Sunday, 27 September 2009

Luxury Lasagna

I often have a funny relationship to my recipes. I try a recipe out and like it. Then what should I do next time; see if there's an even better recipe out there or use the same again? If it's good, then why change it? Lasagna was probably the second recipe I ever made after mastering boiling pasta and adding ketchup when I was a student. And ever since I've been making a basic lasagna which I thought was pretty damn good. That is, until I tried out this recipe. It all came from watching Heston Blumenthal making bolognese sauce in his Search for Perfection. And I thought, hey, the bolognese sauce is also the base of lasagna. And as I was going out of my way to make the sauce, why not make my own pasta as well. The result was, well, how can I put it, so good that it would be the only lasagna I ever made again if it wasn't so time consuming. So I admit, you need half a day to make it, and is it worth it? Yes, if you want to impress some dinner guests, but definitely not if it's just for a normal week day. But if you are only going to make one lasagna in your life, then this is it. And, finally, the sauce is brilliant in itself as bolognese, so give it a try.
3 carrots, shredded
2 celery stalks finely diced
2 onions, finely chopped
olive oil
1 star anise
1 glass of whitewine
250g finely chopped meat from an ox tail (see comment with picture)
250g finely chopped pork shoulder
50g finely chopped chicken liver
250ml milk
400ml water (maybe more)
5 dl flour
2 big eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
80ml water
Tomato sauce:
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1 large can (850ml) of peeled tomatoes
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
3 cloves
1 star anise
2 tsp wostershire sauce
a little tabasco o chili sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
5-6 twigs of fresh thyme
1 bayleaf
5 drops of fish sauce
Small bunch of fresh parsley
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
White sauce:
70g butter
70g flour
700ml cold milk
Shredded gouda cheese
Shredded parmesan cheese

Start by frying the carrots and celery over low heat in a bit of oil.

Fry the oinion in another pan (first sign that this is cumbersome). When the onion starts browning, break up the star anise and add it to the pan. Star anise has components that mix with the onion flavous and boost the umami flavours in meat (proteins).

When the onion is caramelized, remove the star anise and mix it with the celery in the pot where you are going to make the ragout. Deglaze the pans by adding half a cup of white wine to loosen all the stuck chunks of onion. Let it reduce a bit and pour it into the veggies.

Time for the meat. The recipe calls for minced ox tail meat, which you won't find anywhere. The meat around the tail is hard to get off the bone, so the only way to do it is to buy the tail, patiently cut off the meat and chop it yourself. But the flavour is worth it. Don't throw away the bone, keep them or freeze them for making beef stock another day.

Chop the pork shoulder finely. You can also put it in the food processor.

Heat up your pan to maximum, add some oil and fry the meat in one layer. If your pan isn't very big fry in two batches, otherwise the meat will cool off the pan, the meat will lose its juices and braise not fry. You want maximum heat until the meat is browned.

Chop up the chicken liver finely and add to the browning meat at the end. Maybe you don't like liver, but you won't really able to taste it (as liver). But it does give a special tone to the flavour.

Add the meat to the vegetables. Deglaze the pan with some more white wine. Loosen all the chunks of stuck meat which is packed with flavour.

Add the milk and the water. Let it simmer for 6 (SIX) hours! at low heat under lid. This seems like a lot, but first of all, the oxtail meat is quite tough and need plenty of cooking, and secondly, the liquid will reduce and concentrate all the good stuff. You need to stir now and then to make sure it doesn't catch and burn. It might also be necessary to add a bit more water if it starts getting too thick. Notice that you don't add salt.

Sometimes during those six hours you will have plenty of time to make your own pasta. Start by putting the flour on the kitchen table, make a well in the middle and sprinkle the salt over it. Whisk the egg, water and oil in a cup. Pour it into the centre of the flour. Start mixing it slowly into the flour. If in doubt, click this link to see how it's done. Shape it into a ball of dough. If it's very wet, add some more flour, but be careful, you don't want it too dry or the pasta will break.

Knead the pasta dough for at least 10 minutes. Kneading is essential for ceatin elastic dough. Then wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for minimum 30 minutes. This will allow for the dough to develope.

For making the tomato sauce, start out by frying the onion. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the finely chopped (or blended) tomatoes.

Put the coriander, cloves and star anise in a thin piece of cloth. Tie it in like a small package, bang it once or twice to crush the spices a bit.

Throw it in the tomato sauce.

Add the wostershire sauce, ketchup, tabasco, vinegar, fish sauce and tie the thyme with the bayleaf and throw it in there too. Leave it to simmer without lid for 1 hour. Stir now and then so it doesn't catch.

