Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Yesterday was bloody brilliant. My cousin Simon, his wife Sharon brought their baby daughter Poppy and my Aunt Jane for lunch. Basically, I was having a dinner party on a Monday afternoon, so my perception of time and date is completely thrown off now.
I made a lasagne, partly because my stepson requested it and because I'm a big fan of making food that I can prepare ahead and pop in the oven when my guests arrive. I'm not a pleasant person when I'm stressed out, and so stress-free dinner parties are the goal.
Because I am a child of the '70s, I hold a special place in my heart for profiteroles (and prawn cocktails) and since they're so super easy to make, I decided on those for dessert. I also gave sourdough another try and had similarly good results to the other day, so YAY for that.
I call this 5-Hour lasagne, because I simmer my meat sauce for 3 1/2 hours at least and take a little time over my bechamel. I make the bechamel the way my Mum taught me, which was taught to her before I was born by her old friend Peter Bertorelli, veteran Italian restaurateur.
I make my sauce with half lamb and half beef mince, as I had it that way once in a gorgeous little trattoria in San Diego and I loved it. That place was also the only place in the States that I had lasagne made with bechamel instead of ricotta cheese, which also scored big points from me, as I've never understood the appeal of ricotta in lasagne.
I served this with a big garden salad, a loaf of freshly baked crusty bread and some red wine. The food was lovely, but it would have been nothing without the brilliant company. After lunch and several glasses of wine, the guys turned on the Xbox and Simon got his Call of Duty arse handed to him by a 14 year old boy (only because Simon was used to playing Modern Warfare on the PS3 and the controls are different!) Uh huh.
5-Hour Lasagne Alla Bolognese
serves 6, takes 4 1/2 -5 hours
2/3 batch of bolognese sauce, made either to this recipe, or with 1/2 lamb, 1/2 beef.
1 package died lasagne noodles
300g (10.5 oz) fresh ball mozzerella, sliced or torn
handful fresh basil leaves
handful freshly grated parmesan cheese
For the bechamel sauce:
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 litre (2.2 pints) whole milk
2 bay leaves
1 stalk, celery, thickly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and thickly sliced
salt to taste
4-5 rasps of fresh nutmeg
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Get your meat sauce cooking for about an hour and a half before starting the bechamel sauce.
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, peppercorns, salt, bay leaves, carrot, celery and onion to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for five minutes before turning off the heat and allowing the flavours of the aromatics to infuse the milk for an hour or so. When cooled, strain the milk.
In a medium, heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat and add the flour, stirring well to form a thick paste. When you can smell the flour starting to cook, stir the infused milk in a little at a time. stir quickly to avoid lumps forming, but don't worry, if you do get lumps, you can use an immersion (stick) blender to smooth it out. Once all the milk has been incorporated, bring to a low simmer and stir in the parmesan and nutmeg. You want the sauce to have a consistency similar to a thick custard, if too thick, add a little more milk. If the sauce is too thin, mix 1 tsp corn flour with a little cold milk and drizzle into the simmering sauce, stirring constantly.
Turn the oven to 200C (400F) and pour yourself a large glass of red wine, sip throughout.
In a large baking dish, put a layer of uncooked lasagne noodles, then a thick layer of the meat sauce. Top with the bechamel sauce and then repeat these layers twice more, so that you have three of each.
Top the lasagne with the whole basil leaves, then the mozzerella and finally with an even scattering of grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit at room temp for ten minutes to make cutting and serving a little easier.