Having never been a fan of fennel or anything strongly aniseed flavoured – I was intrigued to try this recipe given that it included so many things that I did love – squash, creamy white sauce and lasagne. The fennel flavour was still very present but cooking it slowly made it much sweeter and less overpowering as it often can be. Whilst I still don’t enjoy fennel in salads or any other form I’ve tried it, in this recipe it does work well with the sweetness of the squash.
Adapted and veganized from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day!
Ingredients: Serves 6
- 1kg squash
- 6 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed (or 2 if they are smaller)
- a few sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
- 750g fennel (3 large bulbs)
- 150g almond feta, or vegan cheese of choice (optional)
- 1 box dried lasagne sheets (you will have leftovers but number of sheets depends on the baking dish you use)
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the bechamel sauce:
- 1 litre soya milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
- a few black peppercorns
- 50g vegan butter or margarine
- 50g plain flour
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- A few gratings of a fresh nutmeg or a pinch of dried
- Preheat the oven to 180’c/350’f.
- Start by preparing the first stage of the bechamel sauce. Heat the soya milk with the bay leaf, onion, celery & peppercorns until just before it starts to simmer. Turn the heat off and set aside to infuse.
- Peel & deseed the squash and cut into 2 cm cubes. Place in a large baking tray with 4 tbsp of the oil. Season well, toss together and bake for 30 mins until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and stir through the garlic and thyme, set aside.
- Remove any tough outer sections from the fennel and chop into 5mm slices. Saute in the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil on a low-medium heat for 20 mins until soft. Set aside.
- Reheat the infused milk, then strain.
- In a large saucepan melt the margarine, then add the flour. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes until a smooth roux has formed. Remove from the the heat.
- Add ¼ of the milk to the roux and beat until smooth with a whisk. Return to a low heat and gradually whisk in the remaining milk in batches ensuring it is fully incorporated and smooth. Stirring frequently, until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Turn off the heat, add the mustard, nutmeg and seasoning to taste.
- In a large baking dish (roughly 28 x 22cm), put 1/3 of the bechamel sauce, followed by lasagne sheets to cover (ensure they don’t overlap). Cover with the squash then add another 1/3 of the sauce, another layer of lasagne, then the fennel. Sprinkle the almond feta over the top (if using), and then pour the remaining bechamel over the top.
- Bake for 30mins until golden brown and the pasta cooked through when a knife inserted. Serve immediately with peas or a green salad.