Beef and Bacon Hotpot and Street Statues of Liverpool


As many of you know, I am temporarily back in the UK until summer 2017.
Whilst here I have been fascinated by the amount of television airtime given over to cookery programmes (not that I am complaining as I love anything to do with cooking and food – especially when it is linked to travel as many of them are)
A lot of them have taken up the stance of promoting home cooking (again something which I am all for) and particularly using ‘leftovers’. Now this, as many of you also know, is a subject very close to my heart and I am often ‘making something out of nothing’, but now every celebrity chef is banging on about it as if he / she has invented the wheel…….
So my next four posts are going to involve leftover ingredients that I had in my fridge over the weekend.
I usually tie in a little cultural feature, so, taking advantage of what my lovely ‘birth city’ has to offer, here is a little look around some of the statues, celebrating Liverpool life………

These two iconic figures, the sadly recently passed away ‘Cilla Black’ (born Pricilla White), Liverpool’s favourite daughter, who began working as a cloakroom attendant in the famous ‘Cavern Club’ on Mathew street, where she was discovered by the Beatles and shot to stardom with her powerful voice belting out such songs as ‘Anyone who had a heart’ and ‘You’re my World’ amongst many, many others; and the tragically taken from us too soon ‘John Lennon’ Liverpool’s favourite son, who has the city’s international airport named after him.
Another interesting feature of Mathew street is the Cavern’s ‘Wall of Fame’, where the names of all the acts who have performed there over the years are represented by a brick.


Quite a few famous names dotted about in there, many would have been before they were actually famous

The Cavern club links in nicely with my ‘Taste of Two Cities’ theme as the idea for the club, and indeed it’s very name, came directly from the founder, Alan Sytner, visiting ‘Le Caveau de la Huchette’ a jazz club in the cellar of a former fruit warehouse in’my home town for the last nine years’, Paris, and he opened the Liverpool equivalent as a jazz club in 1957.
I am too young to have been part of the Cavern scene, but the site was turned into ‘The Revolution’ in the mid seventies, then became ‘Eric’s’ in the late seventies / early eighties, which gave rise to the ‘punk rock’ era in the city, a scene that I was very much part of, but that’s another story………

Mathew street is still a hub of activity in the city and I was amused to see tourists and natives queueing in an orderly manner to have their photos taken with ‘Out Cilla’

No mention of Liverpool’s street statues would be complete without a mention of the ‘Fab Four’ gracing the Pier Head’ waterfront, but I couldn’t manage to get a photo without a tourist making up a fab fifth member…………


A little lesser known one though is that of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ from the song of the same name, tucked away on a bench on Stanley street………‘All the lonely people, where do they all come from. All the lonely people, where do they all belong’ has a sad resonance today walking around the city and seeing the amount of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets and another sad similarity with Paris.


Another interesting fact that I discovered yesterday, is that this statue is actually singer / performer and made by the Tommy Steel for the princely fee of 3p – plenty of ‘pub quiz’ trivia to keep you going in this post and I hope it has inspired some of you to come and see these statues for yourselves…..

Now, back to the recipe………


½ a packet of leftover bacon Lardons from a previous ‘Beouf Bourgignon’

Some ‘scraps’ of fillet steak that were too small to put on the raclette

½ a leftover Red Onion, finely chopped

½ 1 left over Red pepper, finely cubed

1 small Carrot (I always have a good supply of carrots on ‘stand-by’ to make soup or ‘carrot rapé’ or just throw in a casserole or veggie curry), finely cubed

½ a left over Celery stick, finely sliced

1 clove Garlic, crushed

A little left over fresh Chilli, finely chopped

4 or 5 left over Chestnut mushrooms, quartered

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

A splash of Red wine vinegar

½ pint of Beef stock

A good pinch of Mustard seeds

4 small left over potatoes, finely sliced


Sauté the lardons in their own fat until beginning to brown

Add the red onion, carrot, celery and pepper a little at a time so not to create steam and continue to sauté Add the garlic, chilli, steak and mushrooms and sauté until beef and mushrooms begin to brown Add the mustard seeds, salt and pepper

Add the red wine vinegar and beef stock

Pour into a casserole dish and top with the finely sliced potatoes and bake at 200 degrees / gas mark 6 for 45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and crisp

I served with some (left over) steamed Kale, but I think some warm crusty bread would go very well with this dish, if you were of a carb eating nature

So get into your kitchens and get creative with your leftovers……..



