Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Comfort food

So now I have a little more time on my hands my culinary mind has gone into overdrive. There are new recipes that I want to experiment with and at present I am trying to do new twists on classic recipes. Last night I had planned to make an Italian sausage lasagna, exchanging the tomato sauce for a roasted red pepper sauce and adding spinach to the bechamel sauce. I had some left over homemade pasta that spent the day happily thawing out on the kitchen counter, therefore all of last nights dinner was homemade. Not bad considering I came off nights that morning.

I love leftovers, especially when you can make a meal out of them. I have some pork belly in the freezer and I plan to make some duck confit before Christmas. I am hoping that I can make a cassoulet with these ingredients using an altered version of my homemade baked beans. I can't wait to make this, but firstly lets get the recipe for last nights feast..

Italian Sausage Lasagna

Italian Sausage Meat
1 Large Onion
5 Red Peppers
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Sprigs Thyme
1 Can Tomatoes
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Cheese (Parmesan)
2 Tbsp Flour
Knob of butter
Lasagna Sheets

Firstly cut the peppers in half and arrange skin side up on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and put under a hot grill until the skins turn black. Make sure you keep an eye on them as they turn very quickly. Remove from the grill and carefully peal off the blackened skin and remove the seeds. Slice finely. Dice the onion finely along with the garlic, add these to a well oiled pan and simmer until translucent, then add the can of tomatoes and the red peppers. Bring to a simmer, season with salt and pepper and blitz into a smooth sauce. Lastly add some thyme leaves.

Fry the sausage meat until brown and drain off any excess fat. Add the roasted pepper sauce to the sausage and simmer for 5-10 mins. Meanwhile you can make your bechamel sauce. In a pan set over a medium heat make your rue. Melt the butter and add the flour. Stir until you get a thick paste, then start to whisk in your milk slowly until you get the desired thickness of sauce. (Make sure you keep stirring the sauce otherwise you may get lumps, the paste should dissolve into the milk). Add a cup of grated cheese to the bechamel sauce. You can use whatever cheese you like, I used parmesan and cheddar. Finally wilt some spinach, squeeze out any excess water, chop finely and add to the cheese sauce. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

Now its time to assemble the lasagna. Grease a deep oven proof dish to stop the pasta sheets from sticking to it.  Place a layer of lasagna sheets in the bottom of the dish, layer with the cheese sauce, then the sausage mixture, then another layer of lasagna sheets and so on. Keep doing this until finished. I like to finish with a layer of lasagna sheets, followed by a layer of the cheese sauce and then sprinkle the top with parmesan to get a nice crunchy finish.

The last step needed now is to bake the lasagna, prior to serving. (Unbaked lasagna's will keep in the fridge for a  a couple of days before baking. You can also freeze it and when needed thaw and then bake). To bake the lasagna pre-heat the oven to 350 and bake for approx 30 -40 mins or until the top turns nice and brown. Serve with a nice spinach salad.

I have some roasted red pepper sauce left over which is going into the freezer to create another dish, maybe ratatouille!!!

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