Healthy! Courgette Lasagne

Healthy! Courgette Lasagne

Here’s a healthy lasagne for those of us who are avoiding carbs, can’t tolerate wheat or just don’t like pasta for that matter. Ribbons of courgette (zucchini) replace the pasta and to make it even healthier we’ve used a low fat ricotta for the creamy part, instead of rich bechamel sauce. Today we used low fat mince because the boys were after some ‘meaty protein’, but we have also used mushrooms in the past instead (a large punnet of field mushrooms, finely sliced) – so it’s a perfect meal if you want to go veggie.

(No prizes for photography here! The boys were so hungry that I forgot to take the photos apart from this one ‘progress shot’, just before it went in the oven.) Credit goes to Zoe who made this for the family in the winter hols (July in Oz) – I feel that, no doubt, Grandma (Pamela) would have approved. It’s perfect when you crave a filling, comforting meal but don’t want all those really fattening components. Let us know if you try it and how you adapted the recipe to your tastes! zucchini lasagne

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees (C).
  2. Take 3 medium courgettes (approx 6-8 inches long) and slice them into ribbons lengthways. Steam lightly till just going soft (not crunchy and not very soft!). Set aside.
  3. Saute one finely sliced onion for a few minutes in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, then add about 500g lean mince. Brown for approx 5 mins stirring.
  4. Add in 3 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tsp dry thyme, 1 tsp dry tarragon and 1tsp dry basil (better to use fresh, if you have it) – stir and continue to cook together for a further 5 mins.
  5. Add to the meat mixture (or mushrooms if using instead of meat), a grated carrot, a handful of chopped mushrooms, a couple of chopped celery stalks (you can pad out the meat or mushroom mixture with whichever veg you prefer and how much)  and a tin of crushed tomatoes (also add 1 tbsp of tomato puree if you like a very tomatoey flavour), stir and cook together for a further 5 mins.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk one egg with a tub of low fat ricotta (use low fat cottage cheese if you don’t have ricotta) and a cup of low fat grated mozzarella (for stronger flavour use grated cheddar or parmesan). Add seasoning (S&P) to taste.
  7. Find a suitable baking dish (approx 30 x 15cm or 12 x 6 inch rectangle) and layer the ingredients: meat mix, courgette, cheese mix, meat, courgette, cheese, courgette.
  8. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Take out and sprinkle a cup of grated cheese (low fat mozzarella, parmesan or what ever cheddar you have knocking about) and brown in oven for approx 10 minutes.
  9. Et voila! ready to serve. (watch out – the courgette ribbons can be very hot!)


  • courgette x 3
  • mince or mushrooms (500g)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • carrot, celery, sweet potato, pumpkin, kale (whichever veggies you prefer to add to the ‘meaty’ layer)
  • 1 medium tin of tomatoes
  • small tub tomato puree
  • thyme, oregano, basil (you can use dry, but fresh is always better)
  • low fat ricotta or cottage cheese (350g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups grated low fat mozzarella (replace with low fat cheddar or parmesan for a stronger flavour)
  • salt & pepper (ground)


If you use aubergine (egg plant) instead of courgette (zucchini), you would have a moussaka like dish. Also if you don’t like the low fat version, go for the real béchamel sauce and full fat cheese!

Oatmeal Stuffing for Roast Chicken

Sunday lunch was always a social event while we were growing up. My memories are mostly set at the, what seemed to me at the time, an enormously long table in the upstairs dining room of the Georgian 48 Polwarth Terrace  (I lived there from age 1-10). I can see the 60s blue curtains and similar table cloth, as well as wince at the thought of when I ran full pelt around the table and whacked my head on the corner of a night storage heater – my temple still bears the scar 44 years later! My brothers will recall Sundays at the Buccleugh, Northfield and Carberry dining tables, so it would be nice to hear abut them – boys?

International visitors either studying in Edinburgh or Aussie rellies, teachers and lecturers, friends and adopted maiden aunts frequently joined us. Cousin Ant came back with Mum from Australia in 1971 was a regular at the table, also the Rowlands, Hollingworths, Musich’s and other post grad students who lived in the flat at the back of the house.

It was simple fare – usually roast chicken, sometimes pork, very rarely beef and, once we moved to East Lothian, our home grown delicious Longwood lamb. A fruit crumble, sponge or apple pie with ‘fluff’ usually followed for pudding, in the 60s and 70s.

A perennial factor was the roast chicken’s oatmeal stuffing. I’m not sure where Mum learnt this one, but being oatmeal it sounds quite Scottish, and perhaps Mum learnt it in Aberdeen – perhaps Andy or Dad can tell us?

Andy recorded the simple recipe, over the phone:


Take an onion and chop up finely.
Put in a pan with about a dessert spoonful of butter and some bacon fat, (if you have it). 
Add a desert spoon of chopped dried herbs and simmer till well mixed.
Keep moist!
Add some chopped streaky bacon.
Then add a cup of oatmeal but not so much it becomes dry. 
Stir and make sure it sticks (or becomes sticky). 
Then stuff in the chicken.

Oatmeal stuffing for roast chicken

Oatmeal stuffing for roast chicken

Chicken with chorizo, prunes and crispy almonds

I’m not sure where this recipe came from originally, possibly a magazine. It certainly was a regular favourite in recent years and my daughter Zoe loves it!

Serves approx 4. 8 free range chicken thighs, 1 chorizo, 16 ready to eat prunes, small glass dry white wine, 300 ml chicken stock, fresh thyme, knob of butter, large handful whole almonds, sea salt, quarter pint single cream.

I know this doesn't look particularly appetising but it was really yummy. Some of the chorizo is a little charred and the other black things are the prunes!

I know this doesn’t look particularly appetising but it was really yummy. Some of the chorizo is a little charred and the other black things are the prunes!

Arrange chicken thighs in a roasting tin or baking dish. Finely slice a large chorizo and place the slices on top of the thighs. Season with ground pepper. Scatter the prunes about the dish. Mix the wine and stock and then pour over. Scatter the thyme and cook for around 30-40 minutes. In the meantime, sizzle almonds in melted butter for 2-3 minutes, and set aside. Remove the chicken, prunes etc to a warmed dish, cover. Reduce the remaining juices in the tin/dish to half. Add the cream, stir til smooth and pour over the chicken etc. Sprinkle the almonds with sea salt and scatter over the chicken. Serve with crispy green veg, such as courgettes, green beans and a great glass of Australian dry white wine!

TIPS: scatter the almonds on top just before serving – they will be nice and crunchy, adding an extra dimension to your dish!

Grandma's cooking class - Pamela and Zoe at work in the Longwood kitchen

Grandma’s cooking class – Pamela and Zoe at work in the Longwood kitchen, December 2008