Traditional Lasagne - Veganized

17 August 2014

Growing up, Mum's lasagne was one of my favourite foods, and it easily beat any other traditional lasagne I'd ever eaten. I used to rave to my friends about how good Mum's lasagne was, especially when we got fed some terrible lasagne look-alike on school camp. In retrospect, I expect my friends found it rather tedious.

Vegan traditional lasagne

I don't usually cook with fake meats, but to make this vegan version taste authentic, I needed to try something other than lentils. Enter TVP, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at the result. In this dish, I suspect it could fool most omnivores, although it's not easy for me to test this theory.

This recipe is long and contains a lot of steps. It is time-consuming, but it isn't difficult. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed

Recipe Notes
  • Liquid smoke isn't the easiest ingredient to find in Australia. If you can't find it, it doesn't matter, I just added it to compensate for the smokiness of the missing bacon. You may be able to find it in a health food store, or, if you have one nearby, an import store.
  • It may seem like there's quite a bit of oil in the sugo. This is because meat naturally contains fat, but TVP doesn't have any, and needs fat added to give it a nice mouth-feel.
  • You shouldn't need to add any salt to the sugo because of the salt in the beef style stock. If you use a salt free stock powder, you might need to add salt. If you use a salty stock powder, and it's not salty enough, I'd recommend adding more stock powder instead of salt.
  • You can prepare this the morning of or even the day before. Just cover with clingwrap and store in the fridge. This makes it ideal for entertaining. I think that the fact that the lasagne noodles have time to absorb juices prior to going into the oven more or less compensates for the fact that the lasagne needs to be heated up from cold rather than warm.
  • You can use commercial vegan cheese on top instead of the cheesy sauce. In that case, just make half the amount of bechamel base, and then add the nutmeg to it.

Traditional Lasagna

Serves: 6-8
Veganised from Mum's lasagne recipe, which I think originally came off a lasagne box a long long time ago

TVP "Mince"
  • 3/4 cup TVP crumbles
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon beef style stock powder (I use Massel brand)
Sugo (the tomato layer)
  • 2 + 2 tablespoons light oil (not virgin), divided
  • 1 Small onion
  • 1 quantity "mince"
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 2 x 400g tins peeled and diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Italian herbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Bechamel/Cheesy topping
  • 4 tablespoons light olive oil (not virgin)
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1.2L soymik 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup Nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon juice
  • About 1 box instant lasagne sheets (6 large sheets)

TVP "Mince"
  1. Mix the stock powder and liquid smoke into the water
  2. Add the dry TVP to a medium sized pot, cover with the stock mixture, and cook over low to medium heat until the water is completely absorbed
  3. Add half the oil, and try to brown it, or at least cook until all the oil is absorbed, and then a few minutes afterwards. I find it difficult to get to brown.
  4. Set aside.
Vegan traditional lasagne - TVP "mince"

  1. In the same pot you used for the mince, heat the remaining oil, and cook the onion over medium heat until golden brown, then add back the mince.
  2. Increase to high heat, add wine and stir until it evaporates.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato paste, and bring to the boil.
  4. Season with freshly ground black pepper, sugar and mixed herbs. Taste, and if it needs salt, add more beef stock powder, or if you prefer, salt.
  5. Cover, and set aside. 
Vegan traditional lasagne - Sugo

  1. Heat oil over medium heat, and whisk in flour.
  2. When the roux turns lightly golden, gradually pour in the soymilk, stirring constantly. It will go really lumpy at first, but as you keep adding milk and stirring it will smooth out.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and continue to stir until sauce has boiled and is smooth and thick.
  4. Vegan traditional lasagne - Bechamel sauce

  5. Divide in half
  6. Season one half with nutmeg. This forms the bechmel.
  7. Stir nutritional yeast and lemon juice into the other half. This forms the cheesy topping.
Vegan traditional lasagne - Cheesy topping

Assembling the Lasagne
  1. Lightly grease an oven-proof lasagne dish.
  2. Pour a thin layer of bechamel into the dish. 
  3. Vegan traditional lasagne - Assembly
  4. Arrange uncooked lasagna sheets over the bechamel. 
  5. Vegan traditional lasagne - Assembly
  6. Cover with half the sugo and half the remaining bechamel.
  7. Vegan traditional lasagne - Assembly
    Vegan traditional lasagne - Assembly
  8. Add another layer of lasagne sheets.
  9. Repeat step 4 and 5.
  10. Vegan traditional lasagne - Assembly
  11. Cover the top with the cheese sauce, making sure that there isn't any lasagne sheet left uncovered, or it won't have the moisture it needs to cook.
  12. Vegan traditional lasagne - Assembly
  13. Bake in oven at 180°C for 35-45 minutes or until the lasagne sheets are soft (you can try pricking it with a fork to test). 
  14. Take from oven, cover, and allow to set for 10-15 minutes. Don't be tempted to skip this, or you will end up with slop. Tasty slop, but not at all attractive looking.
  15. Vegan traditional lasagne
  16. Serve with garlic bread, or even better fresh hot bread (Coles/Woolworths bake-at-home dinner rolls are a deliciously easy option) and a fresh garden salad.

At this point, I need to rant about lasagne photography. If it's hot, it falls apart and forms a gloopy mess that is completely not photogenic. If it's cold, it holds together well, but somehow, it's visibly cold and unappetizing in the photo (see below). I think the trick is to cool it completely, then cut it, and then microwave it a little bit, so the top is warm but the insides are still cold, and then it holds together fairly well but doesn't have that unappetizing cold look to it. At that point, however, I'd rather given up. It was the third time I'd made this lasagne to develop the recipe (you can see that some of the photos were taken in different kitchens), and it was the second day of eating and photographing that particular lasagne, and I didn't want to reheat two extra serves of lasagne that weren't going to be eaten that day.

Vegan traditional lasagne

Seriously though, make this lasagne. It's seriously good comfort food.

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