Kicking off this week is Nigel Slater’s lasagne recipe which uses a very indulgent cream sauce instead of the usual béchamel. This is such a fantastic recipe because not only do you get a very indulgent dinner but also a whole batch of ready meals for the freezer – genius! Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I love my freezer so anything that makes life easier is a big winner for me.
The Moola kitchen has been a hive of activity for the last few weeks, preparing edible Christmas gifts, cakes and puddings with John and I taking it in shifts to work on something that we want to get just right – I cannot tell you how much gingerbread I have eaten of late!!
Saturday: Lasagne (including individual freezer portions)
Sunday: Soy roast chicken w/ vegetables
Monday: Veggie tacos
Tuesday: Serrano ham wrapped sea bass w/ sautéed potatoes
Wednesday: Caldo verde (Portuguese cabbage soup)
Thursday: Senegalese beef and vegetable sauce w/ couscous
Friday: Spicy chicken w/ spinach
1kg ‘00’ pasta flour, plus extra flour for dusting
10 free-range eggs
about 5 tbsp olive oil
6 onions, very finely chopped
8 carrots, very finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2kg beef mince
1kg pork ribs
2 litres pints beef stock
4 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
handful fresh oregano
few bay leaves
For the cheese sauce
1 litre double cream
300g cheddar, grated
2 tbsp English mustard
400ml olive oil
For your freezer batch you need small, foil, takeaway style tray containers with lids (12×9.5×3.5cm) and a each layer will be a single sheet of lasagne, so then you can work out how many you are going to make in addition to your large one for dinner.
For the pasta, put the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and crack the eggs into it. Bring together with a wooden spoon until it combines into one mass. Knead on a floured surface for a good ten minutes, or until the dough is smooth and glossy all over and there are no dry or damp patches.
Cut a piece of dough off, roughly the size of an egg and keep the remaining dough under a slightly damp cloth. Feed the piece of dough through a pasta machine on the largest setting. There are nine settings going from thick to very fine, so repeat the process nine times gradually decreasing the setting. Hang the sheets of pasta to dry for around 2 hours. Then cut in to rectangles the size of the takeaway containers.
For the ragù, heat five tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Fry the onions, carrots and garlic until golden-brown and then transfer to a large stock pot. In the same pan, brown the mince in batches adding the browned meat to the pot as you go. Cut the ribs into manageable sizes and then brown them in the pan with a little more oil if necessary. Transfer the ribs to the pot.
Deglaze the pan with a little beef stock and add to the pot. Finally add the tinned tomatoes, the remaining stock and the oregano and bay leaves. Bring to the boil and then simmer for two hours. Slide the meat easily off the rib bones with set of tongs and a fork. Discard the bones.
For the cheese sauce, put the double cream, mustard and 200g of grated cheddar in a pan. Allow to melt for five minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.
For the basil oil, process the oil and the basil in a food processor and reserve.
To assemble the lasagne, place a small ladleful of the ragù (about three heaped tablespoons) into the base of each foil tray or your large pasta dish. Place a sheet or sheets of pasta on top. Brush the pasta sheet with basil oil. Add another ladleful of ragù and a second pasta sheet and brush again with oil. Add a third ladleful of ragù and place one more pasta sheet on top. Pour over a ladleful of cheese sauce. Scatter over a small handful of the remaining grated cheese, then a small handful of breadcrumbs. Finish with a little drizzle of basil oil.
To cook straightaway, preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and cook for 25 minutes. For large dish might be more like 35-40 mins depending on your oven. To freeze your little ready meals allow each tray to cool then cover with the lid and in to the freezer. They can be baked from frozen at 180C/gas 4 for about 1 hour.
Soy roast chicken w/ vegetables
For the brine
For the chicken
1 x 1.5kg free range chicken
½ tsp salt
1 tsp five-spice powder
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly smashed
10 slices fresh root ginger, skin on
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
4 tbsp vegetable oil
For the basting sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Irish Whiskey
2 tbsp chilli sauce
2 tbsp honey
pinch chilli flakes
For the medley of vegetables
100g carrots, sliced
100g green beans, topped and tailed
100g asparagus tips
100g cauliflower, small florets
100g broccoli, small florets
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fresh root ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 tbsp light soy sauce
Dissolve the salt and sugar in 1 litre/1¾ pints water, to make the brine. Add the chicken to the brine and leave for 1 – 2 hours. Drain and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7.
Mix the salt and five spice powder and rub it over the chicken, inside and out. Place the garlic, ginger slices and spring onion in the cavity and tie with string.
Heat the vegetable oil in a roasting pan and lightly brown the chicken on each side on top of the stove. Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 15 minutes at 220C/gas 7.
Meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients for the basting sauce. After the chicken has been roasting at a high heat for 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 180C/gas 4 and roast for another 50 minutes. During the last 30 minutes, baste the chicken with the sauce frequently.
At the end of the cooking time, remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest.
