Thursday, 15 December 2011

Merry Fucking Christmas


So it's coming up to Christmas and there's the usual assortment of celebrity chef Christmas specials on TV.  You're thinking about what to cook and how to please everyone without blowing a gasket!  What to do...


Due to practical considerations (i.e. the fact that I can't be arsed to spend a load of money buying ingredients for Christmas recipes before the day itself) I'm not going to be putting up a load of Christmas recipes.  But I thought I might share some tips based on my personal opinions on how to make it as stress free and tasty as possible.

How to cook your turkey

We're spoilt for choice right now when it comes to Christmas recipes from TV chefs.  If you're thinking of following a recipe, I would go for someone like Delia Smith or the Hairy Bikers for a nice, traditional meal that works - and to me, Christmas is a time of year for making something that everyone can enjoy together, not some pretentious fancy concoction.  Avoid Nigella as all she does is pour honey on everything.  You might want to try Gordon Ramsay if you really want to try something a bit different, but personally I find that birds always take far longer to cook through than his recipes suggest.

Whatever recipe you decide to go with, the key to roasting turkey properly is to avoid drying it out, which is probably the most common gripe people have with this misunderstood bird.  Turkey is basically a less forgiving version of chicken with more flavour, so you want to add PLENTY of extra fat, particularly on and around the breasts - in fact, one of my friends, who is a professional chef, actually sticks a pound of butter inside the main cavity and roasts it upside down.  You should avoid trussing the turkey and let the legs hang loose in a natural position as the increased air circulation will cook them more quickly.  Finally, don't be afraid to let it rest upside down in a warm place while you get on with the gravy and other accompaniments - don't worry, it won't go cold for a long time, and the rest will allow the meat to relax for easy carving and smooth texture.

Gravy

If you can withstand the "ick" factor of cooking with giblets then you will be rewarded tenfold with the most delicious gravy known to man.  To make a giblet stock, brown the giblets (one thing I do agree with Mr Ramsay on) in a large saucepan with some roughly chopped celery, carrots and onions and a couple of bay leaves.  Cover it all with water and bring it to the boil, then let it simmer for an hour or so and strain it.  Skim off any scum from the surface and reserve for gravy at the end of the meal - I recommend doing this the night before.

When the time comes to make the gravy, put your roasting tin on the hob and turn up the heat.  Spoon off any excess fat (if there is any), stir in a bit of plain flour and deglaze the tin with a generous splash of cider or wine.  Add the giblet stock, season and reduce to taste.

Accompaniments

Obviously everyone wants roast potatoes with their Christmas turkey - it just wouldn't be right not to include them.  You want to use King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes.  Start them in cold salted water and part-boil them so that they start to cook in the middle, then drain them and put them back on the hob on a low heat for a minute or so to let the water evaporate.  Sprinkle some plain flour (or semolina - not tried it but I hear it works well) into the saucepan, take it off the heat, cover it and shake it to rough up the edges of the potato and cover them with flour for a double whammy of crispiness in the oven.  Drizzle liberally with oil, season and cook in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half depending on whether you're cooking them with the turkey or separately (in which case I'd advise turning the heat up to about 210).

Cranberry sauce is one thing I don't usually bother making myself as you can buy decent jars of it that contain no additives.  Bread sauce is another nice sauce that goes well with any kind of poultry or feathered game, and I recommend this recipe from good old Delia - http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/type-of-dish/savoury/traditional-bread-sauce.html.  For a festive twist I sometimes add cinnamon sticks and orange peel to the milk but discard them once they've infused.

Honey roasted carrots and parsnips are a very nice accompaniment that will go down a treat.  Wash your carrots and top and tail your parsnips, then cut your parsnips into quarters.  Blanch the carrots in boiling water for a few minutes but don't bother doing this for the parsnips as it will make them go soggy.  Put them in a roasting tin, drizzle with plenty of olive oil, season and chuck in some garlic cloves and sprigs of herbs.  Roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes until they've gone crispy, then glaze them with honey to finish.

