The Expanse Recipes: Alex Kamal’s Mariner Valley Lasagna (Vegan)

Pin93Share245TweetShareWhatsAppEmail338 Shares Jump to Recipe

The Expanse season 4 is finally here, and what better way to celebrate the best SciFi series in the ‘verse than to make Rocinante pilot, Alex Kamal’s Mariner Valley Lasagna! It’s a vegan lasagna, too, so buckle up, folks, here comes the juice!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my privacy policy.

The Expanse is quite possibly my all-time favourite TV and book series. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love it, nor explain all the ways it continually impresses me. I love the science, I love the spaceyness, and most of all, I love the characters.

Even the bad guys are wonderfully realised. I also love that the bad guys sometimes do good things, and the good guys very definitely do bad things. Ain’t no black ‘n’ white in space, kid!

The Expanse is a such a rich world, and full of detail. Detail such as the food the characters eat. I think I was up to about Book 5 – Nemesis Games – when I realised I should have been keeping note of all the grub that was mentioned. Once I’d finished Book 8 (Tiamat’s Wrath), I went back, and re-read them all, and made notes of all the food and drink that was mentioned. I now have a sizeable file!

The crew of the Rocinante sitting around the dinner table, as Alex serves Mariner Valley lasagna.

It’s interesting that as the books progress, the way the food is described has more detail. Naomi’s Red Kibble, for example, at the start is described quite differently to later books. I’m guessing it may have something to do with Screaming Firehawks (The Expanse fan-base!) continually asking for recipes. No official ones have been forthcoming (yet!), so it’s up to the ‘Hawks to do what we can with the available information.

The good news is most of the food that’s mentioned seems to actually be vegan!

Lasagna in The Expanse

Alex’s lasagna has several iterations too, depending on whether you go by the books or the TV show.

Once the gravity had dropped from the crush of high acceleration, the whole crew quietly gathered in the galley and started making dinner. Naomi blended together fake eggs and fake cheese. Amos cooked tomato paste and the last of their fresh mushrooms into a red sauce that actually smelled like the real thing. Alex, who had the duty watch, had forwarded ship ops down to a panel in the galley and sat at a table next to it, spreading the fake cheese paste and red sauce onto flat noodles in hopes that the end result would approximate lasagna. Holden had oven duty and had spent the lasagna prep time baking frozen lumps of dough into bread. The smell in the galley was not entirely unlike actual food.

Leviathan Wakes (Book 1)

In ‘Safe’ (S2-E1), Alex calls the crew into the galley, on the pretext of there being an emergency. In reality, it’s because there’s been a load of tension on the Rocinante (the ship), so being the caring man that he is, he decides to cook lasagne for everyone, so they can all have a family meal together. In this episode, referring to the lasagne, he says;

So that, my hungry friends, is a Kamal family recipe. It’s a staple of the Mariner Valley. Now granted, we had to improvise a little bit, without any real cheese, or wheat, or tomatoes or anything…

Safe (The Expanse Season 2, episode 1)

https://youtu.be/XLrgUBMGl-8

Alex Kamal’s Mariner Valley Lasagna

(Yep, that’s lasagna with an ‘a’, not an ‘e’ – I’m sure that’s how Alex would spell it!) Remember me telling you in my other lasagne recipe, that in general, in Italy, lasagne is not made with cheese sauce… but that sometimes I do? Well, Alex’s Mariner Valley lasagna is a case in point!

Although, I suppose, technically, this lasagne isn’t made with cheese sauce either… merely a cheesy sauce!

The thing with soy mince is that by itself, it has a bit of a yucky aftertaste, so it needs to be cooked with strong flavours. Tomato sauce is perfect. However, Alex’s lasagna doesn’t contain any tomatoes. I could have made a sauce with red peppers but would have been up against a similar issue because in quantity, they can taste metallic. I didn’t want to risk that, so a cheesy sauce was the obvious option.

That ain’t no vegan lasagne!

Wait, Mariner Valley – isn’t that on Mars?

It sure is. Mariner Valley (Valles Marineris) is a massive canyon, running along Mars’ equator. It’s over 4,000 km long, and 200 km wide. And around 7 km deep. (That’s 2,500 x 120 x 4¼ miles to those of you who don’t do metric!)

In the world of The Expanse, during the early days of migration from Earth, Mariner Valley became home to Texan, Indian, and Chinese settlers. So yep, Alex Kamal is a bona fide, born and bred, Martian. With a Texas drawl!

This, by the way, is my desktop wallpaper … with Mariner Valley very clearly shown!

What are the ingredients for Alex’s Mariner Valley Lasagna?

I figured that even though he couldn’t get wheat, tomatoes, and cheese – and definitely not meat, Alex does have access to mushrooms, soy, and rice; therefore, I’ve used:

  • soy mince
  • soy milk
  • vegan cheese
  • tofu
  • rice flour
  • rice lasagne sheets
  • nutritional yeast flakes
  • dried mushrooms
  • dried onions
  • frozen peppers
  • frozen spinach
  • chilli flakes, dried herbs, mustard, salt, garlic granules, cider vinegar, & vegetable bouillon

I briefly considered using my ricotta recipe for this lasagne but I don’t recall cashews ever being mentioned in any of the books, and certainly not in the TV show.

In addition, cashew production is very labour-intensive, and given that it’s explicitly stated that the majority of Earthers are living on Basic (i.e. unemployed, and on benefits), I find it unlikely that cashew production is still a thing, and if it is, then mostly likely, like meat, only the very wealthy can afford them.

Also, since soy is ubiquitous, it’s probably safe to assume that like now, it finds its way into all kinds of foods. Hence, making soy ricotta with tofu.