Another City Statue, ‘Case History’ on ‘Hope street, by John King, with the names on the labels belonging to many of the streets illustrious names and organisations







To bring my little Italian detour sadly to an end. I hesitate before revealing the name of this veritable little ‘Brigadoon’ of a village…..the added bonus being the journey to get there took us through some of the most stunning countryside in Tuscany


My daughter, Kate, bought us a book about the loveliest ‘secret’ villages in Tuscany for Christmas last year and it is in this book that I stumbled across ‘Quirca d’Orca’ I must add that I am not too worried that I am going to introduce it mass tourism, as it took us three attempts to actually find it and that was with the GPS. It obviously evaded others also, as we spent about four hours in this lovely little hamlet, and only saw two other non residents’  (an American couple)


The almost hidden entrance to the village


Sleepy little back streets, a plethora of medieval buildings (many 12th and 13th century) an Italian garden and ancient ruins. Add to this some gorgeous little restaurants and very friendly locals and you have the recipe for a perfect Tuscan Sunday afternoon.





We ate in one of these little restaurants that boasted pasta made from its own organic flour from its own mill, and our very simple pasta dish took a full 25 minutes to prepare, and we, being French (well one of us French and the other indoctrinated!)  used to eating lunch MUCH earlier than the Italians, were the first to arrive.


Our table for two!


I tried to emulate the dish back at the apartment (by using ‘fresh’ pasta from the local supermarket (I know this is a contradiction of terms…..)

The results were very good, but not in the same league………But here goes………

Serves 2

6 (3 if serving as a starter) ‘Fresh’ lasagne divided into four (place each sheet long size across the top and cut in half and half again)

A handful of fresh green beans

1 medium (small) waxy potato

1 tablespoon of fresh pesto (see below)

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh basil leaves and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to garnish


Cook the potato whole in boiling salted water for around 20 minutes until just cooked, remove from pan and leave to cool a little while cooking the pasta and green beans.

Cook the pasta and green beans together in boiling salted water for around 7 minutes until ‘al dente’, drain and separate the pasta from the beans and toss the pasta in the fresh pesto (you can of course use shop bought, but it is so simple to make your own, trust me!) mixed with half of the olive oil to ‘loosen’ the mixture a little.

Slice the cooled potato and gently toss this along with the green beans into the pasta.

Drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Italy on a plate!



For the pesto

50 gm of pine nuts

50 gm of freshly grated parmesan cheese

A large bunch of fresh basil

1 large clove of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil + extra for storage

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

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Lightly toast the pine nuts and leave to cool

Put the cooled pine nuts, parmesan and basil in a food processor and blend for 20 seconds son the slowest speed

Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, checking the consistency

Add a little salt and pepper to taste

What you do not use, can be stored in the fridge in a sealed jar, covered in a little extra oil and kept up to two weeks. To make a lighter sauce for pasta, the pesto can be mixed with crème fraiche, to give a milder flavour and a more fluid consistency.




A quick note to any new followers who may be confused by my little sojourn into Italy. This is an annual event that adds a little extra twist to my regular ‘Franglais’ posts, but please come on the little detour with me, especially if you love Tuscany as much as I do…

Orvieto was the surprise little gem that we ‘discovered’ when we ventured south over the border into Umbria. I was struck by how dramatically the countryside differed from the sparse, yellow ochre rolling hills, and ice-cream cone poplars of Tuscany, to a greener, lusher landscape of vineyards, sunflowers and olive groves, and less angular trees.


Gorgeous medieval Orvieto!


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Tourists were thin on the ground and we only saw one very small group of Americans (about 6-8) with a private Italian guide and another very small group of Japanese (less than 20) in and around the cathedral.

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We almost had the place to ourselves!

