking cap on and this is what I’ve come up with: dainty little pistachio scones seasoned with lots of black pepper for a slightly spicy, slightly Asian taste, which feel like they could easily have been part of a tea time spread enjoyed by the old colonials back in the days of the Raj. The pepper works particularly well with strawberry jam.

I like to make little diddy scones, the kind you can consume in a couple of bites. Or if you’re my husband, in a single mouthful. I used a 4cm circular pastry cutter for the scones pictured here.

And the secret to the perfect scone, according to Delia whose recipe this is based on, is to make sure you don’t roll out your scone dough too thinly. It must be at least 2cm thick.

Pistachio scones

Makes about 12

225g self-raising flour
40g soft butter
80g shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
A pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper
150ml milk

Preheat oven to 220°C Gas 7.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the pistachio nuts, salt and a good few grounds of black pepper. Remember these scones are meant to have a good peppery kick so don’t hold back.

Use a knife to gradually mix in the milk. Then use your hands to pull the mixture together into a soft dough, adding a little more milk if it seems too dry.

Place the dough onto a floured board and roll it out until it is no less than 2cm thick. Cut out your scones using your pastry cutter and place on a greased baking sheet.

Dust the top of each one with a little flour and bake for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and eat while they are still slightly warm. Serve with jam and whipped or clotted cream. Heavenly.

So what’s your favourite scone recipe? I’d love to hear it. And why not enter it into the March Tea Time Treats challenge as well? You’ve got until 28 March to take part.

Homity pie

Before I go any further I want to say that Cranks today is probably quite different from how I remember Cranks growing up in the 1980s.

My step-mum was a big fan of Cranks. When we went shopping in the West End, we’d invariably end up in the Cranks restaurant just off Carnaby Street and we ate many dishes from their recipe book.

In case you don’t know Cranks, they’ve been around since the 1960s and were one of the first brands I’m aware of that were exponents of healthy eating. This of course is fantastic. But as a kid, I grew to associate Cranks with worthy food: brown rice, heavy wholemeal pastry, nut roasts and – this for me was the worst part – wholemeal pasta. Now I know we need roughage in our diet. But there is a right way and a wrong way to eat your fibre, and a bowlful of wholemeal spaghetti is for me most definitely the wrong way.

I’ve just taken a peek at the Cranks website. They are still going strong it seems and they look very different from the Cranks I knew growing up. There are some recipes I’d actually be quite interested in trying.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Cranks as a youngster, there was one dish that my step-mum could make time and time again from their recipe book and I’d be happy, and that was Homity Pie – a tasty open cheese and potato pie. OK so it was made with wholemeal pastry but I could cope with that when balanced with the lovely buttery, cheesey, garlicy potatoes and onions. As with all my favourite foods, so very simple and so very delicious. In fact, when I left home for university, this was the only recipe I copied out to take with me.

I’ve played with the recipe a little. I use half wholemeal and half white flour for the pastry. Sometimes I add ham or bacon to the filling. And quite often I add whatever leftover vegetables I happen to have in the fridge. Last time I baked it, I used half a celeriac I had hanging around, so this appears in the recipe below.

Homity Pie

For the pastry

100g plain white flour
100g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g butter
3 tbsp water

For the filling

300g potatoes, peeled and diced
300g celeriac, peeled and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
450g onions, peeled and chopped
50g butter
handful fresh parsley, chopped
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp milk
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 220°C/gas 7.

To make the pastry, place the wholemeal and white flour in a basin and rub in the butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Gradually add the water and mix in with a knife to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large pan of salted water, boil the potatoes and celeriac until just tender, then drain and return to the pan.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sautee the onions until golden. Add the onions to the potatoes and celeriac along with the butter, parsley, 100g of the cheese, garlic, milk, salt and pepper and combine well.

Butter your flan dish – I use one that’s 25cm diameter. Take your dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured board. Don’t worry if it’s quite crumbly. Mine always falls apart a bit and I end up moulding it into position to line the flan dish.

Simply tip your ingredients into the pastry case, flatten it out a bit so the pastry is well covered and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar cheese.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and the cheese topping has melted and is golden brown.

Chicken and pea risotto

There are certain dishes that make you feel good simply by preparing them, even before you get to the eating of them. This risotto is, for me, one of these dishes.

It’s partly because it consists mainly of leftovers. The chicken comes from a roast chicken we enjoyed a couple of days earlier, while the stock was made from the bones of the same bird. Spreading ingredients over two or three meals in this way makes me feel quite virtuous, like a proper old fashioned cook.