Nutritional yeast is a cultured food… no, that doesn’t mean it reads Shakespeare and listens to Pavarotti! It means that it’s grown in a glucose nutrient medium. That sounds pretty SciFi to me, so I’m giving myself some more latitude here, and using it in the lasagne!

Veggie-wise, obviously mushrooms. Not least because dried mushrooms store really well, and are light to transport, so even when there’s a shortage of fresh, I’m sure the Roci would have dried mushrooms stashed away.

I’ve taken the liberty of imagining that the air scrubber plants growing in the galley walls and table could be herbs … because why would you not have herbs if your spaceship food tends toward the bland?

Air scrubber plants can be seen in the wall behind Alex. Also, those dark strips on the table are actually rows of plants under grow-lights.
A better view of the air scrubber plants.

I don’t imagine that fresh food is in abundance on the Rocinante, especially when away from the Stations, but according to the books, there is a freezer on board, so I decided to use frozen peppers and spinach.

Peppers are pretty fast-growing, and freeze well, and I can totally see Alex stocking up on these at Ganymede or Ceres Stations. And we know from Naomi’s red kibble that chillies are available, so there’s no reason there shouldn’t be sweet peppers too.

Speaking of chillies, since the cultural heritage of Mariner Valley is Indo-Chinese and Texan, it seems to me completely reasonable to assume they’d be using chillies. With no tomatoes in this lasagne, it definitely needs a bit of oomph!

I may have over-filled the pan a bit!

How to make Martian Lasagna!

The first thing note about this Martian lasagna that this is not an overly fast dish to make. Whenever Alex made it for the crew, it was a genuine labour of love. And that makes it all the better, as far as I’m concerned! That said, it’s actually no more labour-intensive or difficult than any other vegan lasagne you’d make from scratch.

I do advise you to read through the instructions and notes before starting to make this though. It’s not rocket science (see what I did there?!) but you’ll save yourself a lot of bother if you familiarise yourself with the recipe, and gather all your ingredients before you start. The good news is that there’s almost no prep!

The ‘meaty’ filling:
– Re-hydrate the mushrooms in boiling water.
– Simmer the frozen peppers in their own liquid, along with the kibbled onions.
– Add the soy mince and seasonings, plus the rehydrated mushrooms and their soaking water. Stir well, and continue to simmer while you make the cheese sauce and ricotta.

The ‘cheese’ sauce:
– Place all the ingredients into a blender, and blend on high for around half a minute.
– Pour into a saucepan, and over a medium heat, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for a couple of minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

The ‘ricotta’:
– Place everything into your blender, and pulse for a couple of minutes, until everything is smooshed.

Rest of the prep:
– Put the lasagne sheets into a large pan of boiling salted water, and boil for around 5 mins, until they soften. Remove from the water, and lay out on a chopping board to cool down.
– Turn on your oven, and spray your lasagne pan with non-stick spray.

Put together your Mariner Valley Lasagna!
– Place a layer of lasagne sheets on the bottom of your lasagne pan. Ladle over ⅓ of the cheese sauce, spreading it evenly over the pasta.
– Spread over half of the ‘meaty’ filling, making sure it’s level. Add the spinach.
– Spread over half of the ‘ricotta’, and then add another layer of pasta on top. Ladle over another third of the cheese sauce, then the rest of the ‘meat’, followed by the remainder of the ricotta, and the last of the pasta.
– Spread the rest of the cheese sauce over the pasta, making sure the edges are covered, then sprinkle over the 50g of grated vegan cheese, if using.
– Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes, until the pasta is completely soft, and the top is golden.

Tips

  • You could use fresh herbs and veggies if you want – I would normally but for this lasagne, I wanted to keep it as close to what I imagine would be available on a ship in deep space.
  • Dried onions are also known as kibbled onions.
  • Soy mince is also known as veggie mince and soy crumbles.
  • For the dried mushrooms, I used a mix of porcini and wild forest ‘shrooms. You can use whichever you prefer.
  • Do make sure you squeeze as much moisture from the spinach as possible, or else you’ll end up with soggy lasagne.
  • I haven’t used oil because I’m not convinced that frying on a spaceship, which could drop out of thrust at any moment, resulting in zero gravity, would be in any way a good idea!
  • Instead of chilli flakes, you could use some hot sauce. As much as you want! I’m rather partial to Cholula, as even the hottest one has a good flavour.
  • If you don’t have Vegeta, use your favourite or vegetable bouillon powder. I like Marigold Swiss Vegetable Vegan Bouillon but my favourites are Massel ‘Beef’ and Massel ‘chicken’. They’re all completely vegan, of course!
  • If your lasagne pack says the pasta doesn’t need to be pre-cooked, ignore it. You can be boiling the lasagne sheets while you’re making the cheese sauce.
  • Don’t use glutinous rice flour. Unless you want a gross cheesy gloop!
  • You can buy the Baker’s Edge Brownie Pan from Amazon. Baker’s Edge also makes a lasagne pan but according to Jim Murray, one of the props guys who works on The Expanse, they used the brownie pan on the show. Mine came with the lid, serving spatula, and a silicone wedge to halve the size of the pan. eBay frequently has the pans, too. Or you could use a normal lasagne pan!
  • Mariner Valley Lasagna will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days if covered, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Unlike the crew of the Roci, we eat our Martian lasagna with a green salad. Some baby plum tomatoes may find their way onto our plates too!

The Expanse is on Amazon Prime Video, and it’s free to watch for anyone who has an Amazon Prime subscription. There’s great Expanse discussion group on Reddit too. And if you want the soundtracks, check out my Spotify playlist!

(All the Expanse images were screencapped by me. I do not own the copyright.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *