Sunday, August 19, 2007

My little Italian adventure - Part 2: The recipe, the ingredients and the woman

Lasagne al forno

Lasagne is something that we eat maybe once year or at most twice a year and that's only when it's a home made lasagne or a store bought one where I have no choice in the matter. It is also not something that I would ever order in a restaurant. Come to think of it, I have only ever ordered lasagne once when we were at a restaurant, and that was only because I was intrigued by it as it was the only thing that a friend of ours ever orders whenever we eat at this particular restaurant.

Not sure why I've never attempted making lasagne. If I have to guess, it's probably the béchamel sauce that put me off. I've heard many stories of how lasagnes end up in the bin because the texture of the lasagne was just appalling. There were lots of reservations about making this, but in the end I decided that I'd dive in and give it ago. If it doesn't work out, I would have a good excuse as to why it didn't work.. - I would just blame old age and the recipe.

So, the above was my attempt at Sophie Baimbridge's Lasagne al Forno from her book Simply Italian. It looks like a lasagne right? So if it looks like a lasagne and it tastes like a lasagne then I must've got it right...right??

Suffice to say that I almost gave up on this lasagne after the "horror" that ensued, after successfully making a delicious meat and béchamel sauce. (I passed on the béchamel sauce!)

You see, the instruction on the recipe said to use a third each of the meat sauce, the cheese and béchamel sauce in each layer of the lasagne.

SO you (that's me) spread 1/3 of the meat sauce first, follow with 1/3 of the mozzarella and then cover with some lasagne sheets, pour in 1/3 of the béchamel sauce and sprinkle with some parmesan. Then place another layer of lasagne sheet, meat sauce, mozzarella, béchamel, parmesan etc etc etc..

So then, how to explain the extra 40g of parmesan cheese (used), extra 20g of mozzarella cheese (ok this is negligible.. I had 20g left no point saving it for a rainy day), the thin layer of béchamel sauce on the top and the 2 sheets of lasagne leftover after assembling the 'lasagne' in the dish??!

I can think of 3 possible reason. Maybe...
  1. The recipe is not quite right? or
  2. The Ingredients I prepared shrank in quantities. or
  3. The stupid woman that made it (hang on.. that's me!) couldn't comprehend the meaning of "1/3".
There were lots of "what the..." flying around when I was making this, but I guess, it's the end result that matters the most. My lasagne was one layer short of béchamel, meat and cheese, but it was still delicious. I'll just have to make sure that I have lots of extra ingredients at hand the next time I attempt this.

Lasagne al forno

Lasagne al forno
adapted from Simply Italian, Sophie Baimbridge


Meat Sauce

30g butter
1 onion, finely choped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
2 garlic clove, crushed
120g Italian sausage meat*
500g minced beef
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch of ground nutmeg
75ml dry white wine
375ml beef stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp double cream

Béchamel Sauce
850ml milk
1 bay leaf
6 cloves
1 small onion (stud cloves into onion)
50g butter
40g plain flour
125ml double cream
pinch nutmeg

8 fresh/dried lasagne shets (min 8, as you know from above, I ended up using less)
170g mozzarella, grated
100g parmesan, grated

Meat Sauce
  1. Chop onion and carrots finely.
  2. Heat butter in a frying pan and add in the onions, carrot, sausage meat and crushed garlic.
  3. Cook over low heat for 5-6min or until softened.
  4. Increase the heat a little and add in the beef, cook until beef is coloured but not browned. Make sure you break up any lumps of mince as you're cooking. Add in the oregano and nutmeg and season to taste.
  5. Add the white wine, increase heat and cook until the wine evaporates.
  6. Add in beef stock and tomato puree, mix well and leave to simmer for 2hrs. During this time, ensure that the mixture is moist, add a little hot water if necessary. At the end of the simmering period all the cooking liquid should to be absorbed by the meat.
  7. Turn off the heat, stir in the cream and leave to cool for at least 15mins.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, bring to boil the milk, bay leaf and onion. Once boiled, remove from heat and leave to stand for at least 20min to infuse.* Strain milk into a measuring jug.
  2. Melt butter in another saucepan and mix in the flour to make a roux.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring as about 2mins.
  4. Add milk to roux in small amounts, stirring as you go to prevent lumps. Simmer gently for about 10mins until sauce is creamy.
  5. Stir in the cream, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and pour it into the same milk jug. Cover surface with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.
*It got confusing here a bit. I thought the milk was suppose to be hot when added to the roux. Anyway, it turned out ok after a lot of extra stirring. I think next time I'll reheat the milk a little before adding it into the roux.

Assembling the Lasagne
  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C and grease a large oven proof dish.
  2. First, spread 1/3 meat sauce into the dish. Scatter 1/3 mozzarella cheese over the meat and cover meat/cheese layer with pasta sheets.
  3. Follow with 1/3 bechamel sauce over the pasta sheets and sprinkle with parmesan.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, and finish with a layer of bechamel sauce and parmesan.
  5. Bake lasagne in oven for 40mins or until it is golden and bubbling.
If serving on the same day, allow lasagne to rest for 10mins before serving. Alternatively, leave overnight for the the flavours to develop, reheat in oven before serving.

I KNOW, it's the dish's fault! It must be.. it's just way too.. err.. big.

