Monday, January 7, 2013

Everyone's favourite

Today was my first day back at work after the New Year's break. Surprisingly enough, I wasn't looking forward to it. I decided it would be a good idea to make something that would see me through several days' worth of lunches, so I wouldn't have to worry about that for the first few days. So what's the perfect recipe for this scenario? Lasagne (p100), that's what.


Lasagne's just one of those dishes: you never meet anyone who doesn't like it. True, everyone has their favourite version, but the basics remain the same. I generally do a sort of cheat's version where you don't bother with the cheese sauce - just layer the meat sauce and pasta, then bung a heap of cheese over the top. It's quicker than a 'proper' lasagne, which may be why I didn't anticipate how long the Edmonds version would take to make.


I was going to a movie yesterday afternoon, and had considered making the meat and cheese sauces in advance, then assembling the lasagne when I got home. I didn't get around to it though, and figured I'd leave my lasagne-making for another day. When I got home at 7.30pm, however, I stupidly decided to make it anyway. I had to make a quick trip down to the supermarket for a few extra items, so it was 8pm before I started cooking.


That was perhaps not the best idea.


I started with the meat sauce, cooking onion and garlic in oil, then adding mince. When that had browned, I put in a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes, some tomato puree, chopped mushrooms, some dried herbs, and a little sugar. There's a lot of liquid in the tomatoes, so the sauce had to cook down for about 40 minutes, something I hadn't really anticipated! I killed some time doing dishes until the sauce was looking a bit thicker, then made a start on the cheese sauce.



I must have discussed this recipe with Steve at some stage, because I'd noted a 'Steve's tip' that the cheese sauce recipe should be increased by half. I decided I'd better try the recipe as is, and it worked ok, but Steve probably has a point here: the sauce was spread pretty thin in places.



This is a fairly standard cheese sauce. You melt butter, then stir in flour and cook that 'until frothy'. My butter/flour mixture went extremely frothy, hissing away as it narrowly avoided scorching on my highly unreliable second element (the one that sometimes decides it has only one temperature, i.e. maximum). I swapped the cheese sauce to the good element and let the meat sauce bubble away on the hot one.


Having the butter/flour mixture very hot seems to work quite well - the sauce thickened up very quickly as I slowly added the milk. In a very short time I had it off the heat, (and the meat sauce back on the good element) and was adding cheese and seasoning.


Shortly after that, the meat sauce was ready. I set it aside with the cheese sauce to cool while I cooked the pasta. This recipe calls for wide lasagne ribbons, though you could use sheets if you prefer. I actually like lasagne made with the ribbons, since it's easier to serve up if you don't have to cut through layers of lasagne sheets. Of course, it doesn't hold together as prettily on the plate, but you can't have everything.


I didn't leave the sauces till they were completely cool - it was 9.30 by this time, and I wanted to eat before bedtime! I started assembling the lasagne, starting with a layer of pasta, over which I spread a layer of meat sauce, then a layer of cheese sauce. Another layer of each and a bit of parmesan grated over the top, and the lasagne was ready to go in the oven.


After 20 minutes in the oven, my lasagne was finally ready to eat. It may have been just because I was hungry, but man, that lasagne tasted so good!


As I've said, you can't really go wrong with lasagne. This is a good basic recipe, and would be easy to tweak to your own preferences. It takes a while to make, but it's worth it. Just don't start cooking it at 8pm!




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