I like a bit of leafy veg to balance out what can otherwise be a very heavy meal, though in England I'm in a bit of a minority.  Braised red cabbage is one of my favourites - gently fry some shredded red cabbage in a pan with a bit of onion and add a splash of red wine vinegar, a couple of tablespoons of honey, two bay leaves, two cinammon sticks, a thyme sprig, a star anise and about 100g demerara sugar.  When the red wine vinegar has reduced, add chicken stock to almost cover and a couple of drops of Worcestershire sauce and cook it slowly on a low heat for about 45 minutes.

Alternatives to turkey

You can end up having so many Christmas meals with various groups of people (friends, work colleagues, that aunt you only visit out of guilt, etc) that by the time turkey comes around you'll be sick of the sight of turkey.

A popular alternative is beef wellington.  However, as much as Christmas is a celebratory time of year, beef fillet is extremely expensive.  Just about any beef roasting cut will be lovely, although this may cause disagreements about how thoroughly you should cook it (many people are too squeamish to appreciate the true awesomeness of rare roast beef).  A cheaper alternative is pork, which can be really delicious if you go for a rare breed and is very easy to cook.  You could also bake a whole salmon in tin foil with some herbs, lemon slices and plenty of butter and serve it with Hollandaise sauce.

Leftovers

If you do go for Turkey you will find yourself with leftovers aplenty unless you've invited all the extended family round for Christmas dinner and charades.  Even small turkeys are around 4 kilos in weight.  But don't make the mistake of chucking the excess away!  You can make awesome Christmas sandwiches, but my favourite thing to do is to make a pie.

To make the pie, start with a bechamel sauce (or alternatively you could use leftover bread sauce).  Melt 50g butter in a pan and add 25g plain flour.  Cook it out to make a roux, then add 450ml whole milk, seasoning and a couple of bay leaves.  Add the milk slowly at first and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, then when you're about halfway through switch to a balloon whisk and pour the milk a bit quicker.  Flake some turkey meat into a pie dish with some chopped ham and leeks (softened in a little butter) and cover with the bechamel.  Cover the pie dish with a lid of puff pastry, glaze it with an egg wash and cook it in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 40 minutes.  Serve with a bit of cranberry sauce and you're laughing!  Ho ho ho!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Roast Chicken with Lincolnshire Stuffing (may contain traces of awesome)

I like roast chicken.  You like roast chicken.  Let's all eat roast chicken.

We all love a bit of roast chicken.  However, too many of us have had bad experiences with dry breast meat and/or awful jokes about "hur hur do you like leg or breast" that make us go into therapy.  The problem is that the legs take longer to cook than the breast, so you need some way to stop the breasts from drying out without getting salmonella. Here, I've done it the traditional English way by using pork, sage and onion stuffing and covering the breasts with a layer of bacon and butter.

This recipe will serve four.

Ingredients:
  • 1 x 1.5kg chicken
  • 25g real butter, plus a little bit more for frying your onions (I always say 25g when I don't know how much I used)
  • Olive oil, to drizzle
  • 4 x Lincolnshire sausages
  • 1 x garlic bulb (that's a bulb, bitch, not just a few cloves)
  • 4-6 x streaky bacon rashers
  • 1 x medium onion
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Glass of white wine
  • 1 x tbsp plain flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method:
  1. Get your chicken out of the fridge an hour in advance.  Preheat your oven to 220 degrees.
  2. Chop your onion in half and finely dice one half.  Gently cook it in a frying pan until it's softened, then put it in a bowl.  Take your sausage, grab it firmly, and gently squeeze and massage the meat out.  Repeat with the other sausages and mix it all with the onions to make the Lincolnshire stuffing.
  3. Carefully slide your fingers in under the skin of the breast and create a gap.  And unto that gap, thou shalt shove thy stuffing.  Rub a liberal amount of butter over the chicken, especially the breasts.
  4. Roughly chop the other half onion and put in in a roasting tin with the garlic bulb.  Lay the chicken on top and roast it in the oven for 20 minutes to crisp up the skin.  After that time, take it out, baste it, cover the breasts with the bacon and cover the whole thing with foil.  Stick it back in the oven, turn the heat down to 180 and roast it at an hour per kilo, basting every 30 minutes.
  5. To check if it's done, pierce the thigh at the thickest point and catch the juices with a spoon - if they're clear, it's done; if not, stick it back in the oven.  If it's done, rest it upside down, covered with foil, in a warm place while you make the gravy (resting upside down lets the juices flow back into the breasts).
  6. Put the roasting tin on the hob on a medium-high heat.  Stir in the flour to cook it out - this will help thicken your gravy.  Squash the garlic and onions down.  Deglaze the tin with the wine, then add the chicken stock and reduce according to taste.  Add any resting juices from the chicken.
  7. Serve with roast potatoes, honey glazed carrots and steamed broccoli.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Sausage action

