Mushroom Ravioli

For something so simple, ravioli really do take a lot of effort to make. Homemade ones are delicious; you can tailor them to your own tastes or the tastes of those you are cooking for – however I really would recommend saving them for a special occasion. Homemade ravioli would be perfect for the starter of a dinner party where you want to really make a good impression – they would not be perfect for a week night meal.

The filling for my mushroom ravioli is wonderfully versatile as not only can it be used in the ravoli but it can be thinned down with a little water and have some cream cheese melted in to make a wonderful, mushroomy sauce for normal pasta.

The worst thing that can happen to ravioli is that they split when cooking. The amount of effort wasted if your ravioli pops while being boiled is nigh on tear inducing however there is a way around this: aggressive sealing. When you seal a raviolo, you have two choices (technically three if you just try to press the top and bottom sheets of pasta together but this is a complete waste of time and effort – it will not work): water or egg. The “glue” of your choice is brushed around the filling before the top layer of pasta is laid over and the ravioli are formed. You can also make ravioli by folding small pieces of pasta around filling to make parcels (tortellini) and while the technique that I will describe in this recipe is different, the same premise applies when you are sealing them.

From my experience, egg seals the ravioli far better than water does (although there are people who swear by the water approach). Water causes the formation of gluten when it is combined with flour. The proteins in the flour – glutenin and gliadin – combine when the water is added and kneading dough (like in bread) increases the quantity of gluten. I would assume that this is because, as you knead the dough, you force more of the proteins together forming more and more gluten. When you use water to seal pasta, you have to press incredibly hard around the outside of the ravioli to make sure a seal is formed. In effect, you are pressing until the top layer pasta has physically melded with the bottom layer by causing gluten formation between the layers creating a single piece of pasta with a pocket in the middle full of filling. If you do not seal the edges properly, you are also at risk of the water boiling and pushing the pieces of pasta apart during cooking causing the cooking water to rush into the ravioli (and the filling to rush out)

With an egg seal, you are still pressing the top and bottom together to meld into one but the pasta is far more forgiving as the egg cooks the moment it enters the hot water and glues the top and bottom pieces of pasta together which will cover up and small unsealed sections of dough. You will not be able to taste the egg used to seal the ravioli (trust me, I do not like the taste of egg and I would absolutely know if it was present)

 

Mushroom Ravioli

Time:

Work time: 2 hours

Cooling time: 1 hour

Makes: 24 ravioli

Serves: 3 (main course size portions)

 

Ingredients:

1 batch fresh egg pasta – you will need to make this!

 

For the filling:

600g mushroom

1 medium onion

4 cloves garlic

1 mushroom stock cube

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp cornflour

Salt and pepper

4 tbsp cream cheese (optional)

 

For assembly:

Flour for dusting

Water/egg white for glue

 

Optional:

Sage, garlic and butter for dressing the pasta with

 

 

Make your pasta and leave the dough, wrapped, in the fridge until it is needed.

 

To make the filling:

Puree 150g mushrooms and three cloves of with 80ml water.

DSC06498

Pour into a pan and cook, stirring regularly, until the puree become thick. The mushrooms will release a lot of liquid and the mixture will become rather runny before the water boils off leaving a thick, mushroomy paste.

Crumble the mushroom stock cube into the pan and stir it through.

DSC06502.JPG

Set this to one side.

 

In a food processor, pulse the onion and remaining garlic clove until you are left with small pieces – you do not want to puree it, just dice it very finely.

Tip this into a large pan along with the olive oil and sauté until the onion starts to soften.

DSC06499

While the onion is frying, tip the remaining mushrooms into the food processor and pulse until they are finely diced, around the same size as the onion pieces. It is important to keep the small pieces for texture later on!

Once the onion is soft, add the mushrooms and 60ml water.

DSC06500

Cover the pan and leave to cook for five minutes, until the mushrooms start releasing their own liquid. Continue to cook uncovered for another five minutes and then drain off the remaining liquid and set it to one side.

Stir the mushroom paste through the cooked onions and mushroom mix.

