Saturday night was one of the best I have had in some time – what did I do? A glorious weekend night with no plans or obligations – it was heavenly. I spent the afternoon making my first ever lasagne completely from scratch – you do need a good spare 3 hours if you are planning to do this but the results are well worth it. I used a classic recipe as a guide but as usual made my own additions and amendments, the most successful of which was the addition of chorizo and bacon to the beef mince.
To serve 4 greedy or 6 normal people you will need:
1.5 pints of milk – put in a pan with one sliced onion, 3 bay leaves and 3 cloves – bring to a slow boil and then leave to infuse for one hour. Then strain the milk into a separate jug. Using the pan you boiled the milk in, melt about 50g butter and slowly add 50g of flour, forming a paste, cook this for about 2 minutes and then slowly pour the milk back in stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Stir in salt pepper and nutmeg (I actually used ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon instead)
In a large pan fry 3 cloves of garlic one onion and a carrot (very finely chopped) until soft. Add two finely sliced rashers of bacon and sliced chorizo (pull off the kin and chop the inside) I used about a 3 inch length –sorry I do not know how else to describe the quantity! – of chorizo but you could add more or less according to taste. Then add beef mince (500g) and milk, 200ml and a can of chopped tomatoes, stir until meat is starting to brown then finally add a crumbled beef stock cube, a generous squeeze of tomato puree, rosemary, oregano and thyme and half a bottle of red wine. Leave the mixture on a low heat for one hour stirring regularly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
When both sauces are ready take a dish and coat the bottom with a layer of the meat mix, cover this with lasagne pasta sheets (i just used dried but i think you can get fresh). Cover this with a layer of the béchamel or white sauce, then do another layer of meat and sprinkle with parmesan – repeat the process three times – meat, parmesan, pasta béchamel until you end up with a top layer of béchamel and a full dish. Sprinkle this generously with grated parmesan and then place in the oven (180 degrees) for just under an hour and voila – your three hours of toil will be sumptuously rewarded – you can also feel very smug at your domestic godess-like-ness from making it from scratch!
Inspired by my flurry of activity in the kitchen, the fiancé decided it was time to restock the drinks cabinet. I have been nagging him for some time to become the drinks expert to compliment my cheffery (not that i am an expert by any means). Yesterday was the day he decided to really take this on board. Armed with a really old-fashioned cocktail book and a newly replenished cupboard of liquors, bitters and garnishes he began mixing up a storm.
Picking the theme of gin based as a very vague attempt to lessen the next day’s hangover, we started with an Imperial – a heady mix of gin, vermouth, Kirsh and Angustura bitters – shaken not stirred! Cocktail hour continued with a ‘Zsa Zsa’ – Gin, Dubonnet and Angustura. Feeling rather merry by this stage we decided it would be a good idea to postpone dinner and try yet another. This time it was my old favourite the Negroni, given the most amazing twist with the addition of two large slices of pink grapefruit on the glass. The mouth wateringly clean andf fresh smell of the grapefruit gave the drink the most amazing nose.
With our sentences beginning to slur, we decided it was time for dinner – what could be better than a rich, cheesy lasagne to soak up all that mother’s ruin? The distraction of cocktails had sadly caused my afternoon’s great work to be ever so slightly over done (i could not bear to take a photo as it did not do the masterpiece of flavour and texture that it was, justice). I served the lasagne with home-made garlic bread (I made a melted butter with garlic, salt pepper and lots of fresh basil and poured it into part baked baguettes – I highly recommend) and a salad of lettuce, cucumber and very finely sliced spring onion with a pesto and mustard dressing. I know dinner was delicious but if I am completely honest I cant remember much after that! I think that next time the cocktail book of dreams comes out I will make sure we eat first!