A week ago Stew and I had an text conversation that went a little something like this:
Stew: "Do we have any plans for the 15th?"
Me: "Yes, Justin, Kylie and the boys are coming over"
Stew: "Did I know about this?"
Me: "Yes darling, you invited them"
Stew: "Hmmmm. I don't think I did"
Me: "It was a couple of weeks ago, you were out after work, it was the Friday. Halloween night. You asked me if the 15th or the 16th was better and I said the 15th."
Stew: "I don't remember this."
Me: "Well it is in the calendar and I am sure it will be in Kylie's too. Check with Justin"
Then the texts stopped. About an hour later he sent me a screen shot of his text conversation with Justin from the 31st and then a text.
Stew: "Turns out I did invite them"
Me: "Hehe x"
Which all goes to show two things 1) Stew has got to the age that after a few drinks on a Friday night he forgets things and 2) I should stick to arranging things 😉
Which is a very long winded way of saying we had friends over yesterday.
I love having people over for dinner. Cooking for friends and family is my favourite thing. Cleaning up without a dishwasher is my least favourite thing 😉 But planning and cooking dinner for friends is something I really do love.
Some evenings are perfect for 3 courses followed by cheese and biscuits as you sit around and talk into the night. This was the last evening we spent with Justin and Kylie, but that was a rare evening when we were both child free. I cannot take credit as Kylie cooked dinner, including Jamie Oliver's epic cauliflower cheese, and this is coming from someone who doesn't really enjoy cauliflower!!
Yesterday we were en mass so with 4 adults and 5 children I went for a prepare in advance dinner. Chargrilled vegetable lasagne, macaroni cheese and garlic bread pizzas. Not haute cuisine but tasty, delicious and crowd pleasing.
If you had arrived at my house yesterday at 10:30am you would have found me in my pyjamas making large quantities of béchamel sauce. I had about 2.5 litres of the stuff 😉 Which was plenty for the macaroni cheese, the top of the lasagne and some left overs for a white chicken pizza (watch the blog later in the week for this one) and a freezer bag ready for a quick dinner for the boys one night. I tell you something....making that much white sauce is a work out on your arms!
But it meant by 12 I was finished in the kitchen, I could vacuum the house, clean the bathroom, have a shower and pour a glass of wine. And have a frantic FaceTime conversation with my sister, as we tried to sort out her latest disaster. (That is a whole other story and not mine to tell....yet 😉 love you Cece x)
Poor Stew was back at our property, on the tractor trying to get some Cotton Bush under control, so he arrived back, as our guest arrived, dirty and hot. Nothing a shower and a beer couldn't fix. And there in started a lovely afternoon with friends. Even bedtime and co-ordinating 5 boys into bed went smoothly, at least it seemed to after a couple of glasses of wine!
So here is my chargrilled vegetable lasagne recipe. Now this is not a quick dish to make, but the preparation is straight forward and can be done up to a day in advance.
For the lasagne
- 2 red capsicums
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large zucchini
- 800g mushrooms
- 25g butter
- 75ml water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Tomato sauce (recipe below)
- 250g lasagne sheets
- 200g provolone (or mozzarella)
- Béchamel sauce (recipe below)
- 200g grated cheese (I use a mixture of mozzarella, provolone and parmesan)
- Chop the capsicums into 2 cm chunks and place in a bowl with the olive oil.
- Heat a frying pan/griddle pan on a very high heat and then add the capsicums. Keep the bowl back ready for the zucchini.
- Cook on a high heat, until they are softened and slightly charred.
- Slice the zucchini into thick disks and mix in the bowl with the remains of the olive oil.
- Cook on the griddle pan until they have softened and have slight char lines.
- Alternatively you can roast the capsicum and zucchini at 220°C/200°C fan forced/Gas mark 7 for 25 minutes.
- Slice the mushrooms and place in a large frying pan with the butter, water and salt and pepper. Cook on a medium-high heat, stirring until they have softened and the water has evaporated. Check your seasoning.
- Spoon tomato sauce over the base of a large baking dish. (My dish is 35 x 21 x 6 cm) You want the sauce to just cover the base, usually between 1 and 2 cups of sauce.
- Add lasagne sheets to cover, you will probably need 2 full sheets and then break a third into pieces.
- Place the capsicums over the lasagne and add 1 cup of tomato sauce, until they are just covered.
- Layer over more lasagne.
- Add the mushrooms and cover with slices of provolone.
- Add another layer of lasagne.
- Place the slices of zucchini over the pasta and add another 2 cup (or there abouts) of the tomato sauce.
- Add the final layer of lasagne.
- Cover generously with béchamel sauce and the sprinkles over your cheese mix.
- Either refrigerate until you need it, and then cook at 180°C/160°C fan forced/Gas mark 4 for 50 minutes, until the top is golden.
- Or cook straight away at 180°C/160°C fan forced/Gas mark 4 for 35 minutes, until the top is golden.
For the tomato sauce (This will make more than you need but it freezes well)
- 3 large onions
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed Italian herbs
- 125ml red wine
- 5 tins of chopped italian tomatoes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chop the onions into large chunks
- Gently heat the olive oil in your biggest pan. Add the onions and salt and cook over a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soften and starting to colour.
- Crush or chop the garlic and add to the onion, along with the dried herbs.
- Pour in the red wine and turn up the heat so it starts to sizzle
- Quickly add the tinned tomatoes.
- Fill one empty tin with water and add to the sauce.
- Once the sauce starts to bubble turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cook slowly for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- You will be left with a thick sauce, but this what you want.
- Check your seasoning and allow the sauce to cool if you are preparing the lasagne ahead of time.
- If you are cooking it straight away, don't worry if the sauce is hot or cold.
For the béchamel sauce
- 75g butter
- 75g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 30g grated parmesan
- salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the butter into a saucepan and heat gently until has just melted.
- Stir in the flour and cook gently for about 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk. I usually add it about 50ml at a time at the beginning and then as the sauce comes together I add more and more.
- Return the pan to the lowest heat and stir the sauce for 15 minutes, until it has thickened..
- Remove it from the heat and add the grated parmesan. Stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.
- Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.