As part of a radical change in cooking style, I thought I'd post a recipe for braised meat with mashed potato and gravy.

If you can cook simple recipes like bangers and mash properly then you will be surprised how impressed your friends and family will be.  I make it as a stew of sorts, which I feel lends depth of flavour to the sauce and makes the sausages lovely and tender.  As always, use the best pork sausages you can get, i.e. rare breed (they're not that expensive and it's worth finding a decent local farm shop or butcher) and a decent stock (i.e. not bisto granules).  You can add a bouquet garni of herbs if you wish but personally I like the basic version just fine - the caramelised onions have plenty of flavour on their own.

Make this with Quorn sausages and I will fight you.  The better alternative for vegetarians, to my mind, is to make the gravy with vegetable stock, sprinkle the mash with mature cheddar and grill it - a variation I usually do for my mum.

Ingredients (to serve four):
  • Eight proper, fat, good quality pork sausages
  • 2-3 fairly big onions, sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Generous glass of white wine or cider (optional)
  • 2 x large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 75g butter
  • 3-4 medium sized Maris Piper potatoes
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method:
  1. Put your sausages in a thick, heavy based pan with no oil (good tip I learned from my chef friend).  Quickly brown the sausages on all side and remove them to a plate.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium-low.  Throw in 25g of butter and the onions and then the garlic.  Season, cover and sweat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and caramelised.  Do it this way and I guarantee you won't have to add extra sugar like many recipes recommend.
  3. While this is going on, peel your potatoes, cut them into chunks, put them in a saucepan, cover them with cold slightly salted water and bring themto the boil.  Simmer briskly for 15-20 minutes until tender - the potatoes should slide off a sharp knife easily but without turning into mush.  When they're ready, put them back on an EXTREMELY low heat (if you're using an electric hob, just put them on the ring they were on but with the heat off) for about a minute, shaking occasionally, so that the water evaporates, then remove the pan from the heat so that it doesn't scorch.
  4. When your onions are ready, stir in the flour and cook it out.  This is a "roux" of sorts that will thicken your gravy without that pasty flour taste (or lumps).  Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  When it's almost evaporated, chuck in the sausages and the stock, bring it to the boil and reduce it to a simmer.  Cook about 15 minutes until the sausages are cooked through.
  5. To make the mash, heat the milk in the microwave.  Add a bit of salt and pepper, mash the potatoes, then add the butter and milk until it's at the consistency you like (some like it very creamy, others prefer it fluffy).  Finish off with a bit of English mustard.
  6. Serve in a warmed shallow bowl/pasta dish with a liberal splash of gravy, with more gravy in a jug on the side.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Banoffee Meringue Pie with Buttery Biscuit Bass

Ah yeah... it's business time.

It's been a while since I made a pudding.  Truth be told I don't make them much and I have quite a limited repertoire as a result.  Today, however, I had some bananas lying around that needed to be used up.  This is easily the most calorific recipe I've ever made and I'm sure Greg Wallace would love it, but you have to do these things now and then!  It will serve about six greedy people.

Ingredients:
  • 3 x ripe bananas
  • 1 x tin condensed milk
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter
  • 3 x large egg whites
  • 100g caster sugar
Method:

1) Put your tin of condensed milk in a deep saucepan, cover it with water and boil it for two hours.  Feel free to make this in advance - you could even make lots of it in one go so you could eat caramel every day (it would make a very nice ice cream sauce, for example).  Go and do something else while you wait, but make sure the tin stays submerged or it will explode like a Murdoch empire hacking scandal.  When it's done, it will have magically turned into caramel.  Turn it out into a bowl and let it cool a bit.










