I had the privilege of entertaining some very close friends a couple of weeks back and unsurprisingly, it spurred me to experiment with a new recipe. I had 2 meat-eating men to feed but I wanted to keep the meal plant-based, so I needed to come up with a recipe that felt so substantial that the guys didn’t really notice that they weren’t eating meat. I also wanted to use a traditionally Caribbean ingredient to construct my meal around. I opted for plantain, because it’s very versatile and one of my favourites.

Something I have become more and more aware of since I’ve been experimenting with food in the Caribbean, is that I often subconsciously bring in my inspiration that I got from living in Italy when I was 19. The result is an interest fusion of flavours between Italian and Caribbean, perhaps with one other style of cuisine thrown in for good measure!

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This plantain lasagne is exactly that Italian meets Caribbean, with a little Mexican sprinkled into the mix. Although it’s called a ‘lasagne’ there is no pasta in it – that’s where the plantains come in – so it’s completely gluten-free.

It is not the simplest of recipes, as I added the extra dimension of the pesto, but after you’ve made it once it is fairly straightforward.

So, what was the verdict? Well in fact, my friends enjoyed my lasagne so much that they begged me to cook for them again…so tonight they are getting a four-part ‘plantiful’ feast! Recipes from that one will soon be ready!

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Yield: Serves 6-8 people

Total cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

For the lasagne:

2 cups cooked lentils (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup black-eyed beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 red onion (diced)
1 aubergine (diced)
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper (finely chopped)
1 tin diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato purée
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
Sprig fresh basil (leaves)
Handful fresh washed spinach
4-5 large semi-ripe plantain

For the Pesto:

2 packed cups fresh basil (washed and dried carefully)
3 garlic cloves (chopped or minced)
2/3 cup olive oil (use less if you want a thick paste)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (sub pine nuts for traditional pesto)
1/2 grated Parmesan
Squeeze lemon
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat 2 tbsp oil (olive, avocado or coconut) in a large, deep, frying pan or casserole dish.

Place another pan on the hob and heat up your stock while

Once the oil in the pan is hot, add the onion and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, for a minute. Then add the aubergine, sliced scotch bonnet pepper, garlic, and a sprinkle of salt, mix well and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add the lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed beans and cannellini beans to the pan, along with the oregano, garlic powder, chilli flakes, thyme, black pepper and more salt and mix together thoroughly. Pour the tinned tomatoes in, along with the stock and tomato purée.

Mix everything thoroughly, add the basil and cover.

Let the bean mixture simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often, until most of the excess liquid evaporates.

Meanwhile, make your pesto. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blitz on high for 30 seconds until your achieve a green paste. If you feel the mixture is too thick, add some more olive oil, or a tablespoon of water and blend again. Leave to one side.

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While the bean mixture is still simmering, preheat the oven to 200°C.

Now prepare the plantains. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan. Peel the plantain and thinly slice them lengthways so that you get at least 6 slices per fruit. Be careful when slicing them as they will be slippery.

Fry the slices in the hot oil for a couple of minutes on each side.

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Line a glass or ceramic lasagne dish with the first layer of plantain, then spread with pesto. Spoon half the bean mixture on top. Then repeat another layer of plantain, pesto and beans. Place a final layer of plantain or top, spread with the rest of the pesto and sprinkle on some extra parmesan.

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Place in the oven to bake for 10 minutes.

Serve with a leafy side salad.

*This dish is great for dividing into portions and freezing or keeping for meals throughout the week.

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