I'm wary of labelling this a 'hidden veg' dish because I don't really believe in tricking children into eating things. However, I've got two children who will happily eat brussels sprouts and am aware not everyone is as lucky, so if this is a starting point in getting your kids to eat something plant-based, then crack on and call it what you will!
It's a great way of eking out mince to do that little bit more, it's a great source of veg and their associated goodies and benefits, but most importantly it's DELICIOUS. Which is what counts, right? If you have alternative veg lying around in your crisper starting to look sad, feel free to experiment. Parsnip is especially nice and adds a lovely sweetness, and you could try very finely minced mushrooms.
You can substitute soya based mince or a drained can of cooked lentils and swap the beef stock cube for vegetable to make this a veggie friendly dish.
Don't be frightened by the ingredient list, it's not in the least bit taxing.
Veg Packed Lasagne - serves 2 adults, 2 snarflings, with enough for a tupperware lunch the next day. Or can split into 4 portions and freeze two, for couples.
500g lean beef mince
1 onion, finely sliced
splash olive oil
1 courgette. grated
1 large carrot, grated
1 red pepper, finely sliced
1 beef stock cube
1 tsp each smoked paprika and italian seasoning/mixed dried herbs
2 cloves garlic, a bit of ready jarred garlic or a tsp of garlic granules
pinch dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 small can tomato puree
1 can/carton chopped tomatoes
1 carton passata.
approx 8-10 lasagne sheets, white or verdi
150g cheddar, grated
You will also need to make some white/bechamel sauce, which you can find directions for here.
Heat the oil in a large pan and chuck in the onion, Cook for 3-4 minutes until it starts to brown and look a bit translucent. Add the beef to the pan, stirring to break up clumps. Cook until the beef is evenly brown in colour then add the courgette, carrot and pepper to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until everything is softening nicely.
Crumble in the beef cube, add the seasonings and balsamic vinegar and stir thoroughly. Tip in the puree, tomatoes and passata, stir well to combine, reduce the heat so that it just blips gently and happily, and let it cook with the occasional stir-poke for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, whip up your sauce, and when it's reached the requisite creamy loveliness, add a pinch of crushed black pepper. To make your sauce you could opt for an olive oil based spread suitable for cooking, and semi or 1% fat milk, if you wished.*
Layer your pans of yum into an ovenproof dish - beef mix, lasagne sheets, white sauce, beef mix, lasagne sheets, white sauce is how I roll. Top the final layer of white sauce with the grated cheese. Pop into a 200 degree-ish oven for 20 minutes until it's golden, bubbling and looking delicious. Portion, serve and eat. Without guilt!
* a note on cooking with lower fat dairy products with small children - in the interests of balance I make this dish with semi skimmed milk and it works fantastically well. I've also made it with 1% fat milk on occasion and not noticed any difference. It's up to you whether you choose to only use full fat products when cooking for small children, and I'd suggest you ask your Health Visitor for guidance (if s/he is any cop). Personally, my smallest small person is nearly 2, has a good appetite and consumes a good selection of full fat dairy foods, and I have no compunctions about using semi skimmed in the occasional dish. How you work it is up to you. Just don't use skimmed, it doesn't cut it!