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The cathedral is an impressive building with distinctive grey and white striped brick sides and back and an intricate front façade of mosaics, bass reliefs, spires and sculptures, bronze doors and a stained glass window, but it is the interior that blows you away. Notably the ‘Cappella Nova’. A huge 15th century ceiling fresco, which, in my opinion, rivals the Sistine Chapel, depicting scenes from the Book of Revelation (the coming of and reign of the Antichrist, and the Judgement) My photos just do not do it justice.

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Having less tourists there was a very relaxed, unhurried, friendly and welcoming atmosphere of a small village, while some lovely buildings to rival larger towns.

Two unimpressed locals!

When I asked Monsieur le Frog which had been his favourite day, rather than give his usual Gallic shrug and say ‘Je ne sais pas’ he instantly said ‘maybe’ Oriveto……….he is French after all………

I chose Tians de Legumes to team with Orvieto as, even though it is a French Provincal dish, I did make it with the tomatoes, courgettes and aubergine from the garden at Cetona, and I think that the rustic red appearance of the dish compliments the town (I am the woman who matched ‘chick pea curry’ with the ‘Paris Catacombs’ as I thought the chick peas resembled the skulls!)

A Tian is traditionally made with ‘rondelles’ of tomato, courgette and aubergine stacked against each other (upright), but as I was only making a very small one for 2 people and did not have my usual earthenware dish, I stacked my vegetables flat side up as in a hotpot. As it is ‘country food’ I usually use whatever I have to hand, and on this occasion I also used a potato. I have also seen recipes using red peppers.

Ingredients Serves 2 with some left over for lunch the next day! 1 medium aubergine1/4” thickness

1 large courgette (If you can get yellow courgettes rather than green ones, these are much nicer in my opinion) slied ¼” thickness

1 medium waxy potato sliced ¼” thickness

2 large beef tomatoes sliced ¼” thickness

1 small shallot

3 cloves of garlic

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, teaspoon of dried thyme

Olive oil

Parmesan cheese or mozzarella (optional)


Prepare the dish by rubbing it with butter and garlic and sprinkle with the finely chopped shallot

Traditionally arrange the vegetables standing upright in rows if using a lasagne dish or circles if using a round dish (as explained mine is a break from tradition as I was cooking it in my little Italian kitchen, so this is the Lindy’s ‘Franco / Italian’ version!)

Interspace the vegetables with some fine slices of garlic (between the potato and aubergine is a good place)

Sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan (or equivalent) cheese, cover with foil and bake in a moderate oven for around one and a half hours until all the vegetables are soft


Remove the foil for 10-15 minutes and turn up the heat a little to slightly brown the top (mine was browned a little too much – but I was not used to using a gas oven)

Allow to stand for 3-5 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle. Alternatively this is also delicious cold as a relish or salad.

Serve as an accompaniment to meat (goes really well with chicken) or serve as a veggie starter.


This dish is even better the next day and will keep for two days in the refrigerator.






Siena and Wild Boar sausage pasta



Last year I fell in love with Siena, and described it on my post ‘Lindy’s lasagne, Florence and Siena’ As ‘The little Black Dress’ of Italy, so this year, I donned my own little black dress and went to see if she could enchant me a second time……


The real challenge was to try and photograph her from a different angle, as last time I posted lots of ‘paparazzi’ people shots, this time I focused more on the architecture (and the scooters, as those of you who have read my last post ‘Cetona and Tomato and Chorizo salad’ will know that scooters, street lamps and arches and of cause other people’s washing!, are my main photographic themes this year)



Underneath the arches

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Wandering the back streets, the little black dress was still evident, but a little frayed around the edges, which in my opinion, only added to the charm…………


This pasta dish is made with colourful dried pasta swirls that I bought in a lovely little shop on the Piazza del Campo, and some wild boar sausage, that I bought in a quirky little deli with a boar’s head wearing spectacles outside (I must apologise, I did not see the sign asking not to take photos, until I looked at my photos when I got home….mi dispiace!) with which I made this lovely, rich, meaty sauce and result was pretty good, even if I do say it myself…….


