Head chef at The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds, Greig Young has found he has time on his hands because of the lockdown. . . and he’s growing to enjoy it. Here, he explains why and offers us a tasty recipe to try
Let’s be honest, a lot has happened since my last column!
It was a really strange feeling to be packing down The Northgate kitchen to close the following day for an unknown amount of time. Now we are five weeks in and I am finally finding my rhythm. I’ve mowed the grass countless times, planted seeds, built a playhouse, lots of attempts at DIY, had a virtual three-year-old’s birthday party and made sourdough everything, from pizza bases and naan breads to pancakes and that all important crusty loaf!
The complete change of routine hit me quite hard for the first week – I was really down and I really struggled going from the fast-paced kitchen, planning and gearing up for Mother’s Day with my whole team around to being at home trying to figure out what I’m meant to be doing. So as you can imagine, I filled my time cooking as much as possible for my family. I’ve been cooking lots of things I would never usually think to do, and have just been trying to enjoy cooking without stress or pressure.
We have been eating as much fresh veg as we can to keep our body and mind healthy, but those with a toddler will know how hard that can be at times, so I have been finding inventive ways to pack in and disguise as much goodness as possible. It’s funny really, she goes from hating all veg to stealing tomatoes and courgettes and eating them like they are apples. I have found cooking together helps. . . we have had a right laugh! Her face was priceless when she sneakily tasted a drop of sweet chilli sauce on her finger. It has been great to see her enjoying food and growing veg and herbs and it’s a great way for us to have some quality time and, hopefully, something we can continue to do even after this all ends.
This week we are attempting to eat vegetarian. At first I was a bit nervous as in our house we hardly ever have a meal without meat, but it’s turned out to be quite good to be fair. If anyone offered me a replacement meat product like soy mince even a month ago I would have laughed and instantly dismissed it, but in fairness it’s not bad and quite easy to adapt your recipes. I can’t say I wont eat meat again or I will ever use products like faux mince at The Northgate, but I will certainly look at plant-based food in a new light when writing my menus. My veggie lasagne was one of my favourites and one of the winners from our vegetarian week. It can be quite easily adapted with whatever vegetables you have available (or left over) and can include whatever mince (plant based or not). I hope you give this version a try and it surprises you like it did me.
AUBERGINE AND COURGETTE LASAGNE
300g mince (beef, lamb or plant-based)
1 courgette (green or yellow)
1 shallot diced
2 cloves of garlic sliced
1 tin of tomatoes
6 lasagne sheets
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground fennel
1 mozzarella ball, sliced
50g cheddar, grated
50g Parmesan, grated
Slice 1 of the aubergines and the courgette and marinade in a bowl with a pinch of salt, some thyme and a clove of garlic. Leave for an hour or so to soften. After the hour, colour the veg in a hot pan or on a barbecue and leave to chill. (This can be done the day before.)
With the other aubergine, blister the skin over open flame or under the grill to give a smoky flavour and make it easy to peel. Once peeled, chop roughly.
Start the ragu by colouring the mince in a hot pan then add the spices and dried herbs. Add the diced shallot and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until the shallot has softened. Once the mince is well coloured and the shallots are soft, add the chopped aubergine and tinned tomatoes and cook for a good half an hour until it has reduced.
Finish by building the lasagne: start by layering the ragu, then lasagne sheets, another layer of ragu, then the sliced courgette or aubergine (alternate as you repeat) sharing the grated cheese between the layers and finishing with the sliced mozzarella on top.
Bake in the oven at 220°C for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is golden and the pasta is tender to a knife.
Greig Young is head chef at The Northgate, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds
Call 01284 339604