Monday, 10 November 2008

Now we're cookin'

I originally wrote this all down for Hagrid but I figure it's too good to keep it from the rest of the world.

Vegetarian Lasagne

This is an Anglicised version of the vege lasagne that I had in Rome in 2000. The key is that the flavour should come from the pasta itself and the sauces should be there to complement rather than dominate.

For the Sauce
2 x onions (sliced thinly)
2 x cloves of garlic (crushed)
top half of half a head of celery (you actually just need the leaves sliced roughly)
4 x tins of diced tomatoes (I think the standard size of the tin is 440g)
50g pine nuts
50g sunflower seeds
splash of soy sauce
splash of red wine
1 T golden syrup (brown sugar also works)
basil
parsley
salt and sepper

For the White Sauce
50g flour
50g butter
milk (the amount needed varies. If you have a litre that should be enough)
2 t whole grain mustard
50g parmesan (finely grated)
salt and pepper

Also need
at least 500g of lasagne sheets (Fresh ones are best but the packet ones you get in the fridges at supermarkets are fine. The dried sheets tend to be lacking in taste edam or mozzarella to top
nice garlic bread

Set the oven at 200°C

Tomato sauce

- Heat some oil in a large heavy pan and add the onions. Cook until the onions start to go translucent.
- Add the garlic and stir well. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes and then add the celery. I should confirm here that you should be using the top half of the celery – the bits that you usually throw away. The leaves should wilt fairly quickly (like spinach). You could use spinach instead but I prefer the subtle flavour of the celery.
- Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, soy sauce, red wine and golden syrup (golden syrup gives the sauce a lovely caramel undertone). Stir well and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes. You're just trying to thicken it up a little here. Doesn't have to thicken a lot as it'll reduce while in the oven so 20 minutes should do. At this point I usually start the white sauce but if you're a noobie just keep an eye on the tomato sauce.
- Remove from the heat and add the basil, parsley, salt and pepper. I haven't given quantities as the best thing to do is just add a bit and then taste it and add more as needed. My biggest issue is usually not adding enough salt so taste it and see whether you can taste the different ingredients rather than just the tomatoes. When you're happy set to one side and begin on the white sauce.

White sauce
- I find that people tend to be scared of making white sauces. There are only three ingredients so it's really not that hard as long as you pay attention and manage the heat.
- Place the butter and flour in a pan and place on a low heat. I can't stress how important it is to set up the right heat initially. If you get it correct now you don't have to worry about it later. The guide I use is that the butter should only be melting slowly and not bubbling as you combine it with the flour. Just keep on stirring until the flour and butter combine. It should form a doughy looking mass. If it won't combine into one mass add a little more butter. If it looks greasy on the surface then add a little more flour. Once you're happy with it, beat it back with your wooden spoon, flattening it out in the pan. Essentially you're cooking the flour at this point. Every 30 seconds or so stir it all up into a single mass and then beat it back flat on the base of the pad. Continue until it just begins to change colour. It shouldn't brown.
- I must stress here that you've got to take this bit slowly. If you rush you'll get a lumpy sauce. Add milk a 'splash' at a time. I like to have the milk in my left hand and the spoon in my right. I also tend to flip the top off the bottle of milk with the thumb of the hand holding the bottle - it makes me feel like Brad Pitt with the bottle of acid in Fight Club.
- The process should be: Add milk, stir, stir, stir until the contents of the pan is a single consistency, repeat. Initially the interval between adding the milk should be fairly small as it'll combine with the flour/butter mixture quickly but as you add more and more milk it'll take longer to combine so just keep on stirring and don't leave the pot unattended or unstirred for a moment. You'll have added enough milk when it's the consistency of runny custard. Not much help I know but what you're looking for isn't as thick as yoghurt but not as runny as cream. A MacDonald's thickshake is too thick.
- At this point add the mustard and parmesan. Stir until the cheese is combined and again add salt and pepper to taste.

Compiling the lasagne
- Take a large corning ware dish. 8"x 8" is what flashes in my mind but I don't know the dimensions. You know what I mean by a lasagne dish. Add a layer of tomato sauce. It should be as thin as possible while still completely covering the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of pasta and then a layer of white sauce, again the white sauce should be as thin as possible while still completely covering the pasta. Then a layer of pasta followed by a layer of tomato and so on. Keep on going until the white sauce is used up. Then onto the final layer of white sauce add a sprinkling of edam or mozzarella. Both work but I prefer the taste of the edam while the mozzarella is more impressive as it goes stringy when melted.
- Now just pop it in the oven for 30-40mins. You want to make sure that the dish is heated through and the cheese on top is browned and not just a fatty pool of gloopy cheese. If the cheese is not browning, blast it under the grill for 5 minutes or so to finish. Serve with the garlic bread.

Hope that works. If it doesn't, it's your fault not mine.

1 comment:

Hagrid said...

Mmmmmmmm... Lasagne