Lovely Lasagne

DSCI0897

Lovely Lasagne is so adaptable suiting families, couples and singles, it can be made in advance and sit waiting to be cooked in the fridge to serve piping hot on a chilly Winter’s eve and is equally ‘at home’ being cooked, portioned up and frozen as individual ‘ready meals’ for a quick mid-week feast too.

Ingredients

Serves 6-8

1 box of pre-cooked sheets of lasagne

Dollop of butter to grease overproof dish

For the bolognese sauce

1 onion, peeled and chopped

750g lean minced beef (or meat-free substitute)

8 sun dried tomatoes, chopped

300ml vegetable or beef stock

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp of tomato puree

2 cloves of garlic, peeled, sliced and crushed

2 tsp of dried basil

1/4 tsp of bouquet garni

3-4 drops of Tabasco sauce

Salt and pepper

For the béchamel sauce

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

6 black peppercorns

25g butter

25g flour

350ml milk (any kind)

Pinch of grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Topping

45g extra mature cheddar cheese or Parmesan, grated

Method

  • Using the dollop of butter, lightly grease an ovenproof dish.

Dawn: I’m using roughly a 4 pints dish which is about 2.3 litres in size. If you don’t have one of these, use smaller dishes, cooking them together in the oven. 

  • Start with making the bolognese sauce: put the onion into a large frying pan and cook in water until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  • Add the beef and stir the mixture until the meat is browned.

Dawn: You will need to break up the mince beef as it comes rather compact and by breaking it up will aid the browning process. 

Andrew: Yes, and it’s worth pointing out that a meat-free substitute tastes equally as scrumptious as the herbs and other ingredients infuse together making a lovely flavour. 

  • Next, add the can of chopped tomatoes and sun dried ones along with the Tabasco sauce, dried basil, bouquet garni and stir all the ingredients together.

Andrew: I add sliced mushrooms at this point, too, Dawn.

Dawn: I would, too – if I had them to hand! You can also add diced carrot to bulk out the dish, if you wish. At the moment, my fridge has neither so I’m adding what I do have and that’s sun dried tomatoes.

Andrew: Good point, Dawn. Basically, use what’s at hand rather than make a special trip to the shops to buy an ingredient.

Dawn: Absolutely, Andrew. Sliced and diced courgette is another good ingredient to add as a substitute to mushrooms. 

  • Bring the ingredients to the  boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes.
  • At this stage, taste and season with salt and pepper to individual preference.
  • Next, make the sauce that sits at each layer of the lasagne by putting the onion, bay leaf and pepper corns in the 350ml of milk and placing over a medium heat, bring almost to the boil and then set aside. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes to allow the ingredients to infuse into the milk.
  • Next, melt the 25g of butter in a saucepan and when melted, added the flour stirring the mixture until the two ingredients have combined together.
  • Remove from the heat and slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.

Andrew: Having first sieved the milk to ensure the additional ingredients don’t make it through! Do you know that pasta simply means dough in Italian, Dawn? 

Dawn: No, I didn’t. Another interesting fact! 

Andrew: And, the facts don’t stop there! There are over 500 different varieties of pasta throughout Italy today with only about 50 widely known. 

Dawn: Another very interesting fact. I do know that pasta comes either fresh or dried with the best commercially produced dried pasta being made from 100% hard durum wheat. Although a carbohydrate, some good quality pastas can contain a percentage of protein and it’s worth remembering that wholemeal pasta helps make us feel fuller for longer. 

  • Put the saucepan back on the heat stir constantly until the mixture starts to thicken and has a silky smooth finish to it.
  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180 °C electric.
  • Spoon 1/3rd of the bolognese sauce into the overproof dish and cover with a layer of lasagne sheets. To this, then pour 1/3rd of the béchamel sauce.
  • Repeat these layers twice more.
  • Finish with a layer of béchamel sauce and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.
  • Place in the centre of the oven and cook for 45-50minutes or until the cheese is bubbling away and the top has turned to a nice golden to medium tone of brown.
  • Serve with a mixed salad.

Dawn: Or serve with a ‘healthier’ version of potato wedges which we’ll be sharing with you soon. 

Andrew: Mmm…sounds like a real Winter treat!

For tasty, easy and inexpensive dishes and meals that won’t break the bank, follow the Cooking Duo’s blog here and our Twitter account @Love_Food_UK and see you all soon! 

Advertisements

Brilliant Bolognese

Image

Andrew: Spaghetti Bolognese is a good old student staple, and I have developed this recipe over the years through experimentation and now have something far tastier than the basic mince, onion and tomato concoction that my 18 year old self served up!

