Tag Archives: Meat

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.

Thinking about Meat

It’s a really strange thing I’ve noticed but most meat eaters don’t really think about the meat they eat terribly much, in fact from talking to vegetarians I know and have known over the years it is clear to me that they actually think more about the meat us meat eaters eat than most of us do.

For a lot of us the most we think about meat is will I have beef, lamb, chicken or pork for my lunch/dinner? Most of us make our way around the supermarket and pick up our nice pre-packaged cuts without ever wondering how long it is since this mooed/clucked/snorted etc. Really how many of us actually look closely at the cut before we put it in our trolley and take it home? How many of us even look at the label to see where it came from?

It’s a bit crazy especially when you come to realise that one of the key differences in the meals you eat at home and the meals you eat in a restaurant is the quality of the ingredients. Not all meat is created equal, just like some cuts taste better than others some animals just taste better. This is usually in my experience to do with the way they are reared and the way that they are butchered.

A well butchered cut of meat can make an impact as dramatic to a meal as the addition of seasoning and sometimes even more so. That’s why I’m constantly on the search for a better butcher. Every so often I try a new butcher and for a while I find good value or better cuts but then almost as soon as I get comfortable with a butcher, the quality or value or both just start to drop off, so I end up varying which butcher I use just to keep them on their toes.

The Market Butcher
The Market Butcher

When we visited Taste of Dublin, one of the many brochures that I picked up at the event was one for The Market Butcher it was only later I realised that their shop is just up the road from me, so I popped in one day and picked up some steaks for dinner, let’s just say that they were among the finest I have ever tasted.

Since then, I’ve been a regular customer and I’ve seen no difference in quality, every cut I’ve tried has been superb. It’s great for me because we are local but they do accept orders on-line and even offer free delivery for larger orders.

The range on offer is huge and the pricing is competitive with the supermarkets while giving much better quality and to top off, all their beef, chicken, lamb and pork is Irish. I haven’t tried the other more exotic options yet, so I haven’t asked about the origins but the staff have never been anything other than exceptionally helpful so I have no doubt they will be happy to answer any questions from customers.

Give them a try – I cannot recommend the fillet steak highly enough – I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe: BBQ Pork Chops

BBQ pork chops served with coleslaw, blazin saddles baked beans and mashed spud
BBQ pork chops served with coleslaw, blazin saddles baked beans and mashed spud

Ingredients;

2 x Irish Pork chops
BBQ Rub
BBQ Sauce

Serves 2

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Start by giving the pork chops a quick rinse in running water and patting them dry with kitchen towel.

Next you want to sprinkle some of the BBQ rub onto a clean plate and lay the pork chops on top. Now turn them over and rub the “BBQ Rub” that has stuck into the meat well, then turn them over and do the same on the other side. Keep turning and rubbing the mixture into the chops until the mixture starts to feel like a paste and the fat of the chops has taken on a reddish tinge.

At this point wrap them with cling film and pop them in the fridge for at least twelve hours (I usually leave them overnight) to allow the flavours to combine with the meat.

The next day when you are ready to start cooking get your grill as hot as you can (be that your barbecue grill or kitchen grill) and place the pork chops on to cook for five to seven minutes per side.

When the second side has had its cooking time, turn the chops again and brush on a generous helping of BBQ Sauce and place them back on the grill for another five to seven minutes, then turn them one last time and brush the second side generously and back on the grill again for another five to seven minutes. At this point you’re ready to serve.

I like to serve these with some of my “Blazin Saddles” Baked Beans and mashed potato with some chives chopped through them. Coleslaw is always good with BBQ even if it is store bought 😉

These can be frozen once the rub has been applied and then defrosted ready for use, whenever you want. So I would normally buy about 10 pork chops mix up a batch of the rub and apply it. Then freeze them, in pairs, in sealed plastic bags. Doing this in advance means that you can pull a pair of them out of the freezer on your way to work to defrost during the day and have a quick and easy dinner to look forward to when you get home in the evening.

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.