I actually made Beef Lasagne the same evening I was preparing the sweet braised pork which probably contributed to our inability to stomach more food that day. I remember now that it was just after the weekly cooking class offered by our residence (we learnt a spring onion crab dish that morning) which set me off on a cooking frenzy 2 days in a row. Yes, I made black pepper crabs too in the same 2 days because the same cooking class got Judy into a similar frenzy and she bought crabs from the wholesale market and even killed them for us! Fei kept saying that she only got so plump because of me and my obsession with food.
My sage and rosemary plants
I didn't make the pasta for the lasagne myself this time and the packet of Barilla I got from Carrefour was really expensive. I just realised that I've never blogged properly about lasagne probably because it's one of those simple dishes that requires quite a bit of preparation and I've never managed to find enough natural light at the end to have a picture taken. I still haven't, but have decided to blog about it anyway.
Basically making lasagne is about making pasta, béchamel and bolognese/ragu and putting everything together. It's easy, but it does take quite a bit of time and organisation. There is however no need to go the Bologna Chamber of Commerce way and cook your meat in milk etc for the ragu because once you've mixed your meat sauce with the béchamel you wouldn't quite remember how it looked like before.
Fresh out of the oven
Beef Lasagne :
rectangular pasta dough (9-12 sheets depending on how many layers you'll be making)
100g grated parmesan cheese
200g grated emmenthal, cheddar, gruyere or mozzarella cheese
6-8 fresh sage leaves
The Béchamel :
1 l milk
a pinch of nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1 tsp crushed black pepper
65g plain flour
150g grated parmesan cheese
salt to taste
The Meat Sauce :
500g minced beef
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
a few basil leaves
400ml tomato purée
400g tin of ripe peeled plum tomatoes
1 bird's eye chilli (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the meat sauce first. Hand form the beef into patties and grill them till they are brown on the outside. Chop roughly and set aside.
Heat up some olive oil and fry the onions and garlic till fragrant. Add in the fresh herbs, the tomato purée and tinned tomatoes, chilli, salt and pepper. Gently add the meat into the sauce. Cover and simmer while you prepare the white sauce.
Gently boil the milk with the bay leaves, nutmeg and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and set aside.
Melt the butter in a small pot and stir in the flour. Pour in the milk bit by bit taking care to stir all the time. The flour needs to be cooked or the sauce will taste horrible. Bring the sauce to the boil gently, remove from the fire and stir in the parmesan cheese. Salt to taste.
Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the pasta sheets. Even if they tell you there's no need to pre-cook them, I'd still do it because the taste of raw pasta is not fabulous.
Olive oil your lasagne dish and heat your oven to 220°C/425°F.
Place a layer of pasta sheets in the dish and spread the meat sauce over them. Pour some béchamel over the meat sauce, sprinkle over some parmesan cheese and cover with another layer of pasta sheets.
Repeat till you've reached the top of the lasagne dish. The final layer should be pasta, béchamel, parmesan cheese, sage leaves and a layer of cheese good for melting like emmenthal or mozzarella.
Before going into the oven
Bake for between 30 and 45 minutes - watch that the cheese doesn't burn.
I was hoping to get a daylight shot of just a serving of lasagne the next day but the kids took the remaining 2 portions with them in their lunch bags so the plan couldn't come to fruition. A German kid also had 2 servings actually, he happened to pass by the house and invited himself to dinner when he saw the lasagne.