Wow time seriously flies! I can't believe it's been a good couple of a weeks since I last posted. I have however a lot of recipes and food diaries to post, but also a lot of recipes I want to try.
So, a couple of weeks ago I made my first lasagne, it was a veggie one but it's better being veggie for my family really! When I first got Nigel Slater's Real Cooking, this was the main recipe that I really wanted to try. It seemed quite a simple lasagne recipe.
The best lasagne I've ever had was actually cooked by my lovely friend Lily when I lived with her, it was her mum's recipe and always seemed to take a good couple of hours to make but we would wile the time away with a couple of glasses of wine and our incessant chatter! So even though that was a beautiful lasagne, it almost made me a bit scared to make my own! It seemed like so much effort and time (that I seem to now not have) even making the white sauce appeared difficult! As much as I love a challenge, I will always choose something simple but with the taste factor of something a lot harder to make! And, this recipe was it!
The recipe time was also lessened by not making my own béchamel sauce. I would have ordinarily made one but time was not on my side and this was a lot easier. I bought a packet of dried béchamel sauce mix (sounds tasty right?!) from a supermarket and just added milk. I would recommend that for 4 people, buying two packets and maybe using one and a half just so there's enough sauce. I think the downside of my attempt at this was not enough béchamel sauce, my lasagne turned out reasonably well despite it but I definitely could have done with more sauce!
Preparation time: Just under an hour
Cooking time: Half an hour
400g fresh spinach
300g brown mushrooms
3 medium-sized onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
a couple of bay leaves
a good squeeze of tomato purée
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
500ml béchamel sauce (packet/ready-made or make your own!)
180g dried lasagne
a generous handful of parmesan
Wash the spinach and then I would suggest putting it in a big enough saucepan, ready for wilting later! Roughly chop the onions and slice the mushrooms thickly, without bothering to remove stalks. Pour enough oil into a large deep pan to cover the bottom. Add the chopped onions and cook over a moderate heat, stirring from time to time until they are soft. While they are cooking, which is around 15 minutes, peel and slice the garlic and stir it in to the cooking onions with a few pinches of dried oregano and the bay leaves.
When the ingredients have mixed together well and are soft, add the sliced mushrooms to the mix. Stir occasionally for ten or fifteen minutes. When the mushrooms and onions are browned, stir in the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper and cook over a low heat for around twenty minutes.
While the mixture is cooking, pop the lid onto the spinach saucepan and cook over a moderate heat, it should cook in its own steam (so long as it was wet before cooking) then drain in a colander.
If you are using a ready made béchamel sauce, you have time now, while the sauce and spinach are cooking to whip it up. If you decide to use the packet method, empty the mixture into a medium sized saucepan and then add the required amount of milk (hardly rocket science!) and then cook over a moderate heat, stirring gently occasionally. It should get to a nice thick consistency, make sure you give it a good fifteen-twenty minutes to get to this point. You could always add a bit of single cream to thicken it up even more!
And now for the layering of the lasagne! Make sure the tomato sauce is at an almost slushy consistency, the white sauce has thickened and the spinach all wilted.
You will need a reasonably deep, large baking dish. Pour in half of the béchamel sauce into the bottom, then add a layer of pasta sheets, breaking it up and making sure all gaps are covered. Then spoon over a thick layer of mushroom sauce and lay a handful of wilted spinach leaves over the top.
Then repeat, adding layers of pasta, mushroom sauce and spinach. Finish with lasagne sheets on the top, pour over the rest of the béchamel and a generous helping of grated parmesan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190C until bubbling, for around half an hour. Serve with a green salad. Enjoy!