Cooking: Lasagne

13:00:00

This recent horsemeat scandal is pretty horrifying, isn't it? It makes me enormously glad I rarely, if ever, eat pre-prepared food. I really enjoy cooking and one of the main reasons is I like knowing what's in my food and controlling what goes in. Sure, I ate microwave meals as a student, who didn't?! But I never find them very tasty or satisfying.

I'd like to show you that making your own meals is infinitely more satisfying than reaching for a plastic tray from the fridge or freezer. My lasagne recipe isn't quick, it can't compete with 4 minutes at 800W, but its 100 times tastier and satisfying and whilst its not a healthy recipe per se, it's got to be better for you than horsemeat which may or may not have been injected with vetinary drugs that make it unsuitable for human consumption! If you're organised in the kitchen and willing to prepare in advance, whilst it takes a while to cook, you don't have to be in the kitchen watching everything like a hawk.


Lasagne is one of those things I have been making for years and years. I remember my Gran asking me to make it once one her birthday when I was a teenager (maybe 15 or 16) and then she liked it enough that she asked for it on subsequent years. There's nothing fancy about this, its just hearty and yummy. There is a bit of time and effort involved but its totally worth it on a weekend when you're pottering about the house and can return to the hob every now and then to stir things. I like this as an alternative to a roast dinner on a Sunday, especially in the spring and early summer.

I'll have to apologise for my photos. My kitchen in my house isn't great for light, despite there being more windows in there than the rest of the house combined just about. Its very picture heavy because I either seem to come along with recipes and no photos, or recipes with hundreds of photos. I'm not a girl who believes in a happy medium.

This recipe serves 2 greedy folk up to 4 not so greedy folk if you are providing oodles of salad and garlic bread alongside!

The first thing I start with is the bechemel sauce, infusing the milk which will go on to become sauce later on. Im a traditionalist and I really like making bechemel sauce with a roux, with a recipe borrowed from Delia Smith. You can cheat a bit with her all-in-one white sauce but I haven't ever tried it that way!

For the bechemel sauce you will need:

059 photo 059.jpg

  •  425ml milk (I use semi-skimmed)
  • some parsley stalks 
  • grated nutmeg or powdered mace (optional, but I love nutmeg!)
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • a slice or two of onion
  • a bay leaf
  • 25g butter
  • 1-2 dessertspoons plain flour

 photo 060.jpg


Place the milk in a small saucepan and the rest of the ingredients in with it and place it over a low heat and bring up to a simmering point, which will take around 5 minutes or so. Turn the heat off and leave everything to infuse the milk. This will give it a lovely savoury flavour that will stop your bechemel sauce being bland. Once cool, strain the milk into a jug and leave it for later.

For the bolognase part you will need:

  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • italian seasoning or other appropriate dried herbs
  • small amount of milk (around a tbsp)
  • tomato puree
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Worcester Sauce
  • beef oxo cube
  • nutmeg
  • bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
066 photo 066.jpg


 photo 072.jpg




Place a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan and heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook on a moderate heat until soft but not brown. Add in the mince and cook till this has browned off. Some mince contains quite a high portion of fat as mine did on this occasion so I drained off as much of that as possible to stop the lasagne being greasy later on.

068 photo 068.jpg

074 photo 074.jpg


076 photo 076.jpg


Add in a generous pinch of dried herbs. I use a pre-mixed 'Italian Seasoning' but any of the italian herbs will do nicely. Add in a splash of milk, around a tablespoon, and the bay leaf. Add a tablespoon or so of tomato puree and the same again of Worcester Sauce. Give everything a good mix. Grate in some nutmeg. I love nutmeg so I put quite a generous amount in, how much you put in is up to you, of course. Finally, add the chopped tomatoes along with a pinch of sugar, make the beef oxo cube stock up to 200ml in a jug and add that and season.

081 photo 081.jpg


084 photo 084.jpg


At this point,it'll be rather liquid. So we cook it slowly for as long as possible, so that it reduces down and the only remaining liquid is thick and glossy looking. You want as much to evaporate as possible without reducing the mince to dusty dry crumbs, basically. Whilst this is happening, you can get the cheese ready and finish the bechemel sauce.