Add two tablespoons of cornflour to the slightly cooled, drained mushroom liquid and mix until a slurry is made.

Return the cornflour slurry to the pan and stir it through the filling mixture whilst continuing to cook. As the cornflour cooks, this will thicken up a little. It will also thicken significantly as it cools.

DSC06503

If you want to add cream cheese, do it now and let it melt into the filling.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside until completely cool.

 

 

To assemble the ravioli, split the pasta into quarters. Rewrap two of them and set to one side.

Roll each of the remaining quarters, in turn, through the pasta machine on its thickest setting. Fold it in half and repeat. Continue to repeat until the pasta becomes smooth. This will take four or five rolls.

Change the pasta machine onto the second thickest setting and roll the pasta through it again.

Continue decreasing the thickness and rerolling until the pasta reaches your desired thickness. On my pasta machine (which a hand cranked model by Imperial which is probably about ten years old) the thinnest setting is a number six (with one being the thickest) and this is the perfect thickness for ravioli.

Generously dust one sheet of pasta with flour (I would use the smaller one) and lay it out on a surface. Dollop blobs of mushroom filling onto it. I used about two teaspoons of filling per raviolo and managed to fit nine along the length of the pasta.

DSC06510

Brush around each blob of filling with either water or egg white. I find that egg white works far better but water is absolutely fine if an egg white is not available.

Gently lay the second piece of pasta over the first. You may have to lightly stretch it by hand to make it fit over the filling – this will be fine if you are gentle as pasta dough can be very forgiving if you treat it well.

DSC06511

Starting from one end, press around each piece of filling to remove air bubbles and then seal the raviolo. I tend to try and push all of the air in one direction along the length of the pasta sheet and then out at the end. If the entire packet is sealed, you may need to poke a tiny hole to let the air out as it will ruin your ravioli!

Use a biscuit cutter to cut around the ravioli and then remove the excess pasta. Move the ravioli to a floured board and set to one side. Ball up the offcuts of pasta and save for later.

DSC06512

 

Repeat the ravioli formation with the remaining half of your dough from before.

Use the offcuts from the first two batches of ravioli to make a third.

The ravioli can be cooked immediately, frozen or left to dry for a bit before cooking.

 

Cook the ravioli for three minutes in salted water at a rolling boil. If the water loses its boil when you add the ravioli, don’t start timing until it starts bubbling again.

DSC06513

 

These can be served as they are or you could melt some butter and lightly fry some sage leaves and garlic in it.

Remove the garlic the moment it starts to brown, drain the ravioli and toss them in the flavoured butter before serving.

DSC06516

 

These are delicious but they do take quite a bit of effort. If you fancy a slightly easier but just as tasty meal with mushroom and pasta, check out my decadent mushroom pasta bake or even my chicken and mushroom pasta bake which was one of the first recipes on this site! This recipe is also super simple to make dairy free – just don’t use cream cheese and remember to not toss the ravioli in butter at the end!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with this year’s Thanksgiving pie.

H

 

Fresh Egg Pasta

Pasta: the king of comfort foods. It doesn’t matter how bad a day you’ve had, pasta will always be there to make you feel better. As a staple food of the student diet, pasta was one of my main sources of carbs while I was doing my undergrad degree; but, as much as I love the easy to handle/buy/use dried pasta, it just wasn’t as good as the fresh stuff. Whilst I wouldn’t have made fresh pasta regularly if I had my pasta machine up at university, because – let’s be honest – no one has time for that, it would have been nice to have the opportunity when the cravings arose.

You can make pasta with basically any type of flour, but traditionally you would use durum wheat flour. Durum wheat is significantly harder than standard wheat (it is more difficult to grind up) and dough made from it doesn’t stretch in the same way that bread dough does. If, like me, you don’t happen to have durum flour (or pasta flour/ type 00 flour) lying around, you can simply use plain flour, which has a lower gluten content than bread flour. Egg pasta will be softer than the dried pasta you can buy and if you wish to have an end result which would be considered al dente, you would need to let the pasta dry out after you have cut/shaped it (it doesn’t need to dry fully but if you make it and boil it immediately, the pasta will come out very soft).

