Friday, August 24, 2007

Lasagne, part 2

Part one is here; or immediately below. For 4.

300 g lasagne, cooked as in part one.

For the ragu
Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
200 g beef mince
200 g pork mince
Bay leaf
1/2 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

For the bechamel
About 50 g butter
2 tbsp flour
About 450 ml milk
2 tbsp double cream
Grating of nutmeg
Salt to taste
2 tbsp Parmesan

Soften the onions and garlic in a layer of olive oil in a heavy saucepan. How much oil? Start with enough to layer the bottom of the pan, warm it over a gently heat, and tip in the vegetables. If they start to catch, add a little more oil. It is impossible to give measurements. I suspect that inexperienced cooks are nervous if they need more oil than the recipy specifies; but they need not be. Cook the onion and garlic until they are golden.

When I made this lasagne, I did not brown the meat. (As I have explained before, it is very hard to start the browning process now, because it needs a high temperature that will burn the vegetables.) Over a low to medium heat, break up the mince as it cooks. Add the other ingredients, and simmer over a low heat. You may want a little water; but the stew should be thick. Give it about 30 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small, non-stick saucepan. Add the flour, and stir to make a roux the consistency of wet sand. As with the onions, add more butter if necessary. (These quantities give more bechamel than recipes usually specify, to suit my taste.) Cook the roux very gently for a minute (it helps to minimise the floury flavour), then turn up the heat a little and add the milk, several splashes at a time, incorporating each addition before making another. You want a thick sauce that will stick to the back of your wooden spoon. When you have it, stir in the cream, nutmeg and salt.

Assemble the lasagne. Lightly butter your oven dish. Put a layer of lasagne in the bottom, cutting the pieces to fit. Do not overlap them too much: the pieces will stick together and become stodgy. Try to work out how many layers you will get, and whether you want that many. Then calculate how much ragu you can put into each layer. Spread this amount over the lasagne in the dish.

Some recipes tell you to alternate layers of ragu and bechamel; others suggest spreading the bechamel on to the ragu. I chose the latter option, but I used the bechamel sparingly, because I wanted there to be plenty left over for the topping.

Put a layer of lasagne on to your ragu and bechamel; top that with more ragu and bechamel; and so on, finishing with a layer of lasagne. Spread the remaining bechamel over that, sprinkle the Parmesan on top, and bake in a gas mark 4/180 C oven for 40 minutes.


pablopatito said...

Do you ever put a tin of tomatoes in your ragu?

Nicholas Clee said...

Not often. I find that what it produces is a tomato sauce with meat; whereas I want a meat sauce with tomato flavouring.