And then there’s the way you cook a good risotto. It takes care and patience. You can’t turn your back on it for too long. It takes love, and in return you feel loved for making it.

People can be put off making risotto because they dislike the idea of having to stand over the pan, constantly stirring the rice. I know I used to be. But really, it’s only 20 minutes of your life, and it can be almost therapeutic to stand there and let  your mind wander. It’s almost like meditation.

Finally, of course, it tastes so good. Just a few simple ingredients and a bit of stirring and you end up with a creamy hug on a plate. Most definitely my idea of the perfect comfort food.

Chicken and pea risotto

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
320g arborio risotto rice
300g (approx) cooked chicken, torn or cut into bitesized pieces
1 litre hot chicken stock (homemade or from stock cubes)
250g frozen peas
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Gently cook the onion in the olive oil in a large frying pan for around 10 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and rice and fry for another couple of minutes.

Stir in the hot stock to the rice a ladleful at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Keep going until you have added almost all the stock.

As the last ladleful goes in, throw in the peas and the chicken and stir together for two to three minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the Parmesan cheese and a grind of salt and pepper to taste.

Apple crumble muffins

We’ve got another cake sale coming up soon at my daughter’s primary school. These are definitely one of the PTA’s most successful ways to raise funds. You should see the number of homemade cakes the parents bring in. It’s very impressive.

I have a couple of standards I usually bake, which I know always get snapped up. The first is the banana chocolate cupcake, which I’ve featured here before. And the other is the scrumptious apple crumble muffin, the recipe for which I’ve taken from Linda Collister’s excellent book ‘Baking with Kids’.

I like to think of both these cakes as being vaguely healthy since they contain fruit. Obviously they also contain lots of butter and sugar too, so I don’t think you can really claim they’re a substitute for one of your child’s five-a-day!

The apple crumble muffin is a big hit in our house. The perfect combination of cake and pudding.

And as they contain apple, I’m entering this muffin into February’s In Season Challenge over at Make It Bake It, where the theme this month is any recipe containing apples.

Apple crumble muffins

Topping:

50g butter
50g sugar
50g plain flour
50g ground almonds

Cakes:

275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
1 lemon
150g butter
2 eggs
100ml milk
2 eating apples

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

To make the topping, cut the butter into small pieces and put in a mixing bowl with the other ingredients. Work them together until it looks like crumble mixture.

For the cake mixture, sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar. Stir in the zest from the lemon and make a well. Pour the melted butter, beaten eggs and milk into the well, and mix gently.

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray. Core and roughly chop the apples and scatter on top of the muffin mixture, then sprinkle over the topping.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy with a cup of tea or a glass of milk!

Meal plan: 4 March 2012

Oh dear. My good intentions to post my family’s meal plan at the end of each week have gone to pot recently.

I blame my mother. She came to stay for four days and distracted me with shopping trips for clothes and perfume and drinking lots of red wine.

So I have two week’s worth of meals to share with you now. I promise I’ll be good from now on.

The Highs

Chicken thigh Yakitori from Belleau Kitchen has to have been one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever eaten. You’ve got to try it. Salty, sticky and scrumptious. Even better, my husband cooked it. So, simple too.

Roast vegetable lasagne – lovely

Roast vegetable lasagne is a bit of a family favourite; really satisfying and so full of flavour. I’ve entered this recipe into the Pink Whisk Challenge to raise awareness of Save The Children’s No Child Born to Die campaign. Why don’t you submit one of your family favourites?

I was surprised at just how good my Chinese style soup turned out

I had a go at creating my own Chinese style soup using Chinese sausage, noodles and Savoy cabbage and it was surprisingly good.

For a quick and cheap mid-week supper we tried  a recipe for creamy bacon and leek linguine from the fantastic Gourmet Mum. I didn’t have any linguine so used penne instead. It was very simple and very tasty.

Chicken and pea risotto. The perfect way to use up leftovers from a roast dinner.

And my final high of the fortnight was another very simple dish - chicken and pea risotto, using leftovers and stock from a roast chicken a few days earlier.

The Lows

It’s been a very good fortnight for food but there was one big fat dud. I tried making a goat’s cheese and onion tart and it was simply terrible. Bland and boring. I’d bought a cheap goat’s cheese on ‘special’ and it tasted of absolutely nothing. I won’t be doing that again.

