Monday, December 17, 2007

Potato lasagne

Here is an unusual recipe, from Yotam Ottolenghi's "New Vegetarian" column in the Saturday Guardian.

Tackling it, I was less worried about the combination of potatoes and lasagne than about whether the ingredients would cook properly. Non pre-cook lasagne is tricky stuff to get right, in my experience. It needs to soak in the other ingredients in order to soften, and it absorbs a lot of liquid; but make your sauces too runny, and you end up with a soggy mass. Too dry, and the lasagne stays crunchy. The owner of a local deli gave me the answer; parboil the sheets for a minute. It makes them far less absorbent, and allows you to cook the dish in the normal way, with ragu and bechamel at the consistency you like. But the sheets sometimes curl up after their parboiling; and what is the point of this type of lasagne if you have to pre-cook it anyway? So I decided to try Ottolenghi's method. He includes plenty of liquid.

To fit the lasagne into my dish, I had to break up the sheets. Little shards split off; but that did not seem to matter.

I was not sure about mixing cheese and garlic with the water, milk and cream before pouring the mixture over the layered lasagne. The solids would sink; they would emerge in a clump when you poured, and sit in a mass on the top of the dish. So I layered the cheese with the lasagne sheets, potatoes and onions. The best way to incorporate the garlic, I realise with hindsight, would have been to blitz it with the olives. I also realise with hindsight that heating the liquid first would have helped along the cooking.

I used new potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin. After an hour in the oven (half the time at gas mark 4/180C, and half at gas mark 2/150C), the dish was not very well cooked. I removed the foil, and pressed down on the top of the lasagne: the liquid rose above the surface. I scattered cheese on top, and put the dish back in the oven at gas mark 5/190C for a further 30 minutes. It emerged well-browned, with the liquid absorbed; but the potatoes were not entirely soft. Heating the liquid first, and pressing down on the ingredients after the first 30 minutes to ensure that everything was soaked, would probably have sorted them out.

My dish included 200 g of lasagne, and eight small new potatoes. I cut down the liquid, using 100 ml of water, 200 ml of double cream, and 150 ml of milk. I did not use herbs, and I reduced the garlic from four cloves to three. The quantities of the other ingredients were the same.

Two of us ate it all, including the slightly crisp potatoes. With just a green salad on the side.

No comments: