Posted by Móna Wise in Features.

Having spent the last five years straight at university, I can’t tell you the number of times I sat in the cafeteria at NUI Galway watching (much younger) students load their plates with chips and sausages on a daily basis with never a green leaf or tomato in sight.

I asked the question daily, why are these kids not making their own (healthier) lunches and was alway met with a blank stare followed by the same response; they did not know how to cook. Now, I know I am no spring chick, but I remember my very first home economics class like it was yesterday. We had a fairly grumpy teacher but she taught us the basics and after the first week I was making Lasagna like a pro. Our kids are all starting to find their way around the kitchen and this summer I have a small list of things we are going to teach them how to cook.

The first dish I’m going to teach them how to cook is for a very simple lasagna. This way, when they do venture out into the world, they will be able to cook at least one decent dinner!

Now, I know there are a gazillion recipes on the internet for lasagna, and this one is not anything special, it is just the fastest and tastiest one I know, and I use it all the time, because I am seemingly always in a hurry.

My other half, will make the béchamel sauce from scratch with a hint of nutmeg and all, then slow cook the tomato sauce until it turns that dark red-brownish colour. Admittedly his might taste a bit better, but to be fair, he is the classically trained chef, not I.

One of the things employers complain most about today, is that graduating students these days, while they might achieve high grades, are suffering from a serious lack in just ordinary life skills. Only last week, one of my colleagues was talking about the talent pool here in Galway and said he would just be happy to find an employee who was competent at sweeping the floor. And this was coming from a guy working in one of Galway’s top tech companies.

Maybe this is the summer to get those teens off the couch, broom in hand and apron tied around their waists.

I’ll be sharpening my knives and sharing a few more easy recipes for the kids throughout the summer issues of Nuacht Chláir so stay tuned.

Quick Lasagna

Feeds four people

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 450g minced beef/lamb/pork/turkey
  • 2 carrots, raw grated (optional)
  • 1 courgette, raw grated (optional)
  • 2 tins of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tub full fat cottage cheese
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 balls of fresh mozzarella, torn into small chunks
  • 9 sheets of Lasagna
  • 1 tsp each Salt & Pepper

Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil on a medium heat until they have softened. Add the carrot and courgette, then allow them to cook for 5 minutes. Add the meat, increase the heat and season with salt and pepper. Once the meat has browned fully, add in the plum tomatoes. Rinse tin cans out with a little water and add to meat sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

While waiting for sale to simmer, mix the cottage cheese, yoghurt and fresh mozzarella into a mixing bowl. Pre-heat oven to 200°C.

Once the meat sauce has cooked for twenty minutes, start layering the lasagna dish with meat sauce first, then lasagna then cheese. Repeat until the dish is full making sure to have meat sauce and cheese as the top layer.

Pop it into a hot oven and reduce heat to 175°C. Lasagna takes about an hour to cook. If you are in a mad hurry you can pre-soak the sheets of pasta in boiling water, but this is time consuming as you have to be sure they don’t stick together when doing so.

Serve with a large garden salad and some garlic bread.