Pasta is one of the most famous things to have come out of Italy. In fact, so much is eaten there that the demand exceeds the quantity of wheat which can be grown in the country so flour has to be imported to produce enough pasta to feed everyone who wants it. Whilst there are mentions of Lasagna going back to the 1st century CE, the pasta and lasagne we know today did not emerge until around the 13th and 14th centuries. Dried pasta was incredibly popular owing to its ease of storage as it could be taken on voyages and long journeys without rotting. Unlike fresh pasta, dried pasta doesn’t contain any egg. It is comprised of flour, semolina and water so once it has been dried pre-packing, there is nothing left that could go off!

Like most doughs, pasta needs to rest before it is rolled. This allows the flour to fully absorb the water (from the egg). The resting also lets the gluten strands relax which gives the dough a smoother finish. In reality you should let your dough rest for at least an hour and then give it another quick knead before rolling but, using the method I outline below, you can just about skip this and reduce your resting time to about ten to fifteen minutes. I tend to find that the penultimate thinness setting on my pasta machine gives the best results as the thinnest setting results in soggy pasta without any sort of texture. Of course this will depend on the type of wheat you use, the resting time of the pasta if you wish to dry it a little before cooking and the ratio of ingredients and none of this even accounts for personal taste but, for me, setting five of six gives the optimum results.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Egg Pasta

Serves: 3 or 4 (depends on your portion size – serves more if you are making ravioli)

Work time: 30 minutes

Resting time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 3 minutes

 

Ingredients:

200g plain flour (type 00 pasta flour if you can get it)

2 eggs

2 tbsp olive oil

Pinch of salt

 

Bowl method:

Stir the salt into the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre.

Add the eggs and olive oil and stir to combine.

When the mixture has mostly come together, pour it out onto a work surface and knead for five minutes. You do not need to knead the dough until it is completely smooth – this will come later.

Wrap the dough and leave to stand for ten minutes.

Table Method:

Make a pile out of the flour on a work surface (make sure to leave plenty of room around the outside.

Use your fingers to make a hollow in the centre and circle them outwards until you have a large ring of flour.

DSC05751

Add the eggs, oil and salt to the centre of the ring.

DSC05753.JPG

Use a fork to whisk together the eggs and oil and slowly bring in the rest of the flour from the edges.

DSC05754.JPG

Once the egg and oil mixture starts to thicken as you slowly add the flour, stop using the fork and use your hands to bring the dough together fully.

Knead for five minutes. You don’t need to continue until the dough is smooth as this will come later.

DSC05755

Wrap the dough and leave to stand for ten minutes.

 

Making the pasta:

Roll the dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. You may have to slightly flatten one edge to get it to go through. Do not worry if it rips and is ragged.

DSC05756
After the first pass through the pasta machine.

Fold the dough in half and repeat on the widest setting.

Continue to roll the dough through, fold once and reroll until the dough has become smooth and there are no tears.

DSC05759

IF THE DOUGH STARTS TO BECOME TOO STICKY AND STICK TO ITSELF, DUST IT WITH FLOUR.

Move your pasta machine to one setting thinner (mine works upwards with higher numbers meaning thinner pasta but I do not know if this is true for all machines) and roll the pasta through.

Continue to decrease the distance between the rollers rerolling the pasta through each setting.

If the pasta sheet becomes too long, cut it in half and do each part separately. I find that this recipe gives about four or five pasta sheets as if I didn’t cut the pasta, it would not be manageable.

 

Lasagne:

Use the pasta sheets from the penultimate thinness setting and cut them to the size of your dish. Use instead of normal shop bought lasagne sheets.

 

Ravioli:

Take a sheet of dough on the penultimate thinness setting and cut it in half.

Make small dollops of filling in on one of the halves.

Make a ring of water around each dollop of filling.

Gently lay the remaining pasta over the top and press down around each section of filling to seal. You should try and seal as close to the filling as possible to ensure there is no air in the ravioli.

DSC05760
These are stripey ricotta and lemon ravioli.