Right then, time for the full breakdown…

Monday 20 February
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: mutton casserole and rice (F)

Tuesday 21 February
Lunch: hummus and cucumber rolls
Dinner: Pancakes (cheese & ham and lemon & ricotta)

Wednesday 22 February
Lunch: chicken and pea risotto  
Dinner: Chinese sausage and noodle soup

Thursday 23 February
Lunch: cheese and pickle rolls
Dinner: baked Portobello mushrooms with garlic butter, baked potatoes and salad

Friday 24 February
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: creamy leek and bacon linguine

Saturday 25 February
Lunch: beans and cheese on toast
Dinner: beef casserole with celeriac mash

Sunday 26 February
Lunch: Chinese chicken, spare ribs, pak choi and egg fried rice
Dinner: Bread, cheese and salad

Monday 27 February
Lunch: ham and salad rolls
Dinner: chicken madras and rice (F)

Tuesday 28 February
Lunch: cheese and salad rolls
Dinner: ratatouille and rice

Wednesday 29 February
Lunch: olive and mozzarella muffins (F) 
Dinner: roast vegetable lasagne

Thursday 1 March
Lunch: scallion and sweet potato soup
Dinner: chicken thigh yakitori

Friday 2 March
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: left over lasagne

Saturday 3 March
Lunch: OUT
Dinner: carrot, beetroot & apple salad and wraps

Sunday 4 March
Lunch: sausages and winter vegetable colcannon
Dinner: left over chicken and colcannon

F = from freezer

Roast vegetable lasagne

Lasagne has always been one of my favourite foods. I loved it when my mother cooked it when I was little and I now love making it for my own children.

It’s not a quick dish to prepare though. In fact I used to think it was a bit of a faff. But these days, when I’m juggling work and family, it’s one of the meals I’ll make once the kids are tucked up in bed and I have the kitchen to myself, generally listening to Jo Whiley on Radio 2, all ready to eat the following evening. There’s nothing nicer than getting back from work and simply having to pop supper in the over and it’s all done.

We’re trying to eat less meat in our house. It’s partly to save money, partly for environmental reasons and partly to eat more healthily. And this is one of those vegetarian alternative meals where you really don’t miss the meat. It’s packed with big bold flavours and the aubergine and courgette give it lots of substance.

Because this meal is such a favourite with my clan, I’m submitting the recipe to The Pink Whisk Challenge, which is dedicated to raising awareness of Save the Children and the Hidden Hunger campaign.

Save the Children is asking everyone to Name a Day, a day when they will do just one thing to help save children’s lives. And they are asking David Cameron to do the same. It is a terrible fact that we live in a world with enough food for everyone, yet hunger is still able to kill 7,000 children every day.  Can you help Save the Children put an end to this Hidden Hunger?

All the recipes gathered for the Pink Whisk Challenge will be collated and published in a Save the Children e-book to be sold to raise awareness and funds for the campaign. Do you have a family favourite to add? Please do. You have until 31 March 2012. Full details over at The Pink Whisk.

Use lots of fresh rosemary and keep the vegetables nice and chunky

Roast vegetable lasagne

Serves 6

For the roast vegetables

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 courgettes, chopped diagonally into thick slices
2 aubergines, chopped into large chunks
1 red and 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
6 cloves of garlic, skins removed
handful of cherry tomatoes
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
olive oil

For the cheese sauce

50g butter
40g plain flour
450ml milk
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 x 400g tins chopped plum tomatoes
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

250g lasagne sheets
Extra grated cheese for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6.

Begin by roasting your vegetables. Place them all in a large roasting tray along with the rosemary and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper, pour over some olive oil and toss together to cover the vegetables well. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through, until they are tender and beginning to brown.

The roast vegetables with garlic and rosemary smell sensational

While the vegetables are roasting prepare the two sauces.

The tomato sauce is very simple. Fry the onions in the olive oil until golden. Add the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and stir together. Simmer gently for around 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.

A very simple tomato sauce

For the cheese sauce, place the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan. Whisk over a gentle heat until it has thickened. Then stir in grated cheese until it has melted into the sauce. Again, season to taste.

When the vegetables are roasted, place a layer of these in the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. (Mine isn’t particularly large so I use a medium sized one and a small one.) Make sure you pull out the thick rosemary stalks. Nobody likes chewing on twigs.

Pour some tomato sauce over the vegetables and then cover with a layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat this process until you have filled your dish, ending with a layer of vegetables and then sauce.

Now pour over the cheese sauce. I like to wiggle the dish from side to side a little to make sure the cheese sauce seeps down the sides and through all the cracks.

Finally scatter some grated Cheddar cheese over the top. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbly and a knife inserted goes easily through the pasta.

Perfect served with a salad and some homemade garlic bread.

Who can resist the molten cheese on top of a big bowl of lasagne?