The remainder of the sausage. We served as we would French ‘saucisson’ for an aperitif…..

I made the pasta sauce by:-

Sautéing the finely sliced sausage over a moderate heat for a few minutes to release its own fat and flavour. Next I added a finely chopped shallot and 1 grated clove of garlic and continued to sauté over a low heat for a few minutes, taking care not to brown them. I then added some fresh very finely chopped herbs from the garden (thyme and sage), a generous grating of fresh nutmeg and a little black pepper. I added a good glug of ‘Montepulciano d’Abruzzo’ a heaped tablespoon of home-made passata and enough water to make a thick sauce. I then added a square of chilli chocolate and a knob of butter and simmered the sauce for around 10-15minutes while I cooked the pasta and until all the flavours were well incorporated. To adjust the seasoning and add a little more salt, I three in a handful of capers and topped with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Looking forward to the next challenge Siena sets for me – buon appetito!




Cetona and tomato and chorizo salad


This time last year we were in Tuscany and this year we were back again enjoying all the fresh home grow produce from the wonderful garden including home produced olive oil, red and white wine, home made bread, fresh laid eggs, and home grown tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, chillis, shallots, garlic, peaches, plums, pears, melons.

This veritable garden of Eden is just outside the sleepy little hilltop village of Cetona, and it felt just like going home to us, sitting taking a morning coffee (me) or early apero (Monsieur le Frog) with the locals in the café in the square and wandering the pretty streets searching for a different angle to photograph from last year.


This year a bit of a theme has emerged and I have photographed some rather swish scooters in various locations around Tuscany / Umbria also.


I have been taken by the architecture – mainly ‘arches’ that I noticed are an integral part to Tuscan life, and the beautiful ornate street lights which you can see adorning many walls – as last year, other people’s washing has continued to interest me, so you will be treated to a glimpse of Tuscany life over the next few posts, with a few simple recipes thrown in………



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When we arrived after an 8 hour drive from the French Alps, all this was waiting for us, along with some chorizo, so I quickly knocked together a tomato and chorizo salad (I ‘dry fried’ the chorizo until it was crisp and drizzled the tomatoes with a dressing made of the home produced olive oil and red wine), I seasoned it with freshly ground sea slat and black pepper and sprinkled dt with fresh basil from the garden and we mopped it up with Fabio’s home made bread – food of the Gods……


No meal would be complete without a glass of wine made from the home grown grape….

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Two more cheerful little scooters parked in Cetona



Caramelised Mango and Coco lime custard

And Honeymoon in Malta part 2


Mangoes are in season and those of you who have been following me for the last year or so have come to know how much I like my culinary journey through the seasons each year, so I created this dish which is the perfect marriage of flavours with the sweet sticky caramelised mangoes covered in silky, zesty coconut custard with the hint of lime and finished off with a crunchy topping of toasted flaked almonds……..

Speaking of perfect marriages, most of you will know that I was married recently and spent a romantic honeymoon on the romantic tiny island of Malta.
Last time I wrote about Malta’s seafaring history and the Knights of Saint John (see my last post on ‘Butternut Squash Lasagne and Maltese Honeymoon for more information) But I wanted to write a little more of what this lovely little island has to offer.


Like this solitary tree, brave little Malta stood alone for many weeks during relentless bombardment during WWII

As I mentioned, Malta received the George Cross is the second highest honour that can be awarded in the UK (the first being ‘The Victoria Cross) and is an award for ‘gallantry’ given to civilians.
The island sustained more successive air raids than any other place during the second world war and a naval blockade which saw the population on the brink of dying from starvation.
During these air raids, three Gloster Gladiator bi-planes aptly named ‘Faith, Hope and Charity‘ formed part of what is thought to have been only around seven  or eight of these planes that held Maltese air defences for many weeks while waiting for reinforcements in the form of British Hurricanes.
So fierce were their counter attacks and so brave their resilience, that they forced Italian bombers to be escorted by fighters imagining that there was a squadron of between twenty and thirty!