Use some sort of cutter (either a biscuit cutter or some sort of knife) to cut out the ravioli. Do not cut too close to the filling as you don’t want them to burst when cooking.

Cook the ravioli for three minutes in a pan of boiling, well-seasoned water.

DSC05762

 

Linguini and other pasta shapes

Most pasta machines come with some sort of linguini or tagliatelle cutter on them.

Roll out the dough to the thinnest setting and then roll the sheet through the linguini attachment (or other).

DSC05772

The moment the pasta comes through, dust it with flour and make sure each piece has a light coating to stop them sticking to each other. You can now leave the pasta to one side while you shape the rest – do not worry if it dries out as it will rehydrate in the cooking water.

DSC05780
Pasta with garlic and chilli.

For other pasta shapes – follow the instructions on the machine that makes them. If they are handmade shapes, there are lots of videos on the internet which can help you.

DSC05784
Spicy arrabiata pasta

 

This recipe is super easy to make and really versatile. There has been at least one occasion when I was craving pasta and the shops were shut so I made it myself at home. If you are a fan of pasta dishes, you should check out my recipes for beef lasagne and spinach and ricotta lasagne. If you are more of a fan of pasta with sauces, why not try a bolognaise?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a new sweet treat.

H

Beef Stroganoff

It has been a considerable amount of time since I last talked about a dish that has a defined and traceable heritage, so this is a little bit exciting. We often find that foods have changed tremendously between when they were created and today and this is true in the case of stroganoff. What makes this dish different is that the name has not changed at all. While there is a little bit of contention about whether the dish was named after the Stroganov family (the most accepted root) or as a derivative of the Russian verb “strogat” meaning to chip or shave off, what we do know is that the first written recipe for beef stroganoff appeared in 1871 in a Russian cookery book by Elena Molokhovet: A Gift To Young Housewives.

The original stroganoff did not have mushrooms. Nor did it have onions. It consisted of lightly floured beef cubes which were sautéed and served in a sauce made of mustard and bouillon with a dollop of sour cream on top. Even to this day, it is still common to find stroganoff not in a creamy sauce but in one that is deep red/brown, full of flavour and accompanied with sour cream added after plating up. Some versions also include tomatoes and other vegetables but I like to stick with what I know, mushroom and onion. By removing the beef and substituting the stock for mushroom stock, you can make a delicious mushroom stroganoff which works wonderfully as a pasta sauce.

One thing to note is that beef stroganoff is only as good as the beef that you use to make it. Now I’m not advocating that you go out any buy a tenderloin or fillet steak, that would be ridiculous and frankly, if you want to spend that much money on a slab of meat, you should enjoy the steak by itself. For a standard, fast cooked beef stroganoff like the one in the recipe below, rump steak is the best cut. You can use tougher cuts like chuck or stewing steak if you wish to slow cook the stroganoff but these will not work in a standard recipe. As a result, this isn’t the cheapest dish I have ever given a recipe for but if you fancy treating yourself, why not do it in style? I like to serve stroganoff with long, thick egg pasta noodles as the high surface area can carry a lot of sauce. It isn’t uncommon to see it served with shorter pasta or even rice to soak up the sauce but pasta is the more traditional (and, for me, preferable) option.

 

Beef Stroganoff

Time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Cost per portion: about £4

 

500g beef steak (rump or round steak is traditional)

2 medium onions – thinly sliced into half moons

500g mushrooms – thickly sliced

2 cloves garlic – minced

2 tbsp vegetable oil

30g flour

60ml white wine/dry vermouth (optional)

500ml beef stock

150ml sour cream

1 tbsp mustard (optional)

Chives to garnish

 

Slice the beef into 1cm strips.

50770299_525133781307816_4193435003561967616_n

Heat the oil in a large pan until it is starting to shimmer.

Add the beef in a single layer and sear for 30 seconds.

51223836_2661446907215688_8488629967188393984_n

Turn and sear for another 30 seconds. Don’t worry about any caramelisation stuck on the base of the pan as this will just add to the flavour later.

Remove the beef from the pan and set aside for later. It will not be cooked all the way through at this point.

