This blog is the first of two very special Quorn blog posts! Most of you will know that I’ve been a vegetarian since I was nine, and so choosing meat-free alternatives have been pretty high on the agenda for many years now. You will also probably know that I am a HUGE Quorn fan. Quorn Foods recently asked me to work with them in order to create a Winter warming recipe, or to try one of their wonderful creations that are listed in the recipes section of their website. Being a Quorn fan, I jumped at the chance! I have been hankering after working with them for years, and helping them fly the flag for healthy, versatile meat alternatives across the worldwide web, spreading the Quorn love as standard!
I love vegetables too, ALL of them. Well, all except celery anyway and so rather than make family friendly vegetarian dishes from protein such as lentils, tofu or Quorn I like to add a good variety of veggies too. Most of our meals at home consist of proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables and using meat alternatives regularly means that we can be adventurous with our meals and re-create most recipes that our carnivore opposites enjoy.
The recipe I’d like to share with you is one that I made up on the spot last week and it contains both Quorn and and a array of colourful vegatables, packed with plenty of vitamins and minerals, which, for this time of year are great for fighting off those pesky bugs and infections! I regularly make lasagne but often its a spur of the moment option because I do not meal-plan. The reason for this is that I like to be spontaneous with our meals, simply because some of our best meals have been when I have just thrown most of what was left in the fridge into a pan. Of course, I am aware it’s far more economical to meal plan, and I would like to start at least having a tough guide as to the meals for the week and so plans are in the pipeline to be more organised now I am working part-time and can enjoy cooking a little bit more.
The Quorn lasagne is made primarily with Quorn Fillets, which resemble (although some will disagree) like chicken breasts. Essentially, you can do what the heck you like with the Quorn fillets but I like to but them frozen, allow them to defrost and chop them into chunks. Often I will fry them in a little Frylight or olive oil and then they are ready to be added to any dish you like. You can also cook them by adding them straight to your slow-cooker, casserole or stir-fry. Quorn fillets aren’t great when it comes to marinating however, be warned. But I am past being upset about this, as I have learnt to add vegetables to dishes that soak up the flavour of the dish, or to use a richer sauce to balance things out. I also like that the texture of the fillets differs depending on how it is cooked. In a slow cooker (which is my usual method) the fillets become soft and tender. Pan frying ensure a tougher consistency, probably more like roast chicken.
On the day I decided to create this recipe I had in the fridge; butternut squash, spinach, courgettes, baby corn, cherry tomatoes, a yellow and a red pepper and some red onions. I always make my own base sauce and so quickly threw some fresh garlic, chopped onion, a dash of balsamic vinegar (or use a little sugar) and chopped tomatoes and tomato puree into a pan and left to simmer to make a basic tomato-garlic sauce. NB if the kids aren’t going to be eating the dish, at this stage I often use fresh chillies at this stage too, as I like a kick when it comes to tomato based sauces, so you could do that too!
Next I lightly pan-fried the butternut squash, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms, adding them to the homemade tomato base sauce once cooked. Then I layered it all up alternatively in a large dish, using the raw spinach to create added layers before the pasta layer, which I knew would wilt nicely whilst in the oven.
I’m not going to list the ingredients in a list form, or with quantities, as I find that family meal cooking doesn’t really work in that way. I am an experimenter and so believe in just working with that you’ve got and trying different vegetables, and seasoning to make a slightly different dish every single time. Variety is the spice of life after all! (AND I don’t actually know any quantities and I generally just chuck it all in!)
The great thing about lasagne is that you can add what you like and it’s always pretty tasty, plus you can put it in the oven to cook whilst you get one with all those other jobs we all have to do! Next I topped with a homemade cheese sauce (see the end of this blog for a quick and easy cheese sauce recipe!) and sprinkled with more cheese and some dried herbs. Hey presto! I have to add here that when using butternut squash and Quorn fillets, I have found that goats cheese works fantastically! But sadly, all I had in the fridge was cheddar so I went with that.. so if you want to out-do me, use goats cheese. or perhaps a fiery cheddar.. ooh that would be good too.
After cooking for approximately 30-40 minutes you have a tasty family meal which if stored in the fridge, will last a few days, which means for us, that it last two days, and for two dinners. The lasagne is fairy cheap to make, approximately £7-8 per dish which is, if you’re on a budget I think really reasonable for a family of four. We all loved this dish and both our vegetarian children eat Quorn and have done since the baby-led weaning days, they love it as much as I do in fact!
In our house, we eat most of the Quorn products, but i’d say it is the fillets we eat the most. It’s a healthy protein that’s low in saturated fat and so suit my (usual) healthy eating plan. I am not a fussy eater, but I like to eat well and in my opinion using Quorn allows us to enjoy all those family favourite meals such as chilli, spaghetti bolognaise or casseroles safe in the knowledge that no animal has suffered for our enjoyment, plus Quorn has high protein levels far less saturated fat than meat. In fact, Lucy Jones, spokesperson for Quorn and Channel Four dietician, says “Incorporating a healthy protein source into our everyday diet is crucial for maintaining normal bones and muscle mass and growth. Protein is also a good source of energy, so for those trying to make exercise a regular part of their routine, it’s vital to introduce varied protein rich foods to help power through the day. So it’s never been so important to eat a protein rich, varied diet. Guidelines suggest that adults should eat between 45g and 55g of protein a day. That’s the equivalent of two pints of milk or seven to eight eggs, so it’s essential that healthy proteins such as Quorn Mince and Quorn Chicken Pieces are introduced for a balanced and healthy diet.
Quorn Meat Free Chicken fillets are available in both chilled and frozen variants, Quorn meat free items are a healthy protein source, quick-to-cook and perfectly versatile for creating stir fries, curries and casseroles. The price is VERY reasonable too especially compared to meats, starting from RRP £3.39 for a 350g chilled pack, RRP £2.55 for a 300g frozen pack and RRP £3.18 for a 500g frozen pack, Quorn meat-free fillets are available from Asda, Morrison’s, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and many more.
If you like the sound of trying Quorn or perhaps building or simply adding to your repertoire, then you can visit http://www.quorn.co.uk/healthy-protein/ for more information, recipe ideas and cooking videos. Alternatively, log onto the Quorn UK Facebook page follow @QuornFoods on Twitter and their fabulous Youtube channel too. if you search the hashtag #ahealthyprotein you will also find lots of useful Quorn information, tips and recipes too. Be sure to share yours!
So that’s it, my kind or Quorn and Butternut Squash Lasagne recipe! Hope you enjoyed! My next Quorn blog post will be all about Quorn Sausages, and more than likely include a (loose) recipe.. so watch this space!
Quorn Foods Ltd is the reporting group which includes a main trading company, Marlow Foods Ltd. Quorn Foods Ltd encompasses all international operations of Quorn and Cauldron. This post was written by myself in collaboration with Quorn foods.
Quick & Easy Cheese Sauce Recipe
25g/1oz plain flour
600ml/1 pint milk
salt and white pepper
80g/3oz cheese, grated (e.g. mature cheddar, Gouda, gruyère)
1.Melt the butter in a saucepan.
2.Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.
3.Take the pan off the heat and gradually stir in the milk to get a smooth sauce. Return to the heat and, stirring all the time, bring to the boil.
4.Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes and season with salt and white pepper.
5. Stir in cheese and allow to melt. Don t re-boil the sauce or it will become stringy.