- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the fennel seeds, if using, and the bay leaf, and cook for a few seconds until they sizzle, pressing the bay leaf with the back of a spoon to bring out its aroma and flavour.
- Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, mushrooms, marjoram or oregano, and sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened slightly, but not browned.
- Stir in the aubergines and lemon zest, mixing the pieces with the other vegetables so that they absorb the oil and cooking juices. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Pour in the tomatoes with their juice and add seasoning to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the aubergine mixture for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the lasagne in boiling water for 3–5 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain well and lay out the pieces on a clean tea-towel, in a single layer, to dry.
- Purée the cottage cheese with the flour and egg in a food processor or blender until smooth. Alternatively, press the cottage cheese through a fine sieve, then beat in the flour and egg. Add the milk and process again briefly or stir it into the sieved mixture. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Pour half the aubergine mixture into a large lasagne dish or other large oblong or square ovenproof dish. Discard the bay leaf as you do so. Cover with half the lasagne, then add the remaining aubergine mixture and top with the rest of the lasagne, overlapping the pieces neatly.
- Pour the cottage cheese mixture over the lasagne to cover it completely. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Bake the lasagne for about 45 minutes or until the topping is set and deep golden.
- Leave the lasagne to stand for 10 minutes before serving. This allows time for the pasta and sauce to cool and ‘set’ slightly.
Some more ideas
To make a beef lasagne with only a modest proportion of meat, replace one of the aubergines with 225 g (8 oz) lean minced beef. Omit the fennel seeds, and brown the beef before adding the bay leaf, onion and other ingredients as in the main recipe. * Ratatouille (braised peppers, aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes) makes an excellent lasagne filling. Use your favourite recipe, adding the quick cottage cheese topping instead of a traditional béchamel sauce.
Aubergines are a useful vegetable for making satisfying meals without a high calorie content. They contain just 15 kcal per 100 g (3½ oz). * Puréed cottage cheese makes a creamy base for a delicious low-fat lasagne topping.
Each serving provides
copper * A, B12, C, niacin, calcium, potassium, selenium * B1, B2, B6, E, folate