What’s this? A recipe? On The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar? What the hell? How many mushrooms did I eat this morning?
No, you’re not seeing things.
For the first time ever, a recipe has been posted on this blog! When I first started blogging, my aim was to document restaurant visits and only restaurant visits. It wasn’t because I was a horrible cook (okay, so maybe that part is still true…), I just didn’t think I cooked stuff that people would actually want to make.
A bunch of friends then encouraged me to post recipes on my blog and so I figured that I’d give it a shot because hey, I’ve got nothing to lose. I mean, I write reviews on places that no one would even think of stepping foot in (a Vietnamese bakery in the middle of Rotorua, anyone?) so the same rationale ought to apply to recipes. At the end of the day, blogging is all about my journey more than anything. And if people decide to take my restaurant recommendations seriously or give my recipes a crack then hey, that’s a bonus.
My first recipe will be for a nice, comforting lasagne. Yes, I know it’s not as exciting as meat pie-infused Chantilly sorbets with fairy biscuit dust and bright pink edible flowers but baby steps, folks, baby steps… In saying that, the humble lasagne has got to be one of my favourite foods. There are so many recipes for lasagne out there and although I have my favourites (Guy Grossi and Matt Preston make a good one), they take hours to make so here’s one that cooks in half the time. My recipe might not be authentic (Maggi seasoning sauce? The hell?) but it sure is tasty. Promise.
A box of instant lasagne sheets
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped*
6 cloves garlic, chopped*
1 large carrot, chopped*
2 celery stalks, chopped
250g beef mince
250g pork mine
Salt and white pepper
1 cup white wine
A tsp of caster sugar
680ml tomato passata
400g can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
A dash of Maggi seasoning sauce
A pinch of nutmeg
1 handful of basil leaves, chopped
*Food processor is your friend. If you have one, use it.
2 tbsp plain flour
Salt and black pepper
A sprinkling of nutmeg
Serves 4-6 people
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. To make the meat sauce, start by heating the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Chuck the onions in and cook until they are soft and translucent.
3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, but not brown.
4. Add the carrots and celery, cook until soft. This normally takes 2-3 minutes.
5. Crank the heat up to medium-high and chuck the beef and pork mince in, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Break the meat up – you can use a wooden spoon but I find that using a potato masher yields more effective results. Let the meat cook until it loses its raw colour.
6. Add the white wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has almost evaporated.
7. Add the sugar, passata, diced tomatoes and bay leaf and mix it all up.
8. Let the sauce cook until thickened. I usually give it about half an hour, but it may take you longer. Either way, your sauce should look like this:
9. Taste the sauce – you may find it a tad on the tangy side due to all the tomatoes in it. If that doesn’t float your boat, add a pinch of nutmeg to diffuse it. It also gives it a lovely sweet and nutty taste. At this stage, I also add a splash of Maggi seasoning sauce for an umami hit (yes, it’s weird but yes, it bloody works).
10. Once you’re pretty happy with the seasoning, add the basil. Set the meat sauce aside.
11. To make the Béchamel sauce, melt the butter in another saucepan over low-medium heat.
12. When the butter has melted, add the flour. Cook, stirring until a roux is formed.
13. Remove the pan from heat and add the milk, whisking to avoid lumps from being formed.
14. Return the pan to heat and continue to whisk, until the sauce boils and thickens. This might take a while, but the end result should look like this:
15. Remove the Béchamel sauce from heat and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
16. To assemble the lasagne, line a lasagne tray with a very thin layer of olive oil (I used a 37.5cm x 25cm x 5cm tray).
17. Place the lasagne sheets on top, then a layer of meat sauce (about a quarter). Layer the lasagne sheets and meat sauce two more times (or until the meat sauce is finished), then pour the Béchamel sauce all over the top layer. It’s okay to lick the spoon once or twice (or in my case, x + 5000 times).
18. Sprinkle Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese all over the Béchamel sauce layer.
19. Chuck the lasagne in the oven, and cook for 40 minutes or until the cheese has browned.
20. Take the lasagne out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
This is what my tray looked like the next morning (hence why the sheets look drier and the cheese not as stringy). In my opinion, lasagne tastes better the next day because the flavours would have intensified. Thus, make sure you’ve got enough for lunch the following day.
So there you have it! My first recipe. Let me know how well or how badly I’ve done, or what other dishes you’d like to see featured on this blog one day.
1. I usually cook a double batch of Béchamel sauce, because a single batch is NEVER enough. Plus, I like to use the leftover sauce to make croque-monsieur later in the week.
2. Six cloves of garlic is plenty for this dish, but I tend to go all out when it comes to garlic. This is how much I ended up using for this dish:
3. Dry bay leaves are fine, but fresh ones are better (luckily for me, I have a bay leaf plant in my backyard):
4. You can also add a bit of rosemary, or any herb to your sauce. Fresh is better, obviously, but you can also use dried ones. My rosemary bush is getting a bit out of control so I try to use rosemary as much as I can when cooking.