Lasagne al Forno con Melanzane
Second day of the new year. The ang pows get less and less. Actually I'm a little sheepish to be collecting ang pows especially when the three people who received ang pows before me where under 7. Oh well, might as well enjoy it while I can. I decided to do some cooking today. I've always wanted to make sheperds pie and lasagne. Funny I've never tried making either before. Its just one of those things that I never got around to trying. Its amazing how rusty my cooking skills are. I'm not bragging or anything but I really was a very good cook when I was studying. I never owned a recipe book. Everything came to me instinctively just from practise. I didn't even break a sweat cooking a 9-course meal for reunion dinner one time for 10 people. I'd pluck dishes out of thin air. I could put ingredients together in my head, imagine the taste and scratch whatever that wasn't working. Now I'd die without a recipe. I second guess myself. Its terrible! Something had to be done!
So yesterday between stuffing my face and gambling, I found myself wandering up and down the supermarket aisles. I grabbed all my ingredients to make a lasagne only to realise they had run out of lasagne sheets. So I figured I'd make a sheperds pie instead. But what I ended up with was a bit of both! I decided I really wanted to make lasagne. And there was no other option when it comes to tried and tested recipes of Delia Smith. It is fail proof, idiot proof and guaranteed to be delicious. I adapted a little bit here and there but the result was just gorgeous if I do say so myself. Well, after four hours stewing the sauce in the oven, it had better be good! Yes, Delia's recipe requires the meat sauce to be reduced slowly in the oven. And if I had read the instructions properly and reduced it without the lid on, it would've been much faster. I already bought carrots and leeks for the sheperds pie so I decided to use it. I also added a layer of fried aubergine. Yes, I actually fried them, shock horror. Mum would be so proud! To accompany the heavy lasagne, I made a zingy salad with baby tomatoes, onions and oranges with a orange and mustard vinaigrette. Hunky gave a big thumbs up. If you'd like to attempt the recipe, click here. Below is my ad hoc version, feeds 6 adults comfortably unless they are growing adolescents:
For the ragu:
- 250g minced lamb
- 250g minced beef
- 3 carrots chopped
- 2 leeks sliced
- sprig of thyme
- 175ml red wine (thanks Joe for pointing out that I nearly alcohol-poisoned everyone :-))
- 2 x tinned tomatoes (I use La Valle plum tomatoes)
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 tbls chopped garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 150C
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Brown the onions on low heat. Add leeks and sautee. Remove and place in a ovenproof casserole dish.
- Oil the saucepan again and brown the lamb. Remove when coloured slightly and drain. I found it produced quite a bit of oily liquid compared to the beef mince. Place in casserole dish and repeat with the minced beef.
- Place casserole on direct heat now and pour in the wine, canned tomatoes, carrots and thyme. When it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and pop the dish into the oven (without the lid). It took 4 hours with the lid on so I'm guessing it would probably only take half that time to reduce it to a gloriously thick meat sauce.
- 750ml low-fat milk (yup, low-fat milk nullifies all other fats)
- grated nutmeg
- 90g butter
- 55g plain flour
- sprig of thyme (my favourite herb!)
- salt & pepper
- Place butter, flour and milk into a saucepan over low heat. Whisk with a balloon whisk to beat out the lumps. Bring it up to a gentle simmer and cook for further 10 minutes or so. The sauce will become nice and thick.
- Remove from heat. Grate some nutmeg into the mixture. Season to taste. I found Delia's sauce quite bland because her meat sauce would've been quite salty (she adds pancetta).
- Strain and keep aside.
- lasagne sheets
- fried aubergine (if you're putting it in)
- 200g mozarella, cubed or shredded
- First layer with ragu, followed by bechamel sauce then mozarella (I forgot about the mozarella in the first layer, duh).
- Place lasagne sheets side by side. I could only fit 4 into my dish.
- Start with the aubergine on the second layer. Add cream sauce and sprinkle mozarella, and lay the lasagne sheets.
- The final layer - meat sauce, cream sauce and finally mozarella.
- Bake in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling and mozarella has become golden.