Wednesday 21 September 2011

PPN: Meaty Cauliflower and Walnut Lasagne

You can imagine my joy when we got our oven fixed last week.  I had missed it over the week that it was out of action.  To celebrate, I spent hours making a lasagne and a loaf of bread.  I was exhausted afterwards but luckily I had made enough for dinner for days and the fruit bread (to come soon) gave me a week of breakfasts.

The lasagne was all the more satisfying because I finally made a Meaty Veg-Based Ground “Meat” that Ricki posted around this time last year.  I am constantly in admiration of her ways with flavours and substitutions but this one is just pure genius.  Who would have thought that cauliflower and walnuts would mimic mince meat! 

I am wary of faux meats in the stores.  TVP and seitan have never seemed quite right to me.  This faux mince meat makes me feel more comfortable. It is made of ingredients that I regularly have in the house.  It is fairly simple to make though it still adds a bit of extra time to the lasagne.  I still have half the batch left in the freezer and am wondering what to make with it - spag bol, chilli non carne, tacos, nachos, burgers.

I took before and after photos of the mixture (above and below) and you might not see much difference.  Blame my photography.  It did look a lot darker once it was cooked.

However, check out the below picture of the "mince meat" in the tomato sauce.  Does it look like a regular spag bol sauce?  As we ate the lasagne, I kept saying to E, it looks just like a meat lasagne.  Of course I would only need one of my brothers to point out that of course their regular lasagne wouldn't have seeds on it or spinach.  I guess I have picked up some odd habits since becoming vegetarian!

We ate late that night but it was worth it.  This lasagne tasted amazing.  Though there are a lot of nuts in the "mince meat", there is lots of cauliflower to lighten it.  E loved it too.  He had lots of dishes to celebrate the return of the oven but all the leftovers meant minimal dishes for quite some days following it.  This "mince meat" will become a regular fixture in our household.

I am sending this to Tandy of Lavender & Lime who is hosting Presto Pasta Nights #232 this week. It is too long since I have been part of this virtual pasta feast, which was founded by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Green Tambourine Cafe
This time two years ago: Simple Feta and Tomato Supper
This time three years ago: Fridge Door Confessions

Meaty lasagne with cauliflower and walnut "meat"
serves 8

Tomato sauce:
1 onion, chopped (I used red onion)
1 carrot, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
750ml passata (sieved tomatoes)
1/2 jar of pasta sauce (optional)
little bit extra water to swish out tomato sauce jars1/2 - 1 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tsp golden syrup (or other sweetener)
generous pinch salt

White sauce:
30g butter
2 heaped dessertspoons wholemeal flour
about 1 cup milk or as needed
1 tsp seeded mustard
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:

Half a batch of cauliflower and walnut mince meat (see recipe below)
375g "fresh" lasagna sheets (or a bit less)
spinach, chopped (optional)
200g mozzarella, grated
1-2 tbsps each of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds

Firstly make the cauliflower and walnut mince meat. See recipe below.

Next make the tomato sauce.  Fry the onion and carrot for about 5-10 minutes until softened.  Add red capsicum and fry an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and gently simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  It will only thicken slightly.  Go easy on the seasoning because the "mince meat" is well seasoned.

Once tomato sauce is done, add the "mince meat" and set aside while you make the white sauce so the meat can soak up the sauce.

To make white sauce: melt butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in flour (to make a roux) and cook a minute or two over low heat until it starts to dry out (if there is quite a bit of melted butter oozing out of the roux add a little more flour).  Add milk very gradually until you have a very milky mixture.  Bring to the boil, stirring frequently.  By the time the mixture boils it should thicken sightly but still have a pouring consistency.  Add mustard, salt and pepper.  Check and adjust seasoning.

