Tag Archives: Olive oil

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: Frittata Chistorra

Frittata Chistorra
Frittata Chistorra

Ingredients;

1 Handful of fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme) finely chopped
2 x onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 x sweet pepper, finely sliced
Approx. 20cm Chistorra finely sliced (substitute other dried meat if unavailable)
4 x eggs
30g Pecorino cheese, grated
30g goat’s Gouda cheese, grated
30g Red Leicester cheese, sliced

Serves 2


Get your frying pan on to a medium high heat with a little olive oil. Add the onions and fry them gently for ten to fifteen minutes or until they begin to caramelise.

While you wait, beat your eggs well, trying to incorporate as much air as possible, add in the grated cheeses as well as the fresh herbs and beat some more.

Once the onions have started to caramelise add in the garlic and fry for about a minute before adding the celery and continuing to fry gently for about five minutes. At this point you want to add the sweet pepper and fry for about a minute more, before pouring the egg mix over and stirring well. You will need to be quick doing this as the egg will start to cook as soon as it hits the pan. I use a plastic whisk to keep everything moving as I add the eggs and try to make sure that all the ingredients are evenly distributed around the pan.

Now leave this mixture to cook in the pan until you see the eggs start to cook at the very edge of the pan. Now, quickly add the sliced Chistorra over the top of the frittata and crumble the Red Leicester cheese over as well.

Place under a preheated grill and continue to cook until the centre of the frittata has solidified and the cheese has just started to brown at the edges. Divide the Frittata into slices just like you would a pizza and serve with a small side salad.

Recipe: Moroccan Lamb Stew

It’s National Gut week in the UK this week (23rd – 29th August). It’s an annual campaign that aims to help people understand the importance of good digestive health by providing free information and advice on how to achieve a healthy gut. Which seems like a good idea that we don’t have an equivalent to here in Ireland :(

Still at least we can read the UK website and documentation to get ourselves up to speed :)

Antony Worrall Thompson is one of the Ambassadors for the Campaign and has devised a number of recipes for those suffering from IBS, looking to watch their weight or who simply want to look after their inner health. The recipe that follows is one that he has kindly provided to help promote the cause. You can find out more about Gut Week here and I recommend having a read over this document for some quick tips to a healthier gut.


Moroccan Lamb Stew
Moroccan Lamb Stew

Ingredients;

450g lean leg of lamb, cut into 2.5cm cubes
11/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, roughly diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tomatoes, skinned and diced
1 tablespoon harissa or hot pepper paste
400g tin of chickpeas in water, drained and rinsed
350g trimmed and peeled pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 pickled lemon, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped coriander

Serves 4


Coat the lamb in the black pepper.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan, add the lamb and cook until it has browned all over. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft and is slightly brown, adding a splash of water if necessary to prevent sticking.

Add the tomatoes, harissa and 425ml water. Bring to a simmer,cover and cook over a medium heat for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours, topping up with water as necessary, until the lamb is almost tender.

Add the chickpeas and pumpkin and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Add the lemon, mint and coriander. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Sweet Potato & Parsnip Fries

Sweet Potato & Parsnip Fries
Sweet Potato & Parsnip Fries served with Steak and Onion Relish

Ingredients;

4 medium-sized parsnips
3 sweet potatoes
3 cloves of garlic
Handful of fresh herbs, as available (suggest thyme, oregano, mint, chives, parsley)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of rock salt


When I first saw the recipe this one is based on over at Donal Skehan’s blog, I wanted to make it immediately! I adore sweet potatoes, but I’ve quickly tired of simply baking them in the oven, and while they are gorgeous in stews, it’s not exactly the weather for it!

This weekend I had a batch of parsnips to use up, and some sweet potatoes in the basket too – so I figured that I’d try them together for a change, served alongside a deliciously tender fillet steak with hubbie’s onion relish. I think the addition of the parsnips made the fries even more special – it was so sweet it was practically like eating candy!

Start by picking your herbs, plucking leaves from stalks where necessary. Roughly chop up the garlic cloves and toss the herbs, garlic & salt into your pestle & mortar and bash until you have a paste – you can use your food processor if you don’t have a pestle & mortar. Add in the olive oil and stir well.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Peel your parsnips and sweet potatoes and then chop into fry/chip shapes – I find for parsnips the best method is to top & tail, then cut in half horizontally, then split the bottom section into 4 vertically, and the top into 6-8 sections vertically – trust me, that will make sense as you are chopping! With the sweet potatoes, the important thing is to try and split them evenly – if you have thin, scraggly fries then they won’t cook evenly. Aim for similar size to your parsnip fries.

Drop the fries into a large bowl as you cut them, and once finished add the mix from the mortar to the bowl and mix it in well, until all the fries are coated evenly.

Spread the fries out onto a baking tray in one layer (use 2 trays if needed) and bake in the oven for 40-45 mins, turning once. The fries should end up soft on the inside and just charred on the edges.

Recipe: Pizza Base revisited

A naked uncooked Pizza base

Ingredients;

1kg of Farina Tipo 00 Flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon of honey
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
625ml of tepid water (tepid = 2 parts cold to one part boiling)
1 handful of cornmeal

Makes 6-8 Pizza bases


One of the earliest recipes I published on NotJunkFood was for pizza bases, that recipe is a good recipe to use if you do not have access to pizza/pasta flour (also known as farina tipo 00). Thanks to Roma, Superquinn and Dunnes Stores, farina has become much more widely available in Ireland recently and as a result I have had the chance to experiment with my original recipe and I’m happy to say that the following is my updated pizza base recipe.

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl or onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle of it.

Mix the yeast, honey and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork (or your hands) start to stir the liquid in the well while bringing in the flour until the dough starts to come together. Then work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and dust the top of it with some flour. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Now place the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead it around for a 2-3 minutes to push the air out. As you are doing this, work the dough into a giant sausage shape. Divide the dough into six or eight pieces (eight if you like a thin and crispy base) and put them to one side.

Take one of the portions and make it into a ball, then stretch that into a roundish shape about 3-4 inches across and place on a floured surface and grab your rolling pin. Rolling away from you and turning the pizza regularly, roll the pizza base out until it is thin (about an eighth of an inch or less) then flour the pizza base and place on a baking tray lined with cling film – if you don’t have a suitably-sized baking tray, you can substitute with a chopping board or any flat surface that will fit in your freezer.

Fold the cling-film back over the top of the pizza base ready for the next one to be placed on top and repeat until all the portions have been rolled out.

At this point, you can dress one of the pizza bases using some Italian tomato sauce and your preferred toppings, on a baking tray or preferably a pizza stone, either way you will need to sprinkle some cornmeal on before placing the pizza on it to prevent it from sticking.

Then place in a hot oven (approx 220 degrees C) for about 8-10 minutes, sprinkle with dried oregano and enjoy.