I’ve said it before (quite often, recently!), and I’ll say it again: one of the best things about blogging is the people that you meet.
In some cases, it will be people that you meet in person, like my wonderful friends from Food Blogger Connect 2009 (yes, you all know who you are!), or Courtney, Charlotte, Johanna, Andrew and the many other great people who I now consider "real life" friends rather than just blog friends.
And in yet other cases, it's readers – more specifically, a reader of mine called Erica who sent me an e-mail a while back to say that they'd been to a restaurant in my hometown of Port Elizabeth and liked the dish they ate so much that they tried to recreate the recipe. And then they sent the recipe to me! Isn't that the best kind of gift ever? I made a few tweaks and recently cooked the dish for a relaxed Sunday lunch with friends and all I can tell you, dear readers, is this: Make. This. Dish. It is a fantastic variation on traditional lasagna, and if you leave out the chicken, it can easily be made as a vegetarian dish that will have your vegetarian guests fighting off marauding meat-eaters
CHICKEN, ROASTED BUTTERNUT AND FETA LASAGNA (serves 6)
2 cups raw butternut squash, peeled and diced
200g feta cheese
Uncooked lasagna sheets
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 chicken breasts
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, crushed
For the tomato sauce:
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
½ cup white wine
For the cheese sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup grated mature cheddar
Spread the butternut cubes evenly in a shallow roasting dish and toss in enough olive oil to coat lightly. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 190C until tender (about 20 minutes).
Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips. Heat a little love oil in a frying pan, add the crushed garlic, the bay leaf and the chicken. Cook until just done and add the cloves, salt and pepper. Remove from the pan, discard the bay leaf. Set chicken aside and keep warm.
In the same pot, add a little more olive oil as well as the onion and garlic. Fry gently until the onions are translucent but not brown. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato, paste and wine and cook until sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Stir in the cooked chicken, set aside and keep warm.
In a clean pot, melt the butter for the cheese sauce. When melted, add the flour and stir until all the butter has been absorbed. Cook for a minute or 2, then over low heat gradually add the milk, whisking after each addition to make sure there are no lumps. Stir in the nutmeg and grated cheddar and stir until cheddar has melted.
Lightly grease a large square oven-proof dish. Cover the base with lasagna sheets, then top with a layer of the tomato-chicken mix, crumbled feta cheese, roasted butternut cubes and cheese sauce. Repeat these layers, ending with cheese sauce on top. Top with grated mozzarella and bake at 180C until bubbly and golden.
Serve with garlic bread and a mixed salad.
I am submitting this to Reeni of Cinnamon, Spice and Everything Nice as my entry into this week's Presto Pasta Nights, the event created by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast and which Reeni is hosting this week.