If using spinach, lightly steam spinach - I did this in a bag in the microwave - and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

To assemble:  Smear a spoonful or two of tomato sauce on the roasting dish.  Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of lasagne dish.  Evenly spread with about one third of the tomato sauce and half of the spinach.  Cover with a layer of lasagne.  Spread a third of the tomato sauce and a scattering of the cheese sauce.  Cover with another layer of lasagne and spread with the remaining tomato sauce and spinach.  Cover with the fourth and last layer of pasta.  Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.  Sprinkle with cheese, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.

Bake at 220 C for about 40 minutes.  Ideally sit for 10-15 minutes before eating - but if you are hungry, just tuck in!

Cauliflower and Walnut "Mince Meat"
From Diet Dessert and Dogs

1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets (about 450 g after trimming)
2 cups (250 g) raw walnuts
2 Tbsp olive oil (I forgot this)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried sage ( I used mixed herbs)
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce, or tamari

Preheat oven to 180 C (or 350 F) and lightly grease a roasting tin.

Use a food processor to finely chop cauliflower and walnuts into a fine meal (I processed the cauli and nuts one at a time).  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, checking for taste.  Ricki mixed with her hands but I found a spoon did the trick!

Tip the mixture into the prepared roasting tin and and spread out evenly. Bake for between 45 and 75 minutes, checking and stirring at 30 minutes and then about every 15 minutes after it.  I found it needed to be stirred midway because it cooked on top quicker than at the bottom of the tin.  The mixture is ready when it is dry and browned.

You can use it right away, keep in fridge for 3 days or freeze it.

On the stereo:
The Rip Tide: Beirut


  1. I'm glad to see another positive review of this recipe! I saw it on Veganise This, and it was on our shortlist for the VegMel blogging event. Ultimately the enchiladas won out, but I will definitely get back to this one. :-)

  2. I can't believe how meat-like that looks! Wow. I am also a little hesitant about faux ground meat products, and would much prefer this.

    I'm glad your oven is fixed, too!

  3. What a fantastic looking lasagne! Ricki's ground "meat" is such a great recipe which needs to be tried to be believed! Have been meaning to make it again and try it in a lasagne. My boys said it made the best veg spag bol ever and the chilli non carne I made with it was also great!

  4. Ouch! For a moment I thought it was real meat!!

  5. Really interesting that you cook the "meat" separately first - and of course the Cauli'! Looks like you made a nice big tray of it there! I guess you'll be re-visiting that one! I know how you feel about the oven. I had 10 months in Spain without an oven as they just don't have them there. I've been crazy-baking since I got back to London.

  6. I've twice bought the Sanitarium fake mince from the supermarket, and it's twice made me feel really sick. Considering how much I adore nuts and cauliflower, I'll have to try this soon!

    P.S. You've had a rough trot with your ovens lately, haven't you! Here's to no more problems ever again!!

  7. Yay for you getting your oven back Johanna! :D And walnut in lasagna sounds really interesting-I'll have to give it a go!

  8. Lovely - you might make vegetarians out of us yet! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights

  9. You tried it!! Yayyy!!! I have to say that I feared for the result when I read that you actually added it directly to the sauce--mine has always dissolved right in when I do it that way and there is no distinguishable "meat" left, so I always layer the sauce and meat separately (and especially when I make a spaghetti sauce with it--I just crumble it on top after the sauce is served). But hey, maybe I need to try again, as this seemed to work for you! I'm so glad you liked it. And reading through the comments, I only just found out about Veganise This--now I have to go check it out and see where it is!

    This lasagna recipe sounds lovely, too, so different from the all-tomato version I'm used to. I need to try white sauce in a lasagna. Oh--and one more idea for the meat--great sprinkled over a pizza. :D

  10. That is pure genius!!! I really miss a decent lasagne and this looks the perfect substitute. Love it.

  11. mmm, that looks so hearty. Lasagne is so versatile, as are walnuts which I always forget about until I come across tasty looking prompts like this post!

  12. wow - that pot of sauce looks just like reg bolognaise sauce!! How very interesting indeed!

  13. what a great dish for meatless Mondays :)

  14. Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm enjoying reading yours. I love lasagne and this looks fabulous! Looking forward to the fruit bread.

