Its been a while! Track & Field took over my life for a few months – organising it, and a little bit of running in it too. It is summer officially in this part of the world but yesterday was like a day straight from November, wind and rain all day making me think of comforting winter dishes and not summer salads. A look through Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries reminded me of one of our favourite Winter Warmer dishes (that was equally as delicious in the middle of July). Its a dish that happens to be vegetarian, not that anyone here notices (I say that realising that Vegetarians get fed up of justifying & explaining how tasty their dinners are but we are definitely not vegetarian so I love when I find dishes that become firm family favorites that HAPPEN to be vegetarian, and always come in handy of we do have to feed & entertain non meat eating friends). This also requires a glass of red wine. Just saying.
I have adapted this from his recipe – he (oddly, I think) requires home made Pesto but then encourages you to just buy the bechemal sauce – I do it the other way around and use good quality bought pesto and make a thick creamy cheesy bechemal. I also add a generous teaspoon of grated Nutmeg which fills the kitchen with smells better than any Yankee Candle.
A quick note on Lasagne Sheets also – find “no pre-cooking required” sheets – you will see a HUGE difference! I used to slap in the lasagne sheets, never pre-cooking as they actually required and the result was always a starchy heavy lasagne. There is a chemistry explanation that will explain what happens – I was not good at chemistry, all I do know is that the other type lasagne sheet, where they have been pre-cooked, then re-dried (I told you I was useless at chemistry) were a revelation. Failing finding those, precook the lasagne sheets or use fresh pasta sheets, which will also require pre-cooking.
4 large, juicy cloves of garlic
a thick slice of butter
10g packet dried porcini
a good handful of chopped parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon grated Nutmeg
3 tbsps freshly grated Parmesan
750ml bechamel sauce (made by melting 2oz butter, cooking it off with a tablespoon of plain flour, then adding the 750 of milk, bring back to the boil until thickened, then add about 4 / 5 oz strong grated cheddar cheese)
450g of lasagne sheets
Pot good quality fresh Pesto
- Peel and roughly chop the onions, peel and thinly slice the garlic and then set them to cook in a deep-sided frying pan with a thick slice of butter.
- Cover the dried porcini with warm water – barely 100ml – and leave to soak. After 20 minutes, the onions and garlic will have softened and taken on an almost translucent quality. Meanwhile, cut the fresh mushrooms into thick slices.
- Stir the sliced mushrooms into the onions and garlic and partially cover with a lid. The mushrooms should colour and soften.
- Add the reconstituted porcini and their soaking water, then the parsley, 4 or 5 tablespoons of Parmesan and the cream. Season with salt and pepper and simmer and stir until the cream has thickened. Sprinkle in the Nutmeg. Taste & add more if you think it needs it.
- Make the bechemal sauce as described above.
- Spread a few spoonfuls of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of a large dish then cover with a layer of the pasta. Spread the pasta with a coating of pesto.
- Spoon on half the mushroom filling, cover with another layer of pasta, more Pesto, a second layer of mushrooms and cream, and top with a third single layer of pasta. Spread the remaining Pesto over the pasta, then smooth the remaining bechamel sauce over and cover with the remaining Parmesan.
- Bake at 180 C/ gas mark 4 for 50 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
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