6 November 2009

Cheeseless Lasagne

It's Friday, that means having a nice dinner with Lundulph and today it was time to put an idea into action - attempt at a cheese less lasagne. After all these years, Lundulph hasn't learned to eat and appreciate cheese and I've been wanting to do another batch of fresh pasta for some time, due to an administrative error resulting in an extra packet of durum wheat in the larder. So without further ado, here it is:

Ingredients for the pasta
250 g pasta (durum wheat) flour
3 large eggs

Method for the pasta
Mix the two ingredients and knead until it stops sticking and feels soft and pliable. Then let rest for at least 15 minutes in room temperature. These are the instructions on the packet of pasta flour.

Ingredients for the meat mixture
4 tbsp grape seed oil
600 g minced beef
260 g carrots
2 cans button mushrooms à 400 g each (net 230 g, do not throw away the liquid)
100 g crispy fried onions
1 can peeled plum tomatoes à 400 g
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp hot chilli powder
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Method for the meat mixture

  1. Peel and finely dice the carrots. Drain the mushrooms and dice finely too.

  2. Generally fresh onions should be used, in which case peel and dice them here. I seem to forget to buy onions lately and cheated with the crispy fried one in a really bad way. Shame on me!

  3. Heat up the oil on medium heat, then add the mince, carrots and mushrooms and stir intensely so that the mince doesn't clump together.

  4. When the carrots begin to soften, add the tomatoes and chop them up with the spoon in the pan.

  5. Add the tomato puree, herbs and spices and leave to simmer for a few minutes, particularly if there is a lot of liquid. Then set aside and focus on the pasta.


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This is a good time to roll out the pasta.
I divided the above amount into four equal pieces, wrapped three of them in cling film, dusted the work surface generously and rolled the fourth dough piece to the size of the deep baking pan I have. As today also happens to be yoghurt making night, I was very short of space, so I turned the baking tin upside-down, flowered it and placed the first sheet over it. What better proof that the pasta piece will fit? I then continued with the second piece, and stacked it on top of the first one, after dusting liberally with flour. Once I had all four pieces, I dusted the work surface with flour again and spread the rolled out pasta to dry out a bit, while I made the sauce.

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Ingredients for Béchamel sauce
1 dl grape seed oil
1 dl plain white flour
3.5 dl mushroom liquid (as drained from the cans)
7 dl semi-skimmed milk
0.25 nutmeg, grated
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium eggs

Method for Béchamel sauce

  1. Heat up the oil at medium heat and add the flour, stirring intensively, so the flour doesn't burn.

  2. After a couple of minutes, start adding the milk, a little at a time, constantly stirring. It'll clump together as soon as the first milk is added, but this is correct, just keep adding more and stirring, eventually it'll become like porridge and finally like a sauce. After having added about half a litre of milk, switch to adding the mushroom liquid and keep at it until a thick-ish sauce has formed. Keep adding liquid if it keeps going thicker.

  3. Take off the heat, then add salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir in.

  4. Save the eggs, they are for the last layer.


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I know it looks like it has lumps it it, that's black pepper and nutmeg, I need to work on my technique in adding there, because I get lumps every time.

Method for the lasagne

  1. Pre-heat the oven at gas mark 6 (just over 200 degrees C).
  2. Brush the bottom of the deep baking pan (6 cm deep) with a little olive oil and place the first pasta sheet onto it, making sure to remove any trapped air.

  3. Pour about 3 dl of the Béchamel sauce and spread it as evenly as possible over the sheet of pasta.

  4. Spread a third of the mince mixture on top of this and lay the second sheet of pasta.

  5. Continue layering like this, until you've laid the last sheet of pasta. Now the remaining sauce should be very little, about a dl or so and it should be fairly cool. Break the two eggs into it and stir in thoroughly, then pour over the top layer of pasta and spread to cover evenly. Even pick up the whole tray and bump it back on the work surface, to force the thick liquid to level out.

  6. Place the lasagne in the lower middle and bake for about an hour. I checked mine after 30 minutes and a good thing too, because it was browning unevenly, so I turned it around and baked for another 15 minutes and turned down to gas mark 5 and gave it another 10 minutes, as it was beginning to brown too much.


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Looks like a lasagne...

Well, I can honestly say, this was a definite success, even despite the cheating onion episode. And the lasagne is good enough to serve guests, but I'll reduce the amount of chilli powder dramatically in that case. As it was, it had a very good kick to it. I'd also like to add some oregano to it, I didn't because I hadn't realised I didn't have any at home. Unbelievable! And there's no space in my spice drawer either, so I'm not sure where I'd put it either. My herb/spice collection now amounts to over 40 different jars of various exciting flavours.

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Yep, definitely looks like a lasagne.