It is now my youngest daughter’s favourite! It is requested for every birthday and when friends come round to stay. Leftovers can be frozen when cooled. There aren’t leftovers very often.

Dawn: That sounds like a great flavoursome meal! Just what this blog is all about!

Ingredients

For 4 hearty portions

1 medium carrot

1 medium sized courgette

3 rashers streaky bacon

Herbs: dried or fresh thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil

600g minced beef

1 onion red or white

1 red pepper

Handful of mushrooms (optional)

1 or 2 tins of tomatoes: whole or chopped

Tomato purée or tomato ketchup

Green pesto (optional)

1 glass of red wine (optional)

Pasta of your choice

Parmesan to serve

Method

  • In a wide and deep pan, warm 15ml of olive oil on a low heat. Add grated carrot and courgette and sweat them on the low heat until they start to darken and break down a little. This takes about five minutes.

Dawn: Why use these vegetables – don’t you start with onions?

Andrew: It gives the sauce its base, bulks it out with vegetables and also adds texture while absorbing the flavours later on.

  • Add the finely chopped bacon to the pan and raise the heat a little to colour the bacon, but don’t crisp it! Flavour and texture again!
  • Add the dried herbs. You don’t need to use all four: I used thyme and basil the last time I did this. About two teaspoons would be sufficient. Allow them to get in contact with the pan, and the flavours will flood your kitchen. Cook for about a minute. Keep them moving so they don’t burn.

Dawn: What about those fresh herbs Andrew? If you used them, they would burn?

Andrew: That’s right Dawn! Use them later on when you are adding the other vegetables. I prefer some torn basil leaves. If using thyme, pull the leaves from the stalks.

  • Turn up the heat a little more. Add the minced beef to the pan, making sure it is well separated. Keep turning until it browns.
  • Chop the onion; fine if you want a smoother end product, roughly if you prefer a more ‘rustic’ touch. Recently I have been using red onion in preference for the colour and also because of the milder and sweeter flavour.
  • Chop the peppers and mushrooms to your preference too.
  • Add the onion, mixing in well, before adding the peppers and mushrooms.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and mix in well. If using whole tomatoes chop them in the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon. Use a second tin if you prefer, or wish to add more bulk to the dish.

Dawn: Fresh tomatoes would be good too, wouldn’t they?

Andrew: They would, but would have to be really ripe. I have done that in Italy where they were really cheap and plentiful. Beautiful, deep red, rich and juicy plum tomatoes. Some people remove the skin by leaving them in freshly boiled water but I don’t always bother with that. Do remove the pips though!

Dawn: Sounds lovely! Especially cooking this in the sunshine!

  • Add in a table spoon tomato purée, or if you prefer my guilty pleasure a good dollop of tomato ketchup.

Dawn: That doesn’t sound very Italian!

Andrew: It isn’t, but ketchup adds a little sweetness to the sauce. If you use purée and take the sauce from the heat too early it can be a little bitter.

  • Add the wine if using it, and a desert spoon of green pesto. Another guilty pleasure, but if you like a strong basil ‘kick’ this will give it. Some people add a stock cube or a dash of Worcestershire sauce here, but I think it would overcomplicate the flavour.
  • Add black pepper to taste, and a little salt.
  • Turn the heat down low; put the lid on the pan and leave to simmer for thirty minutes to an hour. This is the really crucial part of the dish. This will allow the flavours to permeate, for the colours to develop and for the meat to become really tender.
  • When ready to your taste, remove from the heat, and leave to one side to cool while you cook the pasta.

Dawn: Can any pasta be used, Andrew?

Andrew: Yes, and traditionally a long pasta is used; usually spaghetti, but I prefer linguine, which is flatter and takes a little less time to cook. Tagliatelle is just as good too.

Dawn: Dried or fresh?

Andrew: Either, it is up to you, but I have never found fresh pasta in any Italian supermarket.

Dawn: I suppose if you had the time and inclination, you could make your own pasta and it’s worth remembering that there are some really great ones to buy with herbs and add-ins that are simply amazing to eat.

  • Serve with parmesan and plenty of black pepper. Enjoy with a fresh green salad and a nice Chianti!

Dawn: Sounds delicious! Room for one more?

To keep being feed (get it?) our tasty and inexpensive meal ideas, follow this blog (your information, email, name, etc are secure and not sold to anyone, rest assured), and follow us over on Twitter @Love_Food_UK. See you soon!