091 photo 091.jpg


In a small saucepan, melt the butter gently, when its melted and bubbling, add in a heaped dessertspoon of plain flour. using a wooden spoon, mix the flour and butter together for a minute, which will cook out the flour. You will end up with a yellowey paste in your saucepan

 photo b8536936-4810-4aab-83c7-4edeaf1b7493_zps85574a8e.jpg


Now, start adding the milk you infused earlier. Add a little, and mix it into the flour and butter paste. You might like to switch to a whisk for this. It'll be quite thick and gluey, but remember you'll be adding all the milk. It seems super scary, but persevere! Keep adding a little milk and mixing it in before adding more, as you get closer to using up all the milk you can add more in at a time.

096 photo 096.jpg

 photo 097.jpg


When all the milk is added, give it a few more minutes on the hob, and you're done! Its ready when its thick and creamy and the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon.

098 photo 098.jpg


I've had the white sauce go wrong before, but its just a case of practice makes perfect. If you do get lumps, just seive the sauce into a bowl or jug. If its too thin, make the roux again (thats the butter and flour part). As its in lasagne with lots of other things, a couple of lumps won't be the end of the world. I defy anyone to even notice! The roux technique is a really useful classic technique to have in your culinary arsenal though, so I'd encourage everyone to give it a go!

All  that remains now is to get some cheese ready and assemble the lasagne!

087 photo 087.jpg


I use a mix of mozarella and cheddar cheese, personally. I like to chop/shred the mozarella in advance and dry it out a bit on some kitchen paper, as it can make the lasagne a little watery.

Grab a serving dish. I use a Le Crueset ceramic dish, and have used an enamel dish in the past too. Just get something that allows you to make a couple of layers of lasagne in the dish. It helps if its square/rectangular as the lasagne sheets will fit in a little better, but if circular is all you have, that'll be fine too!

100 photo 100.jpg


Start with your mince (make sure you take the bay leaf out before this stage!), place half of it into your dish and smooth it out. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets. Try and cover as much of the mince as possible without overlapping too much.

103 photo 103.jpg<.center>


104 photo 104.jpg


107 photo 107.jpg


Top this lasagne sheet layer with half your bechemel sauce, trying again to smooth out the sauce evenly. Top this sauce with half your cheese.

108 photo 108.jpg


109 photo 109.jpg


Put on another layer of lasagne sheets and repeat the process with mince, more lasagne sheets and finally the rest of the bechamel sauce and cheese.

110 photo 110.jpg


112 photo 112.jpg


When you're ready to bake this, put it in an oven around 180 degrees for at least 30 minutes, I prefer 45 mins to an hour, the longer you give it, the better it tastes! When it comes out, it'll look something like this:

114 photo 114.jpg


Serve up with some salad leaves and a balsamic dressing and get stuck in!

115 photo 115.jpg


If you have garlic bread and a slightly heavier salad, this will easily serve 4 people. It comfortably serves 3 and serves 2 very greedy people who aren't having a 3 course dinner.

The more you make it, the less of an effort it seems to be. If you enjoy spending a bit of time pottering around the kitchen like me, I think you'll enjoy this recipe! The mince recipe obviously works well with spaghetti as spaghetti bolognase if you don't feel up to making the whole lasagne.

I'd love to know if any of you try this recipe. I think, after all these years, I'd like to go one step further with it by making my own mozarella and lasagne sheets for it. If I do, I'll let you know!


You Might Also Like

3 comments

  1. This looks yummy!

    Nice blog, i'm a new follower :)

    Kimberley x

    http://kimberley77.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, it was tasty!

      Am now following you back, welcome :)

      Delete
  2. HIya hun i have nominated you for the Beautiful blogger award!
    Find out what to do here:http://pennyforthem1.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/ive-been-nominate-for-award.html
    Thanks for a great blog!
    Claire
    xx
    http://pennyforthem1.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete