Category Archives: Cloves

Recipe: The best baked lasagna

lasagna is a typical Italian dish, it has many variations even in the same regions there can be big differences. I’ve developed my own over the years as I like the northern style with plenty of Béchamel sauce while also liking the simple tomato based meat sauces of the southern regions. This recipe combines the best of both and one or two other influences as well.

While it’s very common to see lasagna not many people realise just how much goes into it, you cook up a meat sauce, then you make the Béchamel sauce and finally you layer it all together and bake it. A 3 part process that can be a little time-consuming but is well worth the effort.

Oh and before anyone says it, I know, a Béchamel sauce with cheese added is a Mornay sauce so this is not a traditional lasagna at all really.

I use a lasagna tray for making this (approx. 32cm x 26cm x 8cm), if you don’t have one of similar size you could use a number of smaller ones, just be aware of the depth, you’ll be surprised how much the layers add up to.


The best baked lasagna
The best baked lasagna

Ingredients;


Meat Sauce
1 x Anchovy fillet
6 x slices of pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 x large sprig of rosemary, picked and finely chopped
2 x bay leaves
1 x large red onion, diced
2 x sticks of celery, diced
1 x carrot, diced
2 x cloves of garlic, crushed
500g Beef mince
500g Pork mince
250ml Red wine
3 x 400g tins of tomatoes, chopped (plus one tin of water)
Salt
Pepper
1 x Star Anise

Béchamel (Mornay) sauce
100g flour
100g butter
1L milk
1/2 onion
6 x cloves
75g x parmesan
3 x mozzarella balls, diced

400g of lasagna sheets
Freshly grated Nutmeg

 

Serves 12 – 15 portions


The meat Sauce

Begin by heating a large saucepan over a medium heat, once it’s up to temperature add a little extra virgin olive oil, then the anchovy and pancetta/bacon, fry them for about a minute and add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves. Cook these together gently for about 20 minutes.

Next you want to add your meat, making sure to break it up as much as possible as you’re adding it and keep it moving over a high heat until it browns, then add the wine and simmer for a minute before adding the 3 tins of chopped tomatoes and a tin of water.

Finally add a single star anise, bring the lot to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Then taste and season before removing the bay leaves and star anise as they can have a very unpleasant texture and it’s only their flavour we’re after anyway.

While the meat sauce is simmering get on with the Béchamel sauce.

Béchamel (Mornay) sauce

Take the half onion and skewer it with the cloves, now place this in a saucepan along with the milk and warm it but do not let it boil.

In another slightly larger saucepan, start melting the butter but do not let it burn, keep the heat as low as possible. Once melted add the flour and quickly stir it in until you have a sandy paste like substance. Now using a wooden spoon or plastic whisk start to slowly add the warmed milk, (but not the onion and cloves) mixing it in as you go, the slower you can add the milk the less likely you are to end up with a lumpy sauce so take your time.

Once all the milk has been added you need to “cook out” the flour, this is done by continuing to bring the sauce slowly up to temperature, stirring regularly and tasting. This can take as little as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. When you taste it, if you can still taste flour then keep going and taste again in another few minutes. Once you’ve “cooked out” the flour you have a Béchamel sauce and this can be used with many dishes or subtly changed by adding things like chopped parsley or dill to create other sauces.

But what we want to do is make a Mornay sauce so we add in about half the diced mozzarella and most of the parmesan cheese, hold back enough to cover the top of the final dish. Stir the sauce until the cheese melts and combines completely with the sauce, if it’s too thick use a little milk to thin it, but don’t go crazy we want it a little thick so it will sit on top of the meat layer rather than combining with it.

Final assembly and baking

Take some kitchen paper dipped in extra virgin olive oil and oil up your lasagna dish. If you have a non stick dish, I prefer to start with a pasta layer as it makes the lasagna a little easier to serve. next you want to add a layer of meat sauce followed by a layer of the Béchamel/Mornay sauce. Then sprinkle at little less than a third of the remaining mozzarella over the Béchamel, sprinkle a little grated nutmeg and repeat the Pasta, meat sauce, Béchamel, mozzarella and nutmeg, layers twice more using all the remaining mozzarella on the top, also sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 180C until the top is golden and bubbling. You can serve this immediately although it’s best to let it cool a little first as the portions will stay together better.

This also freezes very well just wait for the lasagna to cool completely and portion into freezer suitable bags or boxes. Then when you just have to defrost them and reheat when you want Lasagne.

