Vegan Sweet Potato, Spinach and Butternut Lasagna

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A favourite for all palates, from chef Tawanda Gatawa at Thorntree River Lodge, Zambia

With more vegan travellers going on safari, lodges are increasingly adjusting their menus, creating dishes that can appeal to guests of all diet preferences. One such example is the sweet potato, spinach and butternut lasagne developed by chef Tawanda Gatawa at African Bush Camps’ Thorntree River Lodge on the Zambian bank of the Zambezi River upstream from the Victoria Falls.

It’s a homely dish with a twist, made from fresh ingredients without losing its creamy texture, and tops off a day in the bush perfectly. Why not give it a go in your own home, imagining you’re enjoying it sitting on the wooden deck at Thorntree Lodge, surrounded by dimmed lanterns, overlooking the Zambezi.



For the vegetables and tomato base:

1kg spinach, roughly chopped

600g sweet potato, washed, peeled and thinly sliced, as widely sliced as you can (*tip: a mandolin slicer works well)

600g butternut, washed, peeled and sliced similarly to the potato

100g onion, finely chopped

500g tomato, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, smashed

200g vegan parmesan cheese

Olive oil for frying

Salt and pepper

1 vegetable stock cube


For the vegan bechamel sauce:

6 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp all purpose flour

2 cups soy milk

Salt and pepper

3 sprigs thyme


For the vegan cheese:

4 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

5g garlic powder

5g onion powder

5g salt

45ml lemon juice

65ml extra virgin olive oil

125g nutritional yeast




Blanch spinach for approximately 45 seconds in a deep stainless steel pot. Lower the heat, remove excess water and sauté for two minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Using a griddle, pan fry sweet potatoes and butternut until slightly darkened and set aside.


Tomato sauce:

Fry garlic and onion in olive oil until the mixture is translucent. Add a vegetable stock cube, and stir until dissolved. Add tomato and simmer until tomato is cooked (about 20 minutes).

Remove from heat and blend until the tomato mix is smooth.


Vegan Bechamel sauce:

Heat oil in skittle over medium heat. Add flour stirring vigorously. Add soy milk and continue whisking while adding the thyme sprigs. Ensure sauce shows a thickened, smooth texture with no clumps before removing from heat.


Vegan cheese:

Boil potatoes and carrots together in a deep stainless steel pot until cooked. Remove from heat and add to a blender. Add all other ingredients for vegan cheese and blend until the cheese mix is smooth and thick.


Assemble the lasagna in a baking tray:

Place greaseproof paper on the bottom and sides of a 30cm x 45cm x 5cm ovenproof casserole type dish.

Layer sweet potatoes onto each other, then spoon wilted spinach onto sweet potato layers. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Spoon tomato sauce on the layering, followed by the bechamel sauce. Layer butternut on top and spread the vegan cheese.

Repeat the process two more times.

Do not add cheese on the last layer. Instead, place a greaseproof paper on top.

Cover small bricks with foil paper and place on top of the lasagna. Set in the fridge for two hours before baking.

Set the oven at 180 degrees or gas level four. Bake the lasagna (leave the bricks on top) for one hour.

Remove the bricks from the lasagna and add the remaining vegan cheese. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and bake for a further 10minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the casserole rest before portioning.


To learn more about African Bush Camps, visit

Chef Tawanda Gatawa at Thorntree River Lodge, Zambia

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