Roll out the pasta either with a pasta machine or with a roling pin. You want it about 1 - 2 milimetre thick (pasta machine: 4). Cut it into long plates the lenght of your oven tray.

Hang it to dry.

When the six hours have passed, add the meat ragout to the tomato sauce. Cook it together for 1 hour. Removethe thyme twigs, and the spice bag.

At the end, add the butter, the chopped parsley and the vinegar. Taste for pepper. You shouldn't need salt, but if you think it needs, well, it's up to you.

Make the white sauce (bechamel) by melting the butter at medium-low heat until it stops bubbling but before it starts burning.

Add the flour and start whisking immediately. From here on you need to be whisking almost continually. Don't worry, it won't burn on you or lump up. Actually, you need to fry it for some time to cook the flour. After a few minutes it even starts getting more liquid. If you kept stirring you'd get a darker sauce which is needed in some recipes, but here go for about 4 minutes of stirring.

Add in your milk a bit at the time while whisking out the lumps. If you pour all in at one time you might risk biting flour balls later. Keep stirring until it thickens. The more you stir, the smoother the sauce.

When the sauce has thickened, add freshly grated nutmeg, taste with salt. You can add a pinch of cayenne as well, but as I've put chili in the meat I didn't do it this time.

Grease up the tra with butter or live oil. Spread a layer of white sauce at the base.

Then layer of the bolognese sauce.

Then your homemade pasta.
Keep going: white sauce, bologonese, pasta, until the last layer which should be only white sauce on top of the pasta and then some shredded cheese.

Bake it in the oven at high temperature until the cheese is melted and gratinated (it takes about 10-15 minutes).

And there we go, the best lasagna deluxe. Try it, just once and make up your mind if you too should reconsider some of your old recipes.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Chocolate Chip Scones

Here's my recipe for scones which turns out somewhere between a bun and a cookie. I'm using chocolate as filling, but you can leave it out or add your own filling such as berries, apple, dried fruits, etc.
280g flour
50g sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
115g cold butter
160 ml of buttermilk*
100g dark chocolate
Egg wash:
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
Cinnamon sprinkle:
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

* If you haven't got buttermilk, make it yourself: Mix 160ml full fat milk with 2/3 tbsp lemon juice and leave it 5-10 minutes.

Turn on oven at 200º. Mix flour with sugar, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla.

Cut the butter into small pieces with a cold knife.

Mix in with flour using a fork or a food processor. Keep it cool. You don't want the butter to melt. Keep mixing until it looks like wet sand.

Mix sugar and cinnamon. Set aside for later.

Make an egg wash by mixing the egg with milk. Set aside.

Chop the chocolate. It's fine if you end up with pieces in all shapes and sizes.

Mix it in with the flour.

Add buttermilk.

Gather it to a ball.

Place it on table with flour. Knead it quickly 4-5 times but not more. Again, you don't want the butter to melt.

Press it down to a circle. Cut it in 4 pieces and each quarter into 3.

Place them on baking paper. Brush them with the egg wash.

Sprinkle them with the cinnamon. Bake 15 minutes at 200º celcius oven.

Breakfast is served.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Tempura Veggies.

Back with a quick way to spice up your veggies: Japanese style tempura. I'm using a premixed tempura flour, but you can find various recipe how to make it yourself on the net if you can't find tempura flour at your local shop. Here we go:
110g tempura flour
150 ice cold water
Finely sliced veggies (carrots, peppers, squash)
(Raw tiger prawns, cleaned and left with the tail on)
Neutral oil for frying (e.g. sunflower)

To chop the carrots as safe as possible without them slipping and the knife ending up in your fingers, first cut a thin slice of lengthwise.

Roll it over on that side to stabelize it. Cut down leangthwise.

Stack the slices on to of eachother. Cut down in the middle (or slice finely for julienne). Chop the rest of the veggies. Spread them out on a plate and put them in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will dry the veggies and make the batter stick better.

Mix the icecold water with the tempura flour. It's ok if there are a few lumps as it will just make the batter more crunchy when cooked. Put the batter in the fridge until you are going to use it.

Place your veggies, batter and neutral oil close to eachother. Heat up the oil, so when you drop a bit of the batter in it, it will immediately flow to the top and start frying. Dip the veggies in the batter one at a time and let it drip off. You don't want too much batter on.

Carefully drop the veggies in the oil one at a time so they don't stick.

Use chopsticks to drip fine threads of batter on top of the vegetables, but don't put the chop sticks into the oil. Turn the veggies over with a a fork. Drip more tempura on them.

After a few minutes, remove the veggies to a rack to drip off. Placing them on paper towel will make them less crunchy as they just lie in the oil.

Serve while warm accompanied with a bit of sweet and sour sauce.