Add the onions and fry for a minute.

50805292_345678006156158_8622768637725376512_n

Add the mushrooms, stir and then pour over the wine. This will deglaze the pan and prevent the mushrooms from sticking until they begin to release their juices.

51039859_341981106417654_1896106457774948352_n

Continue to fry the mushrooms for another five minutes stirring regularly.

Sprinkle over the flour and stir through.

51014103_343636709814658_6391537048758517760_n

Add half the stock and stir again until all of the flour has mixed in. Then add the rest of the stock.

Bring to a simmer.

Simmer for three minutes until the sauce has begun to thicken.

Mix in the sour cream (and the mustard). Do not allow the sauce to boil once the sour cream has been added or it will split.

50955206_367709647344383_561527851094900736_n

Add the beef back in, including any juice that has come out, and allow to sit in the simmering gravy for two minutes before serving.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

This can be served with any sort of carb but I would recommend long, thick linguini style pasta. It’s even better when the pasta is fresh!

51178845_2314677962100222_170472697996771328_n

The stroganoff can also be frozen for up to three months.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are looking for a classic, classy steak dish but this doesn’t do it for you, why not check out my recipe for beef wellington? It’s divine. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a little bit sweeter, why not treat yourself to some delicious German pfeffernusse?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a classic pudding.

H

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne

Lasagne is a comfort food. Layers of steaming hot pasta and filling with a crispy cheese topping; what is there not to love? It’s so versatile too as you can put whatever you like inside. My two favourite fillings are the one given below and also bolognaise (as is given in my recipe for Beef Lasagne).

23377295_1758587397506291_665069227_o (1)

With the first recorded recipe dating back to the 14th century, lasagne is one of the oldest foods I have researched for this blog. The original recipes used fermented dough, not pasta, and the dough was rolled out and boiled before being layered with the filling. Traditional lasagne de carnivale from Naples is stuffed with sausage, meatballs, boiled egg and Neapolitan ragu. Outside Italy, most people use a thicker ragu akin to bolognaise sauce inside and béchamel sauce on top. You may notice that I don’t put béchamel sauce on my lasagne but that is just because I don’t like it. You are perfectly welcome to swap the top layer of filling for béchamel sauce if you like and then continue with the recipe.

Spinach and ricotta is a classic pasta filling. It’s used in cannelloni, tortellini and ravioli as well as several other filled shapes. It’s incredibly easy to make at home and it is simple to tweak the recipe to your requirements – be that stronger cheese, more spinach or you just want a little extra garlic.

28504049_1877968625568167_1462005992_o

The recipe is particularly good for feeding a crowd as you can get six solid servings out of it!

 

 

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves 6

Cost per portion: around £1.20

 

Ingredients:

750g ricotta cheese

400g frozen spinach

1 clove garlic (minced)

2 eggs

150g grated cheddar cheese (or 100g parmesan)

Salt and pepper to taste

60ml water

1 packet fresh lasagne sheets

150g mozzarella (grated)

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C)

Place the spinach in the microwave with a little water and heat on the maximum poser to defrost. Make sure to stir it every few minutes.

While the spinach is defrosting put the ricotta, garlic, egg, 100g grated cheddar (or parmesan) and seasoning in a bowl and mix together. This will form a thick pasty filling.

Stir in the water to loosen up the mixture and set 60ml (a quarter of a cup) aside. This will be used on the top of the lasagne instead of béchamel sauce.

Remove the spinach from the microwave and drain through a sieve.

Use your hands to squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible. You should end up with a solid ball by the end of it.

28500848_1877968645568165_1678639732_o

Pull the lump of spinach apart and stir it into the ricotta mix and now is time to start building the lasagne.

28580512_1877968642234832_1887819501_o

Lightly oil a baking tray and place a sheet of pasta on the base.

28554719_1877968605568169_1921259444_o

Spread out some of the filling on top and add another sheet on that.

28461435_1877968612234835_301369334_o

Repeat this using up all the filling and finally top with the last sheet of pasta.

