This is the England home version, made in a real dish, cooked in a real oven and served on a real table...
I have finally, FINALLY, plucked up the energy to get back to my blog. The last few weeks I have been so tired that even the thought of taking my shoes off when I get home was almost enough to make me want to cry, mostly thanks to the ever-increasing concoction of medication I take for unimportant reasons I won't bore you with. However, I'm getting used to the new combination and despite my hair which was once thick and healthy becoming limp, dull and a lot thinner (and my house looking like I've emptied out a hairbrush all over it) I'm feeling almost normal again, therefore ready to cook. A friend of mine came to see me the other evening (yes, even once I had cooked, it still took me quite some time to bother to write about it) and requested lasagne and chocolate cake and given that I was in the mood for some high-carb, high-calorie food myself, I was more than happy to oblige. I decided to make her my Conversion Lasagne. There's a reason behind the weird name: my brother's girlfriend has only eaten poultry and sometimes bacon since childhood. The very thought of red meat or such delights as pork and crackling absolutely disgusted her and various attempts on my brother's behalf to tempt her with steak or sausage or other such morsels were in vain. My brother, Jack on the other hand, is a meat-fiend. He would be quite happy if you just served up an entire cow for lunch and left him to it. That would be his idea of heaven.
A couple of years ago, during the Christmas holidays, we were all at home, including Helen and we were having a birthday dinner for my elder brother, Edward. Edward is also a big meat lover but almost more than that, he's a pasta lover. He asked for lasagne and as I had offered to cook that evening to give my mother a rest from all of her spectacular Christmas efforts, I set about making one. I had never really made one before but it looked easy enough and I saw this as my opportunity to sneak in as much cheese as possible into a main meal. Too much cheese = rarely a bad thing. The finished product was a bubbling, juicy effort which, though I say it myself, looked delicious. Helen ate fish that evening and though I'm a huge fish fan, I have to say it looked pretty humble next to lasagne. Apparently, she thought so too. These last two years or so, she has begun eating other meats again. She enjoys steak, bolognese and pork and regularly eats and prepares them all (much to Jack's delight.) The last time I was home, we were talking about the fact that she eats meat now and she said 'Well you know it all started with that lasagne you made for Edward's birthday that time. It looked so delicious and I was so jealous that you were all eating it that it made me think I'd like to try real meat again.' So that's the story behind the name.
Lasagne (for 2 people like me or 4 normal people)
You will need:
400g ground beef
6-8 lasagne sheets
1 batch of tomato sauce (made with 3 chopped mushrooms this time)
Bechamel sauce (see below)
125 grams mozzarella, sliced
125 grams grated comté
150 grams grated gruyère
75 grams parmesan shavings
For the Bechamel sauce:
500 ml semi-skimmed milk
75 grams butter
3-4 tbsps plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
Heat the milk and butter together in a pan over a medium heat being careful not to burn the milk. Add a pinch of salt and then slowly add the flour, spoon by spoon, stirring with a wooden spoon as you do so. Keep stirring as the sauce heats up and becomes thicker, until you get a thick but still liquid consistency. If you see that the sauce is not thick enough after a few minutes, slowly add a little more flour until it as as thick as you would like. It should still be pourable. Leave the sauce to cool on the side.
For the meat sauce:
Follow the instructions for tomato sauce but just after sautéeing the shallots, add in the ground beef and brown it before continuing with the rest of the sauce. Cover and leave to simmer for at least an hour until the sauce is thick and glossy. Once finished, leave it to cool.
Assembling the lasagne:
Take an oven dish roughly in the region of 20cm by 15cm and of a good depth. Spread a layer of bechamel sauce along the bottom followed by a layer of meat sauce on top of that. Cover with sheets of lasagne then begin again with bechamel sauce and meat sauce. This time however, sprinkle a covering of grated comté (laveing a little aside) over the meat before layering again with lasagne. Bechamel, meat again, then a layer of gruyère (leaving a little aside) and lasagne sheets. Bechamel, meat again, then the remaining comté and gruyère, topped with sliced mozzarella then sprinkled heavily with parmesan shavings.
Bake at 200°C for 30-40 minutes until you can easily put a knife through the pasta and the cheese is browned and bubbling.
You can continue with as many layers as you like, depending on the depth of your dish and pretty much add the cheese wherever you want it (but not on the bottom layer, to avoid burning), this is just how I like to make it because this way you get a nice cheesy topping. Don't make your bechamel layers too thick or it will overwhelm the other ingredients. Adapt ingredients measurements according to taste or size of your lasagne!