Lush lasagne (Chef Scotty B)

Lasagne garnishes
Lasagne garnishes

I can still remember those cold winter days school days, huddling from the elements under the impossibly small awning at the front of the tuck shop. Jostled, and shoved around by the senior students who, through a few added years experience, and hormonal growth spurt, always managed to get to the front of the line before you. Finally, bruised and shivering, you come up on the portal of delights, the window through which all manner of delicious delights would pass and shine that little ray of joy on an otherwise damp, dreary day. A few silvers (cautiously liberated from mums purse that morning) for a warm, transparent paper bag soaked through with grease, and the promise of a small reprieve from the cold. Inside, a crunchy golden square of bread crumbed gloriousness, housing a burning hot payload of molten meat, and a substance that could (I suppose) be called cheese.

The Lasagne topper, such an exotic delight for a young boy from a meat and three veg upbringing. After being unceremoniously ejected from the tuck shop line, and wrestling your way past the hoards of scabs (kids who would hang out at the shop and hit you up for your change or even a portion of your food!) you needed a dry place where, if you were lucky, you could sit and take the time to enjoy your hard won prize.

Of course the first bite, heavily loaded with anticipation, is a greedy one. As that lava meat sears the taste buds from your mouth, and a trickle of 4 day old deep fryer oil snakes its way down your chin and onto your shirt, you begin to question your decisions in life, and lament the choosing of the soggy paper bag of doom!

The recipe I bring you here is my interpretation of the many lasagnes I’ve had over the years, some bad (like my misguided attempt to make a curry lasagne), and some very good. Even the golden square of deep fried arterial death (the lasagne topper) gets a wee nod in my adaption of an Italian classic. With this adaption I have replaced the cheese sauce with a silky cauliflower puree, and rather than baking the whole mess in the oven I have made all the components separately and assembled them on the plate for better presentation. Here is my lush lasagne.

Pasta dough

  • Servings: 500g
  • Difficulty: med-hard
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INGREDIENTS
  • 450g strong flour (high grade)
  • 10g salt
  • 250g beaten eggs
  • 25ml olive oil
METHOD

Sieve your flour and salt together twice to remove any lumps. Whisk together your eggs and olive oil. Combine all in a large bowl and work with your hands to bring it together then tip onto the bench continuing to work vigorously until the dough is firm and elastic. Transfer back to your bowl, cover in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour before using. Get a large pot of water on the stove and bring to the boil. Once the dough has rested set up your pasta machine (coz every house hold needs one of these!), slice dough into 100g balls so that it is manageable, roll balls out with a rolling pin and fed through the pasta machine. Work from the largest setting to the smallest setting, dusting with flour as necessary to avoid sticking. Fold dough back up and repeat the process 2 more times. This will work the gluten in your flour and make the pasta smoother and more durable. Once you have rolled our pasta for the third time place the length of pasta onto a lightly floured bench and cut into squares roughly 3×3 inches. Add 1tsp salt, and a good slug of olive oil to your boiling water. Prepare a bath of cold ice water. Drop your pasta sheets into the water one a at a time, make sure the pasta is flat when it hits the water to avoid it sticking to itself. Cook your pasta for 2 minutes and then transfer to your ice bath to half cooking. Once pasta is cold remove from the ice water and lie flat on a clean tea towel and dry.

NB: For those of you who don’t have a pasta machine, or half the day to make pasta I have used wonton skins cooked the same way with marvellous results.