Spread out the spare cheese mixture from before and sprinkle on the mozzarella and reserved cheddar.

28548212_1877968632234833_708582618_o

28548249_1877968622234834_1432345963_o

 

Bake for half an hour and then increase the temperature to gas mark 6 (2000C) for the last ten minutes to crisp up the top.

28461905_1877968638901499_1511922248_o

28500190_1877968668901496_1331384863_o

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy making some dessert, check out my recipe for chocolate fondants or if you are looking for a slightly different main course, why not make yourself a Thai curry?

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for choux buns with a delicious filling.

H

 

One Pot Pasta

There is a big trend at the moment for one pot meals. Cooking your whole meal in a single pan is a fantastic way to reduce washing up and if you are cooking around other people, it prevents competition for cookware!

Like most cooking, one pot pasta is all about the ratios. You have to learn to adapt recipes to the type of pasta you use and the different ingredients as some will absorb more water than others. For example, mushrooms and fresh tomato will give out liquid whereas tomato paste will thicken everything up and therefore requires more stock to make it work.

Most one pot pastas have five base parts: pasta, liquid, meat, veg and cheese.

First of all, cook up the vegetables and the meat making sure the meat is seared properly before you add the liquid. Next add the pasta and liquid of choice and cook until the pasta is done. Finally, add the cheese which should help thicken up the sauce nicely so it is smooth and creamy.

Standard ingredients include:

Liquid: Chicken/beef/mushroom/vegetable stock, milk or a mixture of cream & stock

Meat: Chicken, meatballs, beef mince, pork mince or choritzo

Veg: Onions, garlic, tomato, mushrooms, sweetcorn or spinach

Cheese: Parmesan, Cheddar or Goat’s cheese

 

Obviously the list is only restricted by your imagination so you can add whatever you want but one pot pasta is about simplicity (and also normally using up leftover veg that you have lying around).

Below are the recipes for several one pot pastas that I have made recently all of which took around 20 minutes altogether!

 

One Pot Mushroom Pasta

1 cup pasta

1   cup milk

1 mushroom stock cube

½ onion

300g mushrooms

2 cloves garlic (minced)

Salt & pepper

Oil

Cornflour to thicken if needed

26906059_1833185616713135_782718815_o

 

Finely dice the onion and sauté in a pan with a little oil.

Chop the mushrooms – I generally cut them into quarters – and add them, along with the garlic, to the pan once the onions are translucent.

Fry the mushrooms with the onions for another two minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients.

Cook for about 10 minutes stirring regularly to prevent the pasta clumping.

If the sauce gets too thick, add a quarter of a cup of water and stir it through.

If the pasta is cooked and the sauce is still too thin, mix a tablespoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water and add it to the pasta stirring it through. Cook for another 30 seconds to thicken the sauce and then serve.

26937129_1833185610046469_282614211_o

 

One Pot Arrabiata Pasta

1 cup pasta

1 ½ cup vegetable stock

¼ cup tomato paste (or replace half a cup of the stock with passata)

½ onion

1 chilli

2 cloves garlic – minced

Oil

Salt and Pepper

26941468_1833185623379801_2040504464_o
I had some leftover mushrooms which I also threw in to the pasta along with some soya protein!

 

 

Dice up the onion and sauté with a little oil.

Finely chop the chilli and add it, along with the garlic, to the pan with the onion.

Continue to saute the vegetables for two minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients – adding salt and pepper to taste.

Cook for around 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to your liking.

If the sauce isn’t the correct consistency, add either cornflour or water to adjust to a thick sauce which should coat the pasta

26906466_1833185590046471_570366225_o

 

 

One Pot Chicken Alfredo Pasta

1 cup pasta

1 cup milk

½ onion

1 chicken breast

2 garlic cloves – minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

¼ cup grated parmesan

Oil

Salt and pepper

26909350_1833185596713137_668314510_o

 

Finely dice the onion and sauté in a pan with some oil.

Chop the chicken into smallish chunks and add to the onion once it is translucent – also add the garlic at this point.

Sear the chicken until the outside is cooked before adding the rest of the ingredients except the parmesan

Cook for 10 minutes or so until the pasta is cooked.