For the medley of vegetables, heat a pan of salted water, up to the boil. Add the carrots then after a minute, add the green beans. After another minute add the asparagus. Repeat at minute intervals until all the vegetables have been added. When all the vegetables are cooked thoroughly, drain. Melt the butter with the ginger and soy, either in the microwave or a small saucepan. Drizzle over the vegetables, toss lightly.
Once rested, joint the chicken by removing the legs and breasts. Cut each in half and arrange on a serving platter and serve with the pan juices and the vegetables.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
200g brown cap/shiitake mushrooms, chopped
2 bird’s-eye chillies, chopped
100g tomato purée
1 tsp cocoa powder
100ml red wine
150ml vegetable stock
150g canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
150g canned butterbeans, rinsed and drained
150g canned soya beans, rinsed and drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ready-made taco shells, warmed
150g Monterey Jack (or similar mild) cheese, grated
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
200ml soured cream
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion, garlic and celery until soft. Add the mushrooms and chillies and cook for one minute. Add the tomato purée and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. When the mushrooms are soft, add the cocoa powder, wine and stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then add all of the beans and cook for a further 10-12 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and the beans are all heated through.
To serve, place 2-3 tablespoonfuls of the bean chilli in each taco shell. Top with the grated cheese, chopped coriander and soured cream.
Serrano ham wrapped sea bass w/ sautéed potato
For the sautéed potato
4 tbsp olive oil
200g new potato, par-boiled for five minutes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
For the sea bass
1 tbsp olive oil
200g sea bass fillets
4 slices Serrano ham
1 lemon, juice only
For the sautéed potato, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Cut the potatoes in half and add to the pan. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crispy golden. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle over the chives.
For the sea bass, heat the olive oil in a clean frying pan. Season the sea bass on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then wrap the fillet in 2 slices of Serrano ham. Add to the pan fry for three minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Squeeze over the lemon juice and remove from the heat.
To serve, place the sautéed potatoes in the middle of a warm plate and place the sea bass on top.
Caldo verde (Portuguese cabbage soup)
2 large onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
60ml olive oil
1 chorizo sausage
6 large potatoes
1.5 litres good vegetable or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
large bunch of greens or cabbage
smoked paprika and olive oil, for dressing
Gently fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil until softened and translucent.Chop the chorizo into small chunks and add to the pan with the onion. Fry the onions and sausage for a few more minutes and then add the diced potatoes. They will absorb all the flavour from the sausage. Transfer the mixture to a large pan, add the stock, seasoning and bay leaves, and cook until the potatoes are soft.
Meanwhile, very finely chop the cabbage (alternatively, buy a cabbage-shredding machine from the market as we did). When the potatoes are ready, mash them into the broth to make a thick base. Blanch the greens in boiling water for one minute to take off any bitterness, drain, then add to the simmering broth.
Add as much cabbage as the broth will support – if you want heavy soup add loads of greens, if lighter, add less. Simmer for a few minutes. The soup will go the colour of jade.
Mix the smoked paprika with some olive oil to make a dressing, and swirl into the vibrant green soup. Serve with some rustic country bread.
Senegalese beef and vegetable sauce w/ couscous
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
750g beef (topside), cut into chunks
100ml tomato purée
100ml tomato passata
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
250g onions, chopped
100g carrots, chopped
100g turnips, chopped
100g sweet potatoes, chopped
½ leek, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Cook all the grain according to the packet instructions then add the butter and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the meat until browned all over (you may need to do this in batches). Add the tomato purée, passata, a little water and salt and pepper to taste to the pan with the beef. After about ten minutes, add the chopped vegetables and the crushed garlic.
Cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked but firm and the sauce has thickened.Serve the couscous with the meat and vegetable sauce.
Spicy chicken w/ spinach
500g spinach leaves, washed
6 tbsp vegetable oil
3 black cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
5cm piece cinnamon
3-4 green chillies, pricked with a knife
1 large onion, chopped
2cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
11 garlic cloves, peeled, left whole
3 large tomatoes, cut into quarters
800g chicken, jointed, skin removed
2 tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp garam masala
salt, to taste
4 tbsp plain yoghurt, stirred
freshly ground black pepper
basmati rice, cooked according to packet instructions, to serve
In a food processor, blend the spinach to a purée using one or two tablespoons of water to loosen the mixture. Set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon and fry for 20-30 seconds. Add the green chillies and onion and continue to fry for 4-5 minutes, or until caramelised.
Meanwhile, blend the ginger, garlic and tomatoes to a smooth paste in the food processor. When the onions have caramelised, add the paste, chicken pieces and remaining spices to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the yoghurt, stir well and continue to simmer the mixture until the sauce has thickened and almost dried out.
Stir in the spinach purée and continue to simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then serve with rice.
(Credits: Nigel Slater, Simon Rimmer, Hairy Bikers, Paul Rankin, Nick Nairn, Anjum Anand, Bineta Diallo, JJMoola’s Kitchen)