Recipe: BBQ Sauce

BBQ Sauce
BBQ Sauce

Ingredients;


1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 fresh chillies, stalks and seeds removed
Olive oil

10 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
10 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
Small bunch of fresh coriander
10 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
6 cloves
Zest of 2 oranges

Juice of 2 oranges
200g soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon of Molasses
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
200ml tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons English mustard
200ml apple juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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Continuing on from the BBQ Rub last week we have the second crucial element for making great BBQ meat, the sauce! This recipe makes about 750ml of sauce so make sure you have a few glass bottles or jars available to sterilise and store it, unless you’re planning to use it all in two or three days. Why make such a large quantity? Easy, it takes just as long to make half the amount and you’ll want to have it again and again so why not make plenty to start with :)

There are a lot of ingredients so before you begin, take them all out and prep them, I find this helps me to make sure I don’t accidentally forget something.

To start, take your onion, garlic and chillies and blitz them together in a blender or food processor until you have a paste. Then take a pan add some olive oil and get it on to a low heat. Add the paste and fry it for about 5 minutes.

While that’s happening take your thyme, rosemary, coriander, bay leaves, cumin, fennel, paprika and cloves place them in your blender or food processor. Next add the orange zest, you don’t wan’t the pith (white bit) and blitz this to a purée.

Once the paste has had it’s five minutes add the purée and cook for another minute. Next add the sugar and molasses, stir them in well and continue to cook it for another few minutes until the sugar dissolves and you have a thick brown paste.

Now add 285ml of water stiring it in well and let it heat slowly for another two or three minutes. Now add all the remaining ingredients, stir it well and bring the lot to the boil. Now take a deep breath, turn the heat down a little and let it simmer for about five to ten minutes until the mixture starts to thicken a little.

Grab a large bowl and a sieve and pour the sauce through the sieve (depending on how thick it has gotten you may need to “encourage” it with the back of a spoon) into your bowl to filter out the larger bits, and throw away the bits left in the sieve. Repeat this process a couple of times until you’re left with a silky smooth looking sauce.

Leave it to cool completely. Then either, use it straight away like a glaze (just brush it over your meat of choice in the last few minutes of cooking) or pour it into your sterilised glass jars or bottles to stored for use later.

How do I sterilise glass jars or bottles?

The easiest way I’ve found is to fill the kitchen sink with boiling water from the kettle and submerge the jars/bottles and their lids in it for about ten minutes. Once you remove them add the sauce immediately and get the lids on tight.

Once they cool they can be stored in a cool dark place or the fridge. The sauce should keep for about six months.

Oh and just to keep it in perspective, this recipe should be enough to do about eight full racks of back ribs. But we’ll get into that more on Friday, so y’all come back now! :)

Recipe: The Best Bacon and Cabbage

Bacon and Cabbage with Onion and Parsley Sauce served with Mashed Potato
Bacon and Cabbage with Onion and Parsley Sauce

Ingredients;

Approx 700g Bacon Loin
2 small pinches ground cloves
Handful brown sugar

1/2 head of white cabbage, finely sliced
1 teaspoon goose fat (or duck fat or butter)

Small white onion, finely diced
Handful fresh parsley, very finely chopped
2 heaped teaspoons plain flour
Knob of butter
Tablespoon cream

Serves 2

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OK, let’s be honest, this is not a quick recipe, but it is totally worth it, especially if you’re trying to impress someone!

Start by placing your bacon loin in a large saucepan and filling it with cold water until the bacon is covered. Get this on the heat and bring it to the boil. Once boiling, keep the pot covered and leave it at strong simmer for about an hour, ensuring that the water always covers the bacon.

After an hour, place the bacon loin in a baking tray and sprinkle on the ground cloves and sugar, mainly over the fat, but also on the meat as well. Reserve a mug full of the cooking water.

Heat your oven to 200 C and bake the loin for 45 mins.

While the bacon is in the oven, begin to prep the cabbage and sauce ingredients. These both take less than 20 mins to cook, so you don’t want to be starting too early.

Add your diced onion to a small frying pan with the butter and cook on a medium heat for about 5-10 mins, to soften, but not colour the onion. Next add the flour and stir until it vanishes. Begin to pour in the reserved cooking water about a tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly.

You want the sauce to be slightly thick, not too runny. Keep adding the reserved water as needed, stirring regulary. Adjust your heat so that it is just barely simmering. Right before serving, add the parsley and cream and stir well. Add salt and pepper if needed (taste it and see!)

With about 10 mins of cooking time left on the bacon, melt the goose fat in a large frying pan and add the cabbage. Give this a few mins on full heat, then reduce to about 3/4 heat. Keep stirring it regulary, it should brown, but not burn. Once it has taken on a good bit of colour, add some the reserved cooking water and keep stirring. The cabbage should absorb the liquids and keep taking on colour.

Rest the bacon for 5 mins before carving and serve with the cabbage and sauce (and mashed potatoes if you like).