Add the cheese and stir it through – this will help thicken up the sauce

26972064_1833185613379802_1685779862_o 

Hopefully these examples have given you some ideas for some different and exciting dinners. For another delicious easy meal, check out my recipe for Curried Parsnip Soup or if you fancy something a little sweeter, how about making some brandy snaps?

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for a chocolate and caramel cake – perfect for feeding a crowd!

 

H

 

 

Beef Lasagne

Batch cooking is a wonderful thing. It’s how I survive at university. The more food I can make in one go, the less effort I have to expend cooking over the next week which is ideal as the term starts to get harder. Like the majority of the recipes in my Cooking to Basics section, this lasagne a number of meals (depending on how hungry you are)! It’s very simple to make and even better, if you happen to have some bolognaise sauce in the freeze, you don’t even need to go to the effort of making the filling.

This is not a traditional lasagne. For a start, there is no béchamel sauce. This isn’t out of convenience, I just don’t particularly like it as I find that the lasagne ends up rather sloppy with a béchamel sauce and I don’t really like super sloppy foods. Instead, I have replaced it with a thin layer of seasoned tomato puree which does the trick very well and also reduces the time it takes to make the dish. Of course, should you really like béchamel sauce, you can just substitute this in instead of the half tube of tomato paste in the recipe. The lack of the béchamel sauce also makes it very easy to turn this recipe dairy free as you can simply substitute the mozzarella with a dairy free cheese (or even just leave it naked with the tomato on top)

If you are vegetarian, it is very simple to just substitute the beef for some form of soya mince or you can bulk out the sauce with mushrooms and other veg of your choice to make a wonderful veggie lasagne. I will often put a layer of spinach in mine as if I am using pre-made bolognaise sauce for the filling, it reduces the amount I need to defrost!

 

Beef Lasagne

Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes (excluding the filling)

Serves: 4-6                                                           Cost per portion: around 80p-£1

Ingredients:

250ml tomato passata

2 cloves of garlic

One large onion (or two small onions)

One carrot

One box beef mince

One box lasagne sheets

Half a tube of tomato paste

Mozzarella

 

Optional:

A glug of sherry or red wine

Basil

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Chilli

Salt

Pepper

 

Follow the instructions of my bolognaise recipe to make the filling of the lasagne.

20861080_1675327695832262_2091887734_o

Lightly oil a deep dish.

Place a layer of the lasagne sheets over the bottom and add a thin layer of the filling.

Repeat this, alternating layers of the filling and pasta sheets until there is about 1 cm from the top of the dish (make sure the top layer is the pasta).

23376931_1758587340839630_426813349_o

Dilute the tomato paste down with water until it is still thick but you can spread it over the top of the lasagne (at this point, you can add pepper, chilli, garlic, or whatever spices you would like on your lasagne).

23423587_1758588997506131_880229380_o.jpg

Grate the mozzarella and sprinkle and even layer over the top of the dish.

Bake at gas mark 5 (1900C) for about 45 minutes to make sure the pasta sheets are cooked!

23314482_1758587400839624_1031743797_o

The lasagne freezes really well which is ideal if you just want a quick meal slightly later in the week. Just wrap up individual portions and pop them into the freezer!

Let me know if you try this at home – give me a tag on Instagram (you can find me @thatcookingthing). If you fancy trying out some lovely warming, soup as the weather gets colder, check out my butternut squash soup or if you are looking of a quick and easy dessert, my tiramisu would be perfect for you!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for millionaire’s shortbread!

H

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes have been a staple of my lunches since going to university. They are relatively economical, can be made with pretty much anything you have (including leftovers) and are delicious. You can use them to make a small amount of meat go very far which I have found to be a life saver when you are living off a student loan. They tend to freeze well and are also quite sturdy so once cooked, portions can be cut and put either in boxes or just wrapped in Clingfilm before being put in the freezer as the pasta has enough structural integrity to hold its shape when cool. This meant taking a slice of it in my bag to lectures was a simple task and provided me will a filling lunch during the day.