2) Meanwhile, back at the ranch... make your Buttery Biscuit Bass.  Melt the butter in a saucepan on a very low heat.  Put your biscuits in a sandwich bag and wrap again with a tea towel.  Now for the fun bit: stick on Amon Amarth's "With Oden On Our Side" album, grab a rolling pin and go medieval on those biscuits.  When they're battered into oblivion, mix them with the melted butter, spread the mixture in a pie tin and leave it to cool.



3) Pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees.  Pour your caramel onto the base and arrange slices of banana on top.  Make a meringue mix by blitzing the egg whites with an electric whisk until it forms soft peaks, then add the sugar bit by bit, blitzing the whole time, until it forms stiff peaks and it won't fall out of the bowl if you hold it upside down.  Spread this mixture on top of the pie and make little whippy peak things with a fork, then put it in the oven for 45 minutes.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Okonomiyaki

And now for something completely different: Okonomiyaki!



Okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese dish sometimes, due to lack of a more accurate description, called Japanese pizza. It's a surprisingly easy dish to make, and you can put pretty much whatever you want in there.

This is how I make okonomiyaki.

Ingredients (enough for 4-5 people):
Base
-> 230g flour - I use ca 180g potato flour and 50g wholemeal flour, but you could just add regular flour if you want. The potato flour helps make it sticky so you might want to add a bit of potato flour even if you mostly use regular flour.
-> 300ml water - you can also use chicken or fish stock if you want.
-> 3 eggs
-> ½ cabbage
-> 200g shrimps or prawns - I use garlic and parsley marinated prawns.
-> 1/3 leek
-> Anything else you want to add. If you don't like shripms you can use pork instead, or if you like both, why not have both? You can add mushrooms or any type of vegetables, and you are supposed to add bacon on top as well, but I forgot to buy it, so we'll have to do without.

Condiments/toppings - these go on top of the "base" after it's been cooked.
-> Kewpie mayo
-> Okonomiyaki brown sauce
-> Bonito flakes (fish flakes) - However, I forgot to buy this as well, so for this recipe I've used fish rousong, which unfortunately didn't work quite as well. It worked, but I recommend buying bonito flakes.
-> Aonori (seaweed flakes)

LinkFrom left to right: kewpie mayo, okonomiyaki sauce, aonori, sakura denbu (fish rousong). All of these can be bought at Japan Centre in London, who also deliver.


Add the flour and the water in a bowl and mix well. Mix in the eggs. Then add the vegetables and prawns (and anything else you might want to add) and mix gently.

Divide up the mix into 2 or 3 batches. Heat up a little oil in a pan. When the pan is heated up, pour one batch into the pan and flatten it out until it is round and even. If you want to use bacon, put the bacon strips on top of the mixture. Cook it on medium heat for 5 minutes, then flip it and cook it on the other side for 5 minutes. Then put it on a big plate and add the toppings. Do this for all batches. Now it's ready to be shared and eaten.

Best enjoyed together with miso soup and cold mugen (barley) tea.


Seriously good stuff.

~Soma

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Slaytanic Cheese Bread

If you're bored on a day off and there's nothing on TV that you haven't seen before other than Nigerian soap operas (we've all been there), why not have a go at baking your own bread?  It truly is one of life's great pleasures - I'd put it right up there with pressing the button at the zebra crossing so that the cars all have to stop and then just walking off.

Home-made bread is a thing of beauty, and it provides a great opportunity to experiment with different flavours, such as this cheesy monstrosity.  Nice crunchy crust and soft moist centre - job done.  Best enjoyed in nice thick slices with loads of butter while it's still warm.

