I realised early in life that I like good food. As I grew up, I started indulging in shows such as Come Dine with Me, Masterchef, and Chopped. I am a food dreamer. But I really do like stretching the Rand, especially in this economy. So I would go the extra mile to look for cheaper alternatives. For example, I buy my spices from Indian shops (Indians really have a way with spices. Have you made a curry with their curry blends? Out of this world). It’s cheaper to buy spices from there and they have a variety; so while I would have to pay R24,99 for a bottle of bay leaves at a retail outlet, at one of my favorite Indian shops it would only cost me R12,50 (half the price, twice the quantity – my kind of deal). In addition, look out for discount deals at your local retailers where they usually have specials on bulk fresh produce, which often includes onions and peppers. Canned tomatoes are usually on sale at most big retailers and I always snatch them up. I would rather have 10 cans of tomatoes which I bought for R100 as opposed to buying them separately at R23 each.

Now that I’ve shared my budgeting tips, let’s get to work on mastering my lasagna dish. I hope you will enjoy it!

What you will need:
1 tablespoon oil (Health is wealth so I usually go for coconut oil which I always grab at a bargain at Dischem.)
500g Mince
Pinch Salt
Pinch Pepper
2g Margarine
1 whole yellow onion (chopped)
½ each Mixed Peppers (Green, yellow, red)
1 Carrot (peeled and diced)
Bay leaves (about 2 whole leaves)
½ teaspoon each of Spices (Curry powder, BBQ, paprika, chipotle)
1 teaspoon Garlic (otherwise garlic powder works beautifully – use 1 tablespoon)
1 can of tomatoes 400g
1 teaspoon Sugar
½ teaspoon Chili flakes
½ each teaspoon each of Herbs (Thyme, basil, rosemary, oreganum, coriander)
1 cup Beef stock
250 g Lasagna sheets (or any other type of pasta)
Cheese (grated Mozzarella and Cheddar) I buy them at checkers usually for under R30 each and grate them myself)

In a hot pan, add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the mince and season with salt and pepper. Brown the mince and then remove from the pan. Add 2g of margarine and the chopped onion, peppers, carrots, and bay leaves, and stir. Add garlic powder, curry powder, chilli flakes, BBQ spice, paprika, chipotle, salt and pepper. Stir so that the flavours and aromas marry. Transfer the mince back into the pot. Add canned tomatoes and the teaspoon of sugar, which balances the acidity of the tomatoes. In the same pot, add a cup of beef stock and the herbs and let it reduce. Put it on low heat for about 15 minutes and stir occasionally so that a crust does not form at the bottom of the pot.
In a separate pot, boil water for the lasagna sheets, as you would do with any other pasta. The sheets should not be cooked too soft as they will still cook some more while the lasagna is baking (I usually boil the sheets for 5 minutes). Remove from the water once the sheets are soft enough. Place the boiled sheets in a pan to rest.

You will use a bechamel (white) sauce to help assemble your lasagna, especially if you have used lasagna sheets because the white sauce will help make distinct layers. It provides a nice creamy element to the dish.

For the bechamel sauce, you will need:
5g Margarine/ butter (I use margarine; its cheaper than butter)
¼ cup Flour
300ml Full-cream Milk (Milk is cheaper than cream and still does the job)
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Pepper
1 teaspoon Mixed herbs

Heat up a pan and add margarine/ butter. Wait until the margarine has melted then add flour and stir. The flour will make lumps; do not worry. Add milk (you can use cream for a richer sauce) and whisk the mixture until you have a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper, and herbs if you like.

Once your bechamel sauce is done, you are ready to assemble. While doing this, preheat your oven. To assemble the dish, use a casserole dish that is oven safe and at the bottom smear the sauce (always generously – a third of the sauce will go in between each layer) then alternately layer with lasagna sheets, mince, and cheese. Continue in that manner until the dish is filled to the brim and then sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on the top. You can also sprinkle some herbs over the top. Place in the oven at 180℃ and bake for 15 minutes (until the cheese has melted and browned slightly).

NB: Once the lasagna is ready, do not eat it immediately. It will be too hot to enjoy and it will collapse – so all your hard work with the layers will be wasted. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before eating. Lasagna pairs well with a green salad.

Tell us: Have you eaten lasagna before? Do you like it? Have you tried making it?