Malta’s glorious coastline

Being an island, Malta has miles of beautiful coastline, beaches and fishing villages, and of course, the Grand Harbour at Valetta, but the interior is not to be overlooked
We did this by means of an open topped tourist bus which allowed us to ‘hop on hop off’ around the island (there are in fact two tours, one taking in the north of the island, which I have featured here, and another the south) One ‘sight’ that is possible to see from the bus, if you do not want to go into the interior, is the Church of ‘Our Lady of the Assumption’ at Mosta, also know as the ‘Rotunda of Mosta’ and ‘The Miracle Church’, as during WWII the people of Mosta were at prayer in the church (which has one of the largest domes in Europe) when the air raid sirens sounded, many chose to remain inside the church which took a direct hit from a bomb, that passed through the centre of the dome and rolled down the aisle and out of the main door without exploding and the church and all inside were saved.

               The Dome  where the bomb passed straight through the center without exploding


View of the dome of the church at Mosta as seen from the bus

One of the stops is an interesting craft center which is housed in former WWII aircraft hangers, this is where my new husband bought me a lovely silver Maltese 8 pointed cross necklace and we bought a gorgeous hand embroidered table cloth and place mats


Former WWII air craft hangers now serving as a Craft Village

Another must is ‘The Silent City’ (the ancient capital of Malta) Mdina. Mdina which dates back more than 4000 years is one of Europe’s first walled cities, and it is said to be the place where Saint Paul lived after being shipwrecked on the island in 60AD.
This tiny medieval city was once home to many noble families throughout the years (Normans, Sicilians, Spanish) so it has many impressive palaces, bearing the crests of these families, but it is in the city’s narrow winding streets that its charm lies, and the best way to see it (though not to photograph it!) is in the back of a romantic horse drawn carriage ride (we were on honeymoon after all…..)

Mdina’s back streets and the discreet sign showing the way to the ‘Fontanella Tearooms’ with arguably the best view (and cakes!) in Malta


Your carriage awaits madame

The Fontanella Tea Rooms are also a must, tucked away down a winding backstreet, the sign is easy to miss, but if you find yourself in Mdina, seek it out, if not for the cakes, then for the view, or both!
I opted for an orange and almond gateau and my husband chose, predictably, a dark chocolate and strawberry one, both were equally delicious, as we shared each other’s.
A significant event for us was our hands brushing together as we sat side by side at a function on the very first night that we met (10 years ago to the day before the day of our wedding). My natural instinct was to pull abruptly away, but when I looked down and saw these two hands together, they ‘just looked right’ so I let mine linger a little too long and the rest is history……It seemed fitting then that we took this ‘hand shot’ of us both sporting our sparkly new wedding bands.

Breathtaking view from the terrace of the Fontanella tea rooms

Speaking of desserts, lets get to the recipe, all this ‘armchair travelling’ builds up an appetite……….

Serves 4

1 large ripe mango peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch (1cm) thick wedges

30 g slightly salted butter

1 sachet of vanilla sugar (1 dessertspoon of unrefined castor sugar)

1/2 pint (300mls) coconut milk

1/2 pint (300 mls) double cream

3 large free range egg yolks

1 large free range egg

1 tablespoon (30g) castor sugar

the zest of 1 large lime

A good handful of flaked almonds


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed frying pan and saute the mango slices sprinkled with the vanilla sugar, turning once until caramelised on both sides.


Divide the mango between four serving dishes and set aside to cool


Mix the eggs and remaining sugar in a large basin

Heat the coconut milk and cream in a saucepan with the lime zest

Add the hot milk to egg and sugar mixture, beating continually with a whisk to avoid lumps


Return the milk and egg mixture to the pan and reheat, still stirring continually until it thickens into a smooth ‘custard’

Pour the custard over the mango and leave to cool

Immediately before serving ‘toast’ the flaked almonds in a nonstick pan and sprinkle over the top of each dessert and simply enjoy



Butternut Squash Lasagne and Maltese Honeymoon

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Following our magical wedding day last month, we shared a romantic honeymoon on the island of Malta, staying in a lovely hotel overlooking Valetta harbour.