Ingredients:
  • 650g strong white bread flour
  • Pinch of salt (not too much)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • About 300g extra mature cheddar, grated
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 7g packet of dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Jug of warm water
Method:
  1. Mix your dry ingredients and mustard together in the biggest bowl you've got (sieve the flour in).  Create a well in the centre and add a little water.  Mix it in with your hands.  Keep doing this until you've got a big ball of dough.  If it's really too wet then add a little more flour, but don't go too crazy as a dry dough is a crap dough.  Knead it in the bowl using your palm heel for about 10 minutes (this avoids the need to make a load more mess on your worktop), really stretching it out, then make some slashes in the top (such as my awesome pentagram pattern above), cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place for about an hour so that it can rise.
  2. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees.  When you're happy with the size of your dough, put it on a baking tray in the oven with a pan full of water on the shelf below - this will keep the bread moist in the middle.  After about half an hour, your bread should be ready - test it by tapping the bottom to see if it sounds hollow.
  3. Let it cool down for about fifteen minutes before you dive in.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

On proper cooking

Recently a couple of friends and I had the idea of getting together to write a student cookbook and see if we could get it published.  That project now seems to be on hiatus while we all deal with unexpectedly busy periods in our lives.  But something occurred to me in the preliminary stages that, to my mind, highlights a problem with the way most of us look at food that sometimes holds us back from cooking decent meals and experiencing the pleasure and health benefits that go with it.

If you go into a bookshop and look at the cookery section, you will notice that vast swathes of it have titles like "[Insert foreign food type here] Made Easy" and "Retard-Proof Student Cooking - Recipes with just two ingredients!".  The selling tactic they use is to perpetuate the myth that basic home cooking is something we're not capable of and we need them to give us simpler alternatives.  And it's not just in the cookbooks either - our fear of proper cooking is played upon by processed food manufacturers eager to sell us some new gimmicky product.  I feel that this is a particular problem in the UK, because although we have all these TV chefs going on about how great our produce is and how proud we should be, the reality as I see it is that eating properly in the way that most other countries do is still a bit of a niche interest here.  Supermarkets are still steamrolling independent butchers and greengrocers, and even our chain "restaurants" and gastropubs are guilty of cutting corners at times.

But home cooking really isn't all that complicated in the first place.  It's a bit trite for anyone who's ever seen an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, but it bears repeating: get good quality ingredients and you will be able to make nice home food without either mucking about or having to resort to processed sauces in jars.  You don't need to be at Michelin Star levels - if you can make bangers and mash properly then you will be surprised at how impressed your friends will be in comparison to the crap they probably eat most of the time.  Most classic recipes, in fact, are fairly straightforward, as it's not all about poncey restaurant cooking.  So if you want tomato sauce for pasta, do what the Italians do and get some tinned tomatoes, garlic and herbs and chuck it all in a pan - it doesn't take any longer or cost any more.  If you want oven chips, cut up some potatoes, part-boil them for a few minutes and then roast them in the oven.  It's a small investment for a big return.

Shepherd's Pie with Ultimash

Shepherd's pie is like Top Gear - you've seen every incarnation a million times before, you know it's not aiming for the stars, but you don't care because, at the end of the day, nothing entertains you more.  Except maybe lap dancing.

Shepherd's pie is one of my all-time favourite dishes.  It won't win Michelin stars, but it's a simple and delicious way to take care of dinner for your family or a few of your mates - make extra as they will want seconds.  It relies on a simple but effective combination of comforting earthy flavours - and in a climate like ours, you need as much of that as you can get!  The mashed potato here is cooked with the skin on ("madness!" I hear you cry) to keep all of the flavour in, and when it's on top of the pie it starts to dissolve into the gravy to thicken it.  Use good quality mince, and English people, please resist the temptation to smother it in instant Bisto crap!

