Great Kiwi Bake Off winner Alby Hailes has been in our neck of the woods for the release of his new recipe book Good Vibes.
He tells us how he combined his passions for cooking and mental wellbeing and shares one of his favourite recipes from the book.
If Alby Hailes had to eat one food for the rest of his life it would be lasagne. The comforting and nostalgic dish hits both the flavour and satisfaction boxes, he says. “Serve me a daily slice of lasagne and I’ll be a happy boy.”
As well as a passionate chef, and writer Alby is also a doctor and mental health advocate. He’s combined these complementary passions into Good Vibes, focusing on the “food and flavours that make us feel good,” and how we can develop a positive relationship with food. “It emphasises a balanced seasonal wholefoods approach, and each chapter focuses on the feeling and intention that food should bring; these are the good vibes to channel as you cook.”
Most of the recipes in his Good Vibes were developed over the past few years, following Alby’s Great Kiwi Bake Off win in 2021. Being on the show gave him the confidence and drive to approach publishers with his cookbook proposal.
Alby has been cooking since he was young, influenced largely by his family. “Food has always been a big part of my whānau – there’s always deliciousness shared when we come together.” At 14, Alby’s parents suggested he enrol in a weekly cooking class for teens at a local Oamaru restaurant. “I was instantly hooked; to the buzz of the kitchen atmosphere and the opportunity for endless creativity.”
While studying for his medical degree at Otago University Alby was the rare sort of student who could cook more than instant ramen, and even wrote a bunch of nutritious recipes for his fellow students to follow. “Once I left home and started flatting, I enjoyed cooking for my flatmates, and started to experiment more in the kitchen with different flavours and ingredients – and I’ve continued to love cooking ever since.”
He’s shares one his favourite recipes for one of his favourite foods – lasagne.
Beetroot blush lasagne
Serves 8 as a main Hands-on time 40 mins Total time2 hours
1kg beetroot, peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks 3 tbsp olive oil 100g butter 100g plain flour 1 litre milk ¼ tsp ground nutmeg ¾ tsp sea salt ¾ tsp cracked black pepper
375g fresh or instant dried lasagne sheets 2 large handfuls grated Tasty cheese
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced (or 200°C conventional). Line 2 large oven trays with baking paper.
2. First roast the beetroot and pumpkin. In a bowl, toss the beetroot with 3 tbsp olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Tip out onto one oven tray. In a clean bowl, toss the pumpkin with the ground cumin, 1 tbsp of the sage, 3 tbsp of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tip onto the other tray. Roast the beetroot for about 50 minutes, until cooked through (a knife should easily pierce through the flesh). Roast the pumpkin for 30 minutes or until tender. Remove the roasted beetroot and pumpkin from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 160°C fan-forced (or 180°C conventional).
3. For the beetroot béchamel, melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat until starting to bubble and foam. Add the flour and whisk for a minute or two, until it forms a thick smooth paste. Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Return to medium heat and slowly bring to the boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the sauce catching on the bottom of the pan, until nicely thickened. Remove from the heat and add the roasted beetroot, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Using a stick blender (or similar), blitz until completely smooth.
4. For the filling, heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes, until it is just starting to wilt. Transfer to a large bowl and toss together with the roast pumpkin, remaining sage, feta and pepper.
5. To construct the lasagne, lightly grease a deep ovenproof dish or baking tin (about 33cm x 23cm) with butter. Spread a very thin layer of beetroot béchamel over the base of the dish. Arrange a single layer of lasagne sheets over the béchamel, then spread with half the filling. Add another layer of lasagne sheets and spread with half the béchamel and a handful of grated Tasty cheese. Repeat so that you have 4 layers of lasagne sheets, with a top layer of béchamel sprinkled with Tasty cheese.
Bake for 40–45 minutes, until golden brown and the lasagne sheets are cooked through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes.