Kern La Vende’s classic creamy shrimp lasagne
“Easter cooking is a vibe, where in Trinidad and Tobago schools are closed, the children are at home. I try making new dishes with my children and spending that quality time together with them.
"Some people may do more traditional dishes, while others may experiment on ideas based on what's available in their pantry and fridge, to embrace that Easter aura.”
So says chef Kern La Vende.
He said after obtaining five CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) passes, he was totally clueless as to what his aspirations should be.
“One day, Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP) was advertising different courses being offered in my area and from there, the birth of my vision in cooking began,” he said.
He'd been cooking since he was 16. The young La Vende completed courses in bread, cakes and pastries and also did an introduction to catering.
“It didn't stop there as my interest in cooking elevated,” he said.
He did several short courses at UWI and decided to take it up a notch and venture into the cooking industry. He has since worked at Coal Pot, Juliano’s Italian Restaurant, Alberto’s Catering, Grill House on Dundonald Street and many other restaurants.
But La Vende’s main push came while working at Alberto’s Catering, where Alberto saw his talent and encouraged him to get certified. He applied to the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute where he did a diploma and then a degree in culinary arts.
“I was like a rocket taking off now,” he beamed.
He then worked at the Hilton doing pastry arts and later became a supervisor at Hi-Lo's (now known as Massy Stores) bakery. Trotters then saw his expertise and so did Prime Restaurant.
“I had the opportunity to work at Bel-Air International Hotel as a sous-chef,” he said, “and I moved on to being the head chef at Airport Suites Hotel.
"Finding my love and passion for cooking, I then opened my own restaurant and a catering company – Kern’s Cuisine and Grill Place and Kern’s Catering Services, both located at Cleaver Road, Arima."
La Vende is also a chef at 12byRishi.
The chef shared his Easter favourite recipe, a classic creamy shrimp lasagne.
1 box of lasagne noodles
2 lbs of shrimp (cleaned, deveined and cut into cubes)
1 cup of ketchup
2 tins of pasta sauce
¼ cup of sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tub ricotta
¼ cup mascarpone
1 ½ cup cooking cream
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 bell pepper (chopped)
1 small hot pepper (optional for added spice)
4 large leaves chadon beni (chopped)
1 pk baby spinach leaves
1 local celery (chopped fine)
3 cups grated shop cheese
3 cups grated mozzarella
⅓ cup of parmesan cheese
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
½ tbsp smoked paprika
(If available, fine thyme, rosemary, basil for additional flavour)
Bring pasta sauce to a simmer adding sugar and if available, fine thyme, rosemary or fresh basil (you can also do what I do and add all three). Set aside.
Preheat oven at 375 degrees C. In a large bowl season chopped shrimp with chadon beni, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and set aside.
Boil pasta in salted water until cooked.
In a hot saucepan, add olive oil and saute onion, garlic, sweet peppers, ketchup and hot pepper for two minutes. Then, add shrimp and cook for a further two minutes.
Set aside (adding salt to taste if needed).
In a small bowl add cream, ricotta and parmesan and combine.
In another bowl, combine shop cheese and mozzarella.
Now it is time to build the layers.
Grease desired cooking vessel with butter till well coated.
Add pasta sauce below, and put in the first layer of pasta.
Add in this order:
pasta sauce to the top of the noodles
drizzle ricotta mix
then sprinkle some breadcrumbs
add spinach leaves
and finish off adding the mozzarella and shop cheese.
Continue building the layers until done. Leave just a little shrimp to sprinkle at the top.
When completed, take a small spoon and make small scoops of the mascarpone on the top and add some remaining cheese over it.
Bake until golden brown
Let it cool and enjoy!
"Kern La Vende’s classic creamy shrimp lasagne"