Ingredients:

  • 800g good minced lamb
  • 1 x large white onion
  • 2 x proper-sized garlic cloves
  • 2 x large carrots
  • 3 fairly large Maris Piper potatoes
  • 2 tbsps mustard
  • A few sprigs of rosemary or thyme, tied together with an elastic band
  • 500ml good lamb or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few small chunks of butter, according to taste
  • Splash of milk
Method:
  1. Clean your potatoes, then put them in a saucepan with cold water.  Boil for 45 minutes-1 hour until the potatoes are cooked through.
  2. Pour the vegetable oil into a hot pan.  Season the mince and season it in batches.  Let the mince drain into a bowl and reserve the lamb fat - this will stop your pie from getting too greasy.  If you need any extra fat in the pan at any point, use the reserved lamb fat rather than more vegetable oil as it will add extra flavour.
  3. Peel and roughly dice the onion and carrots into little chunks and cook them in the pan until the onions have softened and the carrots are golden.  Add some more seasoning.  Chuck in the garlic and a little bit of butter.  When the garlic is fragrant, put the meat back in, mix it all together and add the stock and the herbs.  Bring it to the boil, then cover and simmer for about an hour and a half until it's thickened.  Stir it occasionally.
  4. Your potatoes will probably be ready before the meat is done unless you're an idiot, so use this time to drain and mash them.  Cover one hand with a clean tea towel and use the other hand to peel the potatoes with a knife.  Put them back in the saucepan when they're done, either on a VERY low heat (gas) or just on the ring it was cooking on (electric) so that some of the water can evaporate.  Season and add butter and a bit of mustard, then a little drop of milk at a time until you have a smooth creamy mash.
  5. Stick the oven on at 190 degrees.  When the meat sauce is done, transfer it to a pie dish, discard the herbs and cover with the mashed potato.  Use a fork to score little peaks in the mash that will go crispy and brown.  Transfer the whole thing to the oven for about 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pastries of Death Part 3 - Eipnekcufesin

When I made this pie, the casserole dish I was using for the stewed beef cracked on the heat of the hob and the stew went everywhere.  Fortunately I was able to salvage it and make this pie, which served us well as pre-gig sustenance! \m/

Savoury pies are underrated (and very British) meals that are pretty easy to do and make use of cheap ingredients.  They're not always waistline-friendly but they're hearty, warming and delicious.  Plus there's something so appetising about opening that pastry lid and unleashing the hordes of flesh and gravy.  I made this one with beef and Guinness.  Note the "JHD" I put on the pie - a cunning reference to my legendary former band, Judgment Hammered Down.

Ingredients (to feed four-five English people):
  • 1kg good quality stewing beef
  • 1 x bottle/can of Guinness
  • 1 x 375g pack of ready-rolled puff pastry (nothing wrong with it, but if you really want to make your own, Delia Smith has a good recipe here http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/type-of-dish/pastry/quick-and-easy-flaky-pastry.html)
  • 1 x large white onion
  • A few thyme sprigs, tied together with an elastic band
  • 1 litre good quality beef stock
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Flour, to dust
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method:
  1. Get your beef out of the fridge about half an hour before you want to cook it and preheat your oven to 150 degrees.  Get your onion roughly diced into little chunks.
  2. Add some vegetable oil to a hot frying pan.  Cut the beef into bitesize chunks if your butcher hasn't done this already and season it well with salt and pepper (plenty of pepper - beef loves pepper like Dawn French loves doughnuts).  Lightly dust the chunks with flour and lightly brown them in the pan, then put them in a casserole dish - you may have to do this in batches as if you crowd the pan the beef will boil in its own juices and turn crap.  But on the other hand, don't be too overzealous with wanting to sear it - this is a n00b error that will make the meat turn tough.
  3. Turn the heat down a little and soften your onion in the pan for a few minutes with a little bit of sugar to help aid the caramelisation that will complement the bitter Guinness.  When ready, add about half a pint (Imperial measurements FTW) of Guinness to the frying pan and deglaze it by scraping the bottom with your spatula/a wooden spoon.  When it's reduced by about half, pour it (including all the onions) over the beef, then pour in enough stock to almost cover.  Mix it all up, chuck in your thyme sprigs, cover the casserole dish with foil, stab a few air-holes with a knife and put it in the oven to cook slowly for about two hours.
  4. While the beef is cooking, get a pie dish, put it upside down on your pastry and score around it so that you've got a lid that will cover the dish completely.  When the beef is done, raise the temperature of the oven to 220 degrees, discard the thyme and pour the stew into the pie dish.  Use strips of the excess pastry to form a lip around the edge of the pie dish, brush it with milk and carefully lay your lid on top.  Stab a couple of air holes in the middle so that it doesn't explode, brush the lid with milk and stick it in the oven for about 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
  5. Serve with mashed potato and steamed vegetables.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Sausage risotto with red wine and sage

Yep, it's another risotto recipe, this time incorporating a bit of sausage action.

Sausages and risotto are two very versatile ingredients, so why not use them together?  As always, I recommend getting the best quality sausages you can and decent stock.  The basic method for making risottos is always the same, so they're a great way of using up a few bits of whatever you have lying around.

Ingredients (to serve four reasonably hungry people):
  • 500g arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 10-12 good quality sausages - don't feel like you have to use "Italian(TM)" ones, I used nice cumberland sausages and they were great
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Handful of sage leaves
  • Glass of red wine
  • About 100g butter
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 115g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method:
  1. Heat a heavy-based pan to a high heat while you dice the onions and chop the garlic and sage.  You want to dice the onion as finely as you can so that the pieces mix in well with the grains of rice.  Chop the sausage into bitesize chunks.  In another saucepan, bring the stock to the boil and reduce to a gentle simmer - you want to keep it hot throughout the cooking process, but that's it.
  2. Pour a bit of oil into the pan and brown the sausage chunks on all sides, then remove to a pan and reduce the heat to medium.
  3. Sweat the onions for a few minutes until they soften.  Stir in the garlic, and when it's fragrant, add the rice and fry for a couple of minutes.  If you need to add more fat, use butter rather than more oil as you want a nice buttery flavour for the risotto - oil just has a higher flashpoint which makes it good for browning things on a high heat.
  4. Pour in the wine, bring it to the boil and reduce it to a simmer, all a while scraping the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon to unlock the flavour from the onions and sausage (this will also make it easier to clean afterwards).  Chuck the sausages back in.
  5. When all the wine has been soaked up, add the sage and a ladle of the hot chicken stock.  Season with salt and pepper, but don't go too bad as the sausages may be quite heavily seasoned already and you'll be adding cheese later.  Keep stirring the risotto all the time and only add the stock a little bit at a time, adding the next ladle when the previous one has all been soaked up.  This will give your risotto a nice creamy texture that will make girls want to sleep with you (fact).  Keep doing this for about 15 minutes (the stir/ladle process, I mean - get your mind out of the gutter) until the rice is al-dente.
  6. When the risotto is basically done, chuck in the rest of the butter and the parmesan and beat it in - this is what the Italians call the "mantecare" and it makes your risotto silky smooth.
  7. Enjoy with a glass of red wine and a green side salad!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Bacon and Pea Risotto



Risotto purists might want to give this recipe a miss. I break every rule in the Risotto book.

This can be a quick, simple recipe, utilising any leftovers and store cupboard essentials that you have. I have brown rice in my cupboard, so this needs longer to absorb liquid than white or proper risotto rices. But I do cheat. Big time.

For today's creation, I used the following ingredients:

1 medium onion, finely chopped (for finely chopped, read almost rice grain sized; the trick is to use a very sharp knife, and to take great care)
4 rashers of bacon (chopped into small pieces, but larger than rice grain sized)
100g rice (I was ok with slightly less than half of the finished product, but anyone with an appetite might want to use 125g or even 150g to serve 2 people)
Chicken stock (as it's not a veggie recipe, chicken stock will suffice. Veggies looking to adapt this recipe should obviously choose vegetable stock or bouillon)
A splash of milk
Peas (add as few or as many as you like)

Rather than bacon, you could use roast chicken, pork, lamb or beef from your Sunday roast. Chorizo also works quite nicely, and gives the risotto a lovely colour.

Veggies can make the risotto without meat, obviously, and you can always substitute corn for peas, or use both.

As I was using uncooked bacon, I heated a large saucepan (a saute pan would have been just as good, but I don't have one) without any oil. The bacon will release fat and water as it cooks, and I don't feel the need to add extra fat to the dish. I dry-fried until the rind was cooked.

If I was using leftover cooked meat, I would use a small amount of olive oil, and go straight to the softening of the onions stage, adding my meat once the onions were translucent.