‘Honeyroom’ with a view

It was our first time to this tiny jewel in the Mediterranean, which received the ‘George Cross’ in 1942 from king George VI of the United Kingdom in recognition of the bravery of its inhabitants during the second world war, and even though the island gained independence from Britain in 1964, becoming a ‘Commonwealth State’ with the queen as its sovereign, and then a republic in 1974, the Georges Cross still features on its flag, and the Maltese are very proud of their heritage.

The distinctive Maltese yellow limestone that gives the island its ‘sunny’ appearance even on a rare cloudy day

It was not only the British who saw the strategic advantage of having a base in the southern Mediterranean, lying only 50 miles south of Italy, 176 miles east of Tunisia and 207 miles north of Libya, but the Island has also been conquered by the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, The Knights of St John, and French (Napoleon requesting permission to pull into port for water and supplies, sneakily disguising his intention to occupy the island!)


Today The port of Valetta is invaded by cruise liners, but elsewhere on the island the distinctive colourful fishing boats rule the waves


All these cultures have left their influence be it on the architectural styles or cuisine, and in fact we ate mainly a mixture of meaty, hearty Maltese stew, with a distinct north African influence and delicious sea food and pasta (hence I have chosen a pasta dish to feature today)

Typically Maltese casement windows in a ‘Spanish / moorish’ style

Of all these, it is the Knights of Saint John that seem to have left the most lasting impression, with the magnificent St John’s Cathedral in Valetta housing a museum displaying a multitude of memorabilia, including armor and richly embroidered costumes which we were not allowed to photograph, I have however taken some pics of the really stunning interior

The sumptous interior of the Cathedral of St Jean the baptist with the original oil painting of the                                                                  beheading of the saint by Carravaggio

In 1530 the King of Spain, who was at this time ruler of Malta, gave sanctuary to the Knights who had moved from place to place around Europe for seven long years after they were expelled from Rhodes, the only thing asked in return was that they presented the king with a falcon every year.
The knights also bestowed the island with its symbol, the unique 8 pointed ‘Maltese’ cross (of which I received a lovely silver replica on a necklace as a present from my lovely new husband) representing the 8 obligations of the knights:-
To live in truth.  Have faith. Repent one’s sins.  Give proof of humility. Love justice. Be merciful. Be sincere and whole-hearted. and to Endure persecution”. What a wonderful ideology!
With time, the eight points also came to represent the eight “langues” (national groupings) of the noblemen who were admitted into the brotherhood, namely those of Auvergne, Provence, France, Aragon, Castille and Portugal, Italy, Baviere (Germany), and England (with Scotland and Ireland).

The British naval heritage is also very evident and they ceremoniously fire the cannon on the battlements each day at midday and four in the afternoon.

Cannons seen from the fort and the fort seen from the sea

As it was our honeymoon, we wanted to relax after the frenetic wedding preparations, so we did not see as much of the island as it deserved, so we will definitely be going back sometime in the future……..


Music is the food of love, but pasta comes a close second……..I have a confession this delicious dish was actually created and cooked by my lovely daughter, Natasia, who is following in my culinary footsteps, but I contributed by eating it and loving every mouthful………

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 small medium squash (cut into cubes)
1 medium yellow pepper (finely sliced)
A block of Feta cheese with herbs (crumbled)
4 sheets of fresh lasagne
300 mls of whole milk
1 tablespoon of cornflour
30 gms of slightly salted butter
100 gms of white cheddar cheese (grated)
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
Garlic salt to taste (optional)
Olive oil

Roast the squash in olive oil for 15 minutes until softened and allow to cool a little before mixing with the pepper and feta cheese and season with salt, pepper and garlic salt if required
Put half into a lasagne dish and top with two of the pasta sheets
Cover with the remaining squash, pepper, cheese mixture and top with the remaining two pasta sheets
Make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and add the cornflour, making a smooth paste, then whisk in the milk a little at a time and heat gently until thickens into a sauce, then pour the sauce over the dish.
Top with rated cheddar, cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at
180 degrees / gas mark 6
Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes until the top is golden
Serve immediately with extra fine green beans (and maybe, like us, a little garlic bread)

squash las 1Delicious – thank you Natasia xx