One of the things I find really interesting about this dish in particular (and to be honest, any dish involving mushrooms) is how they cook. As the fruiting bodies of a fungus, mushrooms hide beneath the soil and once ready to produce spores, they absorb liquid – rain in the wild – and sprout. They can appear out of nowhere overnight but this property is also what leads to them being very easy to burn when cooking. When you first add the mushrooms to an oiled pan, they absorb all the oil up too resulting in basically dry frying them. This can cause them to burn if they aren’t stirred constantly which is a faff if you are trying to get on with another part of the meal. To avoid this, small amounts of water can also be added which again, will be absorbed but if you manage your proportions well, can leave just enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms get to a certain temperature, the heat breaks down the cells holding in the liquid resulting in the mushrooms releasing any water, juice and oil which is contained in them also causing them to shrink which is why the reduce down so much in volume whilst cooking.

The other interesting part of this dish (from a science perspective) is the cornflour. When I was younger, I used to be allowed to play with cornflour as a treat if I was well behaved. Whilst this was a messy, messy endeavour for all involved it did have the benefit of being an introduction to quite a complicated bit of science, the non-Newtonian fluid. As a small child, few things were more exciting than this bizarre mixture that ran through my fingers and I could sink my hand into but if I tried to jerk it out again, the mixture would turn solid and shatter with enough force. Even now as a 21 year old, I find it fascinating! In this recipe, you can only have this fun before the cornflour is added to the sauce as the moment it is mixed in, it thickens up massively giving the sauce a smooth texture.

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Chicken Pasta Bake    –     about £1.90 per portion, makes 6 portions

2 Large Onions (or three medium/small)

500g mushrooms roughly chopped

2 chicken breasts – cubed

½ cup of milk (125ml)

Chicken/mushroom stock

4 tbsp of cornflour

Oil

400g pasta shapes – I use spirals normally

Cheese

21125018_1686134991418199_784859581_o

Optional

Garlic

Basil/parsley

Salt and pepper

 

Dice up the onions and sautee in a pan with a small amount of oil.

21081979_1686135078084857_846304307_o

Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and a small amount of water (I would go for about two tablespoons). This helps prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their liquid. (Should you wish to add garlic, one or two cloves either diced or minced should be added at this point)

Add the chicken and stir until it is sealed (that is to say that the outside of all the chicken has gone white.21104359_1686135108084854_1141188406_o

Add the milk and bring to the boil

Add the stock – if powder, just sprinkle it in and if it is a cube, crumble it up into the mix and stir it through

21082015_1686134994751532_195117734_o

Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to create a slurry and add it a bit at a time to the mixture making sure that you stir well after each addition and wait for the sauce to thicken up before you add more. If there is more liquid in the sauce, you will need more of the cornflour but you may not need it all!

Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and add the basil or parsley at this point

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC) and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the bag.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour it all into an ovenproof dish pushing any exposed pieces of chicken down below the surface

21081948_1686135291418169_80660660_o

Add a layer or grated cheese over the top and place in the oven. Personally I use cheddar for this but you could use any cheese that you like (though I would avoid blue cheese in this scenario as I don’t think it would go with the chicken and mushrooms particularly well!)

21104257_1686135354751496_1899645058_o

Bake for half an hour or until the cheese has melted and the top layer has gone crispy.

21081953_1686135364751495_87834986_o

For a vegetarian alternative, use more mushrooms instead of the chicken! It is still delicious and will reduce the price too.

This can be eaten cold and freezes well.

 

Whether batch cooking for yourself or making dinner for friends, this recipe is wonderful for many occations and is super versatile. You can add or take away ingredients or even change up the sauce completely to keep things fresh. Personally, chicken and mushroom is a favourite of mine so I tend to make this one quite a lot!

Let me know in the comments if you try this one yourself and pop a picture in if you can!

See here for the last recipe in the Cooking From Basics series – a delicious bolognaise sauce – or if you fancy trying your hand at some bread making, why not have a look at my recipe for Artisan Bread from last week.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a super chocolatey recipe that you do not want to miss!!!

H