*The original recipe called for 120g of panchetta. The deli where I usually frequent didn't have any panchetta that day so I substituted it with Italian sausages that I had in the fridge. Not quite right I know, but since it tasted ok, I'd like to think that it was good enough :)
- The crust looks a bit dry because I was too busy watching tv and forgot about the lasagne. I think it sat in the oven for an extra 15-20mins than it needed to. Plus I didn't have enough cheese, so I couldn't get a cheesy texture on the top. :(

- My little Italian adventure - Part 1: That salad.

- My little Italian adventure - Part 3: Lime Panna cotta


frost said...

Oooo~ Your lasagna looked perfect! Mine's always soppy and out of shape. Lol. YUMMY!

Anh said...

I think your lasagna looks perfect! Dont worry about the layers, as long as you like the taste, right? :D

Oh, talking about scaling ingredients, I made a mess last nite, too. I cooked too much fish and chips that could feed the whole family of 4; and there were only 2 eating!

K & S said...

still sounds and looks yummy! we usually make our lasagna with tomato/meat sauce only, no bechamel.

K & S said...

Ilingc, I wanted to email this to you just in case you didn't get a chance to read it on my blog comments, but you don't list an email, so I'm writing in your comments.

The family crest is usually passed down from generation to generation. I've heard that unwed women take their mother's family crest until they marry, then they take their husband's family crest. The crest usually originates from the area which the family is from and was sometimes determined by the lord or samurai--so some family crests were assigned to them, mostly the peasants.

Hope this explanation helps. I'll email you just in case you don't get a chance to read it here.

Take care and thanks for stopping by.

Patricia Scarpin said...

I think this is totally mouthwatering - it would be a hit here in São Paulo, we eat lasagna a lot here! :)

ilingc said...

frost: Thanks frost. I think the extra time in the oven might have something to do with it :)

anh: Hi Anh. I figured since it tasted right we'll just have to put blindfolds on when we eat it :D

Oh dear, did what did you do with the leftovers f&c. I'd ring up a couple of friends and go, free dinner! :) I tend to halve a lot of the recipes that I attempt only because I know I will end up either eating it all myself, giving them away or tossing in the bin.

kat: Hi Kat. No bechamel? Actually, I've seen that especially on the free form lasagnes where they just stack vegetables etc and cheese on lasagne sheets. I should try that next time so I don't stress too much about the bechamel not turning out. Great idea. :)

patricia: Thanks. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out. :)

.+ shopaholic +. said...

Yup, your lagsane looks really good! I just had some 'instant' lasagne from Sara Lee the other day, but it just doesn't pack the same punch as a homemade one :)

Valli said...

There is a lasagna called "1,000 Layer Lasanga" We will just say your lasagna was a layer short. It probably tasted delicious so it doesn't matter!!!!

M.J. said...

Oh my! That's a beautiful lasagne! My husband always requests it, so I make it a few times per year. I'll remember to check back for the recipe next time I'm feeling ambitious.

SteamyKitchen said...

you are too funny! I too have brain farts and can't get 1/3 right

Anna said...

Congratulations! I have to admit, I love making a good lasagne, but don't do it often.

Your recipe sounds great, and the results set my mouth watering. Definitely will be giving this a go the next time I make a slab.

Arfi Binsted said...

oh, i can imagine it! i love lasagne, but not often make it.

Jeanne said...

Now that is a picture-perfect lasagna! Glad to hear that apart from the "ingredient proportion malfunction" it turned out well :) I also never order lasagna in restaurants which is silly because I really like it. When I make my own, I usually take some sort of shortcut and never end up maeking "proper" lasagna... The one thing I do when I'm making an effort is to add finely chopped chicken liver to the meat sauce. It gives the sauce a luxurious richness without making it obviously "livery".

ilingc said...

Shopaholic: Thank you. We actually used to eat the instant lasagne from Sara Lee too. Those were before the days that I started cooking tho. :)

Valli: 1,000 layer lasagna?? Omg How many storey is that and how in the world did they bake it?!

M.J: Thanks MJ. My attempt was a bit short on the ingredients tho, I'd be interested to know if yours turns out well if you try it. :)

Jaden: AHh.. that's what they're called! Brain farts! LOL

Anna: Thanks Anna. Likewise, I am interested to know how you go if you try this recipe.

Arfi: Hi Arfi and thank you. This is only my first time making a lasagne and I certainly will try again and hopefully find the solutions the mistakes I experienced this round.

Jeanne: AHh Thanks Jeanne. You are too kind. I was grateful that taste wise it was delicious albeit a bit short on the layer. You know, strangely enough, I swear I've seen a bolognese sauce recipe with chicken liver in it! Maybe one of these days I should give it ago.

Tartelette said...

I have the same adventures when layering cakes sometimes! You are right: it is the pan's fault!
It looks fantastic nonetheless!

ilingc said...

tartelette: Yes, yes it must be the pan's fault! :) Seems most convenient an excuse to buy a new pan ! Hehe

Debz said...

Beautiful! Looks a lot like mine and the recipe is similar, but not exactly the same. I'll have to try this variation. Thanks a bunch for posting!

Sylvia said...

Seriously-- I have never ordered lasagna at a restaurant either! And how true is that.. it really is a once a year dish, either homemade OR storebought! I'm not sure why we eat lasagna only once a year. I think it's because you don't really like it that much, but it crosses your mind.. "we haven't had lasagna yet this year.." so you do it. Or it's on sale. the only two reasons for lasagna. touche.

Debz said...

My reasons for not eating lasagna more often have nothing to do with not really liking it. I love it!

It has to do with the ingredients for my recipe being a bit pricey, plus the dish is a bit of work, and finally if I ate this all the time I would be 3 times my size!!!