Category Archives: Rosemary

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: Roast Rib of Beef and Roast Gravy

Sliced Roast Beef with roast gravy
Sliced Roast Beef with roast gravy

Ingredients;

Rib of beef
3 carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 leek
1 onion
2 sticks of rosemary picked and finely chopped
Salt
Oil
Beef Stock


Season the joint with salt, then peel and roughly chop the veg and place in the bottom of the roasting tray to act as a trivet. Drizzle some good quality olive oil over the joint, sprinkle the chopped rosemary over the meat and place in a preheated oven at 230C – 250C.

Baste the joint frequently with the juices and fat that run out of the meat. Reduce the heat to 200C once the meat has sealed. The total roasting time is 15 minutes per 500g plus 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Once removed from the oven the joint should be rested for 15 minutes before carving.

While the meat is resting, remove the fat and oil from the roasting tray, this is best done by lifting one corner of the tray carefully so the liquid runs to the opposite corner, then simply spoon off the clear liquid. Next get the roasting tray over a high heat and use a wooden spoon to gently work any bits that are stuck to the tray loose, at this point it’s a good idea to add a generous measure of red wine or (my personal preference) port to help “de-glaze” the tray.

Once all the pieces have been worked loose, think about how much gravy you want when finished and add roughly twice that amount of hot beef stock to the roasting tray, bring it to the boil and remove from the heat.

Now strain this through a sieve into a clean saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow the liquid to reduce by half and it should thicken just enough to give a really rich gravy, if it thickens too much just stir in a little stock to thin it down again.

Recipe: Roast rack of pork with couscous

Roast rack of pork
Roast rack of pork

Ingredients;

Rack of Irish pork, approx 5lbs in weight (can be cut in 2 if you prefer)
2 onions
3 carrots
3 parsnips
3 sticks of celery
Dried rosemary
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
2 packets Roma boil in the bag couscous (or substitute 250g other couscous)

Serves 4

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Heat your oven to 180C.

Peel and cube all the veg into equal size pieces (about 1 inch). Place this in the bottom of a large roasting tin. Add 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil and toss well until fully coated.

Score the fat/skin on the pork in a criss-cross pattern. Rub the rack all over with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, ensuring the flavouring gets evenly distributed.

Place the pork on top of the vegetables and pop in the oven for 1.5 – 2 hours (until juices run clear). The meat should rest for at least 10 mins when you take it out of the oven.

While the meat is resting, boil water in a saucepan and add the 2 bags of couscous (using boil in the bag is the least messy method), cooking for 1 minute. Pour off the water and carefully snip open the bags, pouring the couscous out into a bowl. Add the roast vegetables and any juices from the pan to the couscous and stir well.

Carve the pork into portions and serve on a bed of roast vegetable couscous.

Recipe: The Greatest Burgers Evah!

The Greatest Burger
The Greatest Burger

Ingredients;

500g lean ground beef
1 large red onion, finely diced
2 slices of bread, made into breadcrumbs
Large handful of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Large handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 pinch of cumin seeds
2 tablespoons dried oregano
Salt
Pepper
1 egg
1 teaspoon of smooth French mustard
2 handfuls of grated mozzarella cheese
1 chili, finely diced

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Burgers in general are just ground beef reformed into a convenient shape to place in a burger bun, right? Even at it’s simplest a burger is so much more than that, every burger maker has their own preference for the cut of beef to be ground for their burgers or the blend of cuts and the percentage of each. Some add nothing more than seasoning and others bulk out their burgers with all sorts of synthetic “fillers” and “flavour enhancers”.

I like the idea of a pure beef burger but in truth I find all but the most exceptional to be a little bland and lacking in flavour, which is why I go down the route of using a blend of herbs and other flavours to make every bite an event.

Once you have the onion and fresh herbs chopped, place the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, a large pinch of salt and pepper and the oregano in your mortar and pestle and grind them up as finely as possible. Then add this to the blender along with the fresh herbs and the bread and blend until you have nice fine herby breadcrumbs.

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and mix them together well – get your hands in and mix everything together really well, yes even the cheese.

Next place a large sheet of clingfilm onto a clean surface and arrange the mixture on top so that you can roll it into a six to eight centimetre thick sausage and seal it in the clingfilm, making sure to have this sausage compacted into this size as much as possible. Now place this in the fridge and allow it to cool for at least an hour.

Now remove the burger-sausage from the fridge and (without removing the clingfilm) slice it into burgers about one and a half centimetres thick using a very sharp knife. Once all have been sliced it should be easy enough to remove the pieces of clingfilm.

These can then be cooked on a grill, in the frying pan, or my personal favourite, grilled over a charcoal burning barbecue for approximately 2 minutes each side. I like them served in a toasted bun on a bed of lettuce and sliced cornichon with a generous helping of grated cheddar melted over the burger, topped with some hot fresh caramelised onion chutney and a blob of ketchup.

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! :)