Lasagne beef short rib
Lasagne beef short rib

Italian beef braise

  • Servings: 500-600g
  • Difficulty: med
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INGREDIENTS
  • 160g onion roughly chopped
  • 120g carrot roughly chopped
  • 20g garlic chopped
  • 10g red chilli chopped
  • 4g rosemary chopped
  • 4g thyme chopped
  • 4g oregano chopped
  • 10g basil
  • 700g beef spare ribs
  • 140g tomato paste
  • 200g red wine
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 100g balsamic vinegar
  • 20g salt
  • 800g tinned tomatoes
  • 750g beef stock
METHOD

Preheat your oven to 200ºc. Heat a large pot with 3 Tblsp oil until smoking hot. Add your beef to the pot and sear evenly on all sides until they are quite dark brown all over. Remove the beef and retain all the cooking juices and fat in the pot. Bring the pot back up to smoking hot and sweat off your onions and carrot for around 5 minutes, stirring and not allowing to colour. Add garlic and chill, cook these out for 2 minutes and then add all your herbs except the basil. Cook out for a further 2 minutes and add tomato paste. Stir the shit out of it now until your tomato paste caramelizes and begins to stick to the bottom a little. Now chuck your Wine in there and scrap all that caramelly goodness off the bottom of the pot (this is referred to as deglazing, flavour town people!).  Now add all of your other ingredients (except that basil!) and bring to the boil. This is your braising liquor. Place the ribs in the bottom of a large casserole dish and pour your boiling braising liquor over insuring that the ribs are completely submerged in the liquor. Now tear your basil leaves and throw them into the mix. Place a lid on the dish (or cover with foil if you have no lid, but make sure to put a couple of small holes in the top to allow steam to escape) and put that bitch in the oven for 4 hours. Check after three hours to make sure the ribs are still submerged and are not getting too dry. Once the time is up you should be able to put a spoon through the meat with ease. Remove from the oven and allow to stand in the liquor while you finish your preparations.

Cauliflower And Truffle Puree

  • Servings: 350g
  • Difficulty: easy
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ingredients
  • 150g onion
  • 6g garlic
  • 300g cauliflower core removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 300g cream
  • 5g salt
  • 20g truffle oil
METHOD

Heat a pot with 1Tblsp of oil until moderately hot (the oil should be shimmering but not quite smoking) and sautee the onion until transparent but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook out for 1 minute. Drop the cauliflower into the pot and then add your cream and bay leaf. Bring cream to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is very soft, making sure to stir the pot occasionally to avoid sticking of discolouring. Transfer all except the bay leaf to a blender, add truffle oil and salt and blitz until smooth. Adjust seasoning if desired and then put the puree into a sqeezey bottle and keep in a warm place until ready to serve.

Crispy top layer

  • Difficulty: med
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  • 4x wonton sheets
  • oil for deep frying
Method

Heat oil to 175ºc and drop wonton skins into hot oil so that they are flat, they need to be as flat as possible for this preparation. Continue to cook until golden and then drain on paper towels. Season slightly with a little salt.

TO ASSEMBLE:
  • 50g parmesan
  • 50g butter chopped
  • 5g truffle oil
  • freshly picked basil leaves
Lasagne layer 1
Lasagne layer 1

Take the beef out of the liquor and pick all the meat from the bones. Mix beef with just enough braising liquor to make it moist and saucy, reserve the rest for another use. Heat together in a fry pan on a moderate temperature. Once the meat is hot, and your liquor has made the whole mess quite sticky, add your butter and stir it in. Adjust seasoning with salt and a touch of sugar if desired. Warm your plates in the oven slightly (so you can still touch them with your bare hands) and then place one square of boiled pasta on each. Take 2 large tablespoons and scoop a large wad of beef into one, then scoop it into the other spoon sideways. Continue to do this until you have a neat egg shape (this is known as a quinnell). Place two quinnells at either side of your pastry and then squirt 3 generous blobs of cauliflower puree down the gap in the centre.

Lasagne layer 2
Lasagne layer 2
Lasagne assembly
Lasagne assembly

Now place another sheet of boiled pasta and repeat the steps from the first layer. Now place one of your crispy tops over the second layer. Using a potato peeler, shave parmesan over the top and around the plate. Drizzle the truffle oil over the top and then garnish decoratively with fresh herbs. Bellissimo!

Finished lasagne
Finished lasagne

And if this is all a wee bit overwhelming, try Renee G’s family version….

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