  15. This looks devine - I would like to try this out.

  16. This has my mouth watering non stop! I love Ricki and I love the way you have interpreted her recipe into a good ole lasagna.It totally looks like the real thing.

    Like you, I too am wary of mock meats and this would be an awesome substitute. I actually have a nut meat roast recipe that I am dying to use, and this has inspired me.

  17. Oh my gosh. Such a lovely dish. I so love your recipes.

  18. Wow I definitely totally forgot that you were a vegetarian when looking at that really does look like meat! And i love that it is infinitely healthier than any of those meat substitutes out there. You can't beat REAL FOOD.

  19. I could easily be vegetarian with this meal

  20. Wow - this looks so very much like mince! Lasagne can be quite a rich dish - did the nuts make it even richer, or was the cauli enough to lighten it up?

  21. Thanks Cindy - I am sure you will love it - am wondering about trying some veg party pies with the leftovers

    Thanks Kari - I've never taken to faux meats but am always delighted with something using ingredients I recognise

    Thanks Mel - I was really pleased to see your glowing review of it but I agree it has to be tried to be believed - seems like it should have a "I can't believe it's not meat" tag over it!

    Thanks Anh - I still feel that way every time I see the top photo

    Thanks Adam and theresa - i think the best meat substitutes I've had (nut roast and veg haggis) are cooked first - though there are always things you can just throw in all together - didn't know that they don't have ovens in spain - no wonder I saw an old lady cooking over a fire in a recent cooking show in spain!

    Thanks Hannah - fingers crossed on the oven - I think it still have a few nervous ticks - I might even be developing a few of my own - at least the faux meat worked - haven't bought the faux mince myself but E loved the linda mccartney lasagne in Scotland and I couldn't stand it - he thought this lasagne was that good

    Thanks Lorraine - I am sure this would go down well with your in laws

    thanks Ruth - and you wont even have to close your eyes :-)

    Thanks Ricki - now I am very relieved it worked - wonder if mine was a bit coarser in the food processer - mine doesn't seem as powerful as yours - love the sound of the faux meat on pizza - reminds me of haggis pizza - I am a bit fan of white sauce on top - though don't like it through the lasagne which is a bit rich for me

    Thanks Chele - this is definitely a decent lasagne

    Thanks Nic - I have been using walnuts a lot more recently and remembering why I loved them so much as a child

    Thanks Lisa - I just was amazed at how like bolognaise it looked

    Thanks Tandy - this lasted us about a week but I guess it could be frozen for a month of meatless mondays or feed a large family

    Thanks Liz - nice to have you visit - the fruit bread is coming soon

    Thanks Cakelaw - you should do - it is great

    Thanks Girl on Raw - sounds like you were used to the same lasagnes as me - I did wonder about using this in a nut roast and if it would taste even more like meatloaf?

    Thanks Lisa - very kind

    Thanks Joanne - I am so much happier when I know what is in my faux meat - that doesn't mean reading the ingredients but actually knowing what they look like - esp when there are vegetables involved

    Thanks Food Hunter - it isn't all mung beans and tofu :-)

    Thanks Amanda - it wasn't incredibly rich - we only have half a serve and the lasagne lasted 4 nights so it wasn't heaps of nuts per serve and there was enough of a range of vegies for my liking - I think that lots of layers of white sauce also make lasange rich but if you just have it on the top layer that makes it lighter too

  22. I really couldn't believe this wasn't actual meat when I first glanced at it - very true to the real stuff, but obviously not! The lasagne looks great!

    I really like the idea of using cauli and nuts in that way. I might have to try a really small batch using cashews and see what happens.

  23. Thanks C - would be interested to hear how it goes with a different nut

  24. I'm with you on the fake meat - I've never been a fan of TVP or the ground round/fake meat. I love the sound of this cauliflower walnut meat.

  25. Very cool idea to use cauliflower and walnuts as a meat substitute!

  26. Aha! I was looking for a recipe using cauliflower mince and this is perfect. :)


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