Lovely Lasagne

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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! 

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Prunes and Apple Stuffed Pork

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A hearty Winter warmer and an all-round family favourite – which virtually cooks itself!

Andrew: Another of my kind of recipes!!! One for the lazy cooks!!!

Ingredients

Serves upto 6

1kg (1000g) joint of pork

14 dried prunes, chopped small

1 eating apple, grated

Salt and pepper

Method

  • With a sharp knife, cut along the pork joint to reveal its inside.

Dawn: I’m using an inexpensive cut of pork here, the shoulder and it cooks well with the stuffing adding to its flavouring. 

  • In a small bowl, mix together the chopped prunes and shredded apple.
  • Place this stuffing mixture along the pork’s cut length and pull the pork sides together, securing along its length with intermittent pieces of string tied together to keep the stuffing in place.
  • Season with salt and pepper the skin.

Andrew: Mmm…crackling! 

Dawn: That’s the idea, Andrew. 

Andrew: The crackling was my granddad’s favourite.

  • Wrap the pork in cooking foil and place in an ovenproof dish. Place in a pre-heated over at gas mark 6, 200 degrees centigrade electric for 30 mins and then turn the heat down to gas mark 3, 160 degrees centigrade electric for 2 to 3 hours.

Dawn: I like meat that’s tender so I always go on regularly checking it with a fork during its cooking to see how tender it’s becoming. 

Andrew: Again, personal preference? 

Dawn: Absolutely, Andrew. Guidelines suggest 35 minutes per pound in weight (450g) plus 35 minutes thereafter. I think it’s down to how you personally prefer your meat cooked. 

  • Keep checking the pork to see if it’s cooked by sticking a fork into it at periodic times. When it’s soft, it’s cooked.
  • Remove the cooking foil to expose the pork for the last 30-45 minutes of cooking to enable the skin to crackle and go crisp.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes prior to craving.

Andrew: Oh, crackling! Yum! And for more ‘cracking’ – get it? – great, easy and inexpensive dishes, follow our blog here and our Twitter account @Love_Food_UK

Dawn: Our Roast Root Ribbons go nicely with this, cooked in the succulent juices of the pork along with some green vegetables and a nice dollop of mashed potato, too. Mmm…my mouth is watering!

Roast Root Ribbons

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An easy side dish to accompany a nice Sunday roast, this takes minutes to prepare and once popped in the oven, you can get on and do what you need to do as it’s virtually self-cooking.

Andrew: I like dishes like this!

Ingredients

Services 4

8 large carrots

8 large parsnips

2 tsp of cooking oil

salt and pepper for seasoning

Method

  • Peel and slice the carrots and parsnips into long ribbons.
  • Place in a saucepan of boiling water and partially boil for 5-10 minutes. 

Dawn: The partial cooking via boiling is optional and you can simply put the root veg into a large, ovenproof dish if you’re short on time.

Andrew: That’s usually what I do.

  • While the vegetables are partially cooking on the hob, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 200 degrees centigrade electric and place an ovenproof dish with the cooking oil in, in it.

Dawn: I’m using the cooking juices from a tasty joint here to add an extra “umph” to the vegetables taste.

  • Next, drain the vegetables of the boiling water and place in the cooking fat.

Andrew: Can I add garlic halves?

Dawn: You can add any root vegetables you may have in, Andrew. You’re only limited by your own imagination. I have a lovely baked onion recipe that I’ll share later in our side dishes section, too.

  • Cook until the vegetables start to look ‘caramelised’ and crisp in appearance.
  • Turn the vegetables occasionally so the whole of the root becomes golden in appearance.
  • Serve hot, seasoned to personal preference.

Andrew: Is this really down to personal taste, Dawn?

Dawn: No pun intended! Yes, Andrew. I tend to leave them for about 45 to 60 minutes because I really enjoy the ‘caramelised’ taste. Very yummy!

Andrew: Easy peasey, lemon squeezy!

Dawn: Indeedy! And speaking of which, you can decide to add a little splash of lemon juice to the cooking oil if you fancy a zing to the finished cooked taste. 

Andrew: And don’t forget to follow our blog and Twitter account @Love_Food_UK to stay tuned for more easy, quick and inexpensive recipes!

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