Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I have finally resigned myself to the fact that lasagnas are not forms or ideas. I have finally resigned myself to the fact that I'm not a manacled prisoner in a cave. I have finally resigned myself to the fact that the lasagna I make is not a mere shadow of perfection. And I have finally resigned myself to the fact that lasagnas ooze. Seriously ooze.
I have seen it illuminated by the sun, I have seen it in the confusion of twilight, I have seen it in the shimmer of dawn. I have seen it in the blaze of my camera's flash bulb. I have seen it at all times imaginable. And they ooze. Period.
The chase for perfection, even in lasagna world, can be foolish. We ignore the fact that cheese melts and oozes. We ignore the fact that meat sauce is sauce. And oozes. We ignore the fact that if you put these two things together in one dish, one on the top of the other and apply 375 degrees of heat, continuously, for 45 minutes, to the whole, some major oozing will surely occur. We ignore logic, reason and reality. We begin to chase this 'vision of truth'. We become philosophically fatuous. We become me.
And that was what I have been. Foolish. I refused to blog about an oozing lasagna. I refused to share the recipe for a great but oozing lasagna. I refused to take a picture of a great but oozing lasagna. But how could I?
Because, I had asked myself, what are those out there then?. What are those that are perfectly layered and not regurgitating while their picture is being taken? What are those that are cut in perfect squares or rectangles neatly and with un-spluttered edges? What are those?
Those I have found are not real. They are so so not real. They are an illusion, are fancy tricks of the experts, of fanatical food stylists, of flabbergasting photoshop artwork .....whatever..... they're not real.
But mine is. And it's so GOOD. Ok let's be honest here...it's Mary Berry's. And is soo GOOD. It's foolproof, it's utterly scrummy, slurpy and sumptuous and it oozes that wonderful, heavenly ooze.
Yes I've finally come down and hit earth with a big bang. But I've bounced back and Ooze is now my friend. But I will still not be taking a picture of Ooze. The whole is what I'll show here. The bronzed and beautiful Whole.
And here's the recipe ................but before we begin lets talk lasagna sheets...the 'instant' kind, the only kind that is available here.
"Oven ready lasagna sheets" "No pre-cooking required". Unless you have your sauce quite saucy, so that the lasagna sheets could soak up all the moisture as it cooks, you will end up with rather tough, half cooked lasagna sheets.
So comes the next biggest, mind boggling question in the universe. How saucy should the sauce be? A tad? Very? Not too? Well I don't have much time for such complex philosophical questions so what I do is to make make my sauce nice and thick in consistency.
And while the sauce is cooking I soak the lasagna sheets that I will be using in one layer spread out between at least 2 large baking trays, for at least 30 minutes, or more, until they soften and then use them to build up the lasagna. It will cook through in the oven and my lasagna comes out perfect. Not Ideal as in Plato's Utopia, but perfect.
And now...here's the recipe.................as per Mary Berry's.............
4 oz mature cheddar cheese, grated ( I used about 1 1/2 oz more) :D
1 oz parmesan cheese ( Iused a little bit more) :D
6 oz pre-cooked lasagna sheets ( I used about 8 sheets)
chopped parsley to garnish
2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg lean minced beef
45 gm plain flour
300 ml beef stock
1 x 400 gm can chopped tomatoes
6 celery stalks, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
salt and black pepper
I actually make one and a half of this recipe because I think it adds that little bit more of yummy richness (If you're not on a diet).
60 gm butter
45 gm flour
600 ml milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
pinch of grated nutmeg
MAKE THE MEAT SAUCE.............
Heat the oil in a deep pot, add the beef, and cook stirring until browned. Add teh flour and cook, stirring for one minute.
Add the stock, tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic, tomato puree, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
MAKE THE WHITE SAUCE.................
Melt the butter in a asaucepan add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually blend in the milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly untilt eh mixture thickens. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
BUILD......at this point I deviate from Mary Berry's recipe...........
Divide the meat sauce and white sauce each equally between 3 seperate bowls to ensure each layer will be even.
Grease a shallow reactangular oven proof dish measuring about 10 by 7 inches, using butte or olive oil.
Line the bottom completely with about three of the soaked, and drained lasagna sheets (depending on the size of the sheets).
Top with 1/3 of the meat sauce, 1/3 of the white sauce and 1/3 of the Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses each.
Cover again with enough lasagna sheets making sure to reach the edges of the dish...............TIP : Using the pads of your fingers (and the palm of your hand, if necessary) press down gently to compact the layer so that the layers come out somewhat 'perfect'.
Then top with the next 1/3 of the meat sauce, white sauce and the cheeses. Cover again withe lasagna sheets, press down again and top again with the remaining sauces and cheeses, making the final layer.
Bake for 45 minutes in a 190 C oven.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley as a garnish just before you serve. YUMMMMMMMM