Once the onions are translucent, and you have cooked meat (if going for the carnivorous version), add the rice, and "fry" for a few minutes. Doing this with a risotto apparently breaks the grain down to enable the rice to absorb moisture, or something. As with onions, rice looks translucent when it's done.

Add the stock to the pan. Proper risotto is a laborious process that involves you standing over the pan adding the stock in small amounts. I make sure that the rice is covered with fluid, and leave for about 25 minutes to simmer. I also added a splash of milk, to give the risotto a bit of a creamy flavour.

Check to see if your rice is cooked. If it is cooked, then spend the next 5 or so minutes reducing the liquid. It's at this stage the peas (and or corn) can be added, as this means the veg isn't overcooked.

Turn up the heat, and stir until the liquid has evaporated. As the rice hasn't been washed, the starch on it will help to thicken up the risotto. Once it starts to get to the consistency that you want, remove from the heat, as the thickening process will continue whilst the dish is still hot.

Serve, either as a meal in its own right, as a starter (if going for small portions), or to accompany something larger.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Lasagne





Lasagne is one of my all time favourites. Contrary to popular belief, this supposedly Italian dish is actually a British invention. Some time in the dim and distant past, my ancestors* came up with the idea of layering sheets of pasta with meat and white sauce.


*Okay, not my direct ancestors**


**Probably


My recipe uses minced beef. Veggies, or indeed non-veggies, may like to use soya mince, Quorn mince or just vegetables instead.

I'll hold my hands up now, and say I used packet lasagne sheets. But the rest is homemade. It can be quick to throw together, but the meat sauce benefits from pre-cooking, which puts people off. The sauce can, however, be made in advance.

The Béchamel must be fresh.

For the meat sauce (which serves 2) you will need:

Minced beef - I used 100g of frozen
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, but crushed will do
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Tomato purée
Basil
Oregano
Parsley
Baby plum tomatoes, cut into eighths
Sweetcorn
Black olives, chopped into quarters

You may also use mushrooms, if you are that way inclined. I'm not. Similarly, you can leave out the additional toms, olives and corn.

Heat some olive oil in a pan over a medium heat, add the onion and garlic, and soften for at least 5 minutes.
Add the mince, and brown. You might need to turn the heat up, but  be careful not to burn the ingredients.

If you are using soya mince, or Quorn, you won't need to brown it, and can move to the next stage.
Add the tomato purée; I would actually add more, a good 3 heaped dessert spoons from a jar, but I only had few measly squirts from a tube.
Add the remaining ingredients, and leave to simmer until any water has reduced. The key to having defined layers is a nice thick meat sauce.
Make a White Sauce; add fresh, ground nutmeg to the sauce, and it adds a new dimension to your lasagne. Seriously.

Assemble the lasagne. I wanted lots of layers, so constructed it in the middle of an oven-proof dish.

Top with grated parmesan, or if you've forgotten to buy some, ahem, grated cheddar will do.

I baked mine in the oven for 20 minutes at 190°C, as I like my pasta slightly al dente. Leave it stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. This again helps to keep the separate layers.

Enjoy with a glass of Valpolicella!

Back to Basics: White Sauce

Talking to my friends, many are terrified by the basic "White Sauce", which can be used in a variety of recipes, it really is that versatile. Crack it, and you're repertoire may include Parsley Sauce, Fish Pie, Chicken Supreme, Lasagne etc. Most would rather use a jar or packet on the basis that they won't get a lumpy, tasteless gloop, but really, it's not that difficult.


The key to a good White Sauce, or Béchamel if you want to be posh, is patience, however it doesn't take that long to make.

Follow this step by step guide to creating the perfect base for bigger things....

I have not included a list of quantities, as the amount depends upon how much sauce you want to make, and how thick you want it. The ingredients that you will need are:

Butter
Flour
Milk
Salt & pepper to season

The nature of the ingredients means that sometimes you will need more milk than the last time. Or you might need less. I work on the principle of 2 parts flour to 1 part butter. It works for me.


Melt some butter in a pan on a medium heat.
On this occasion, I used a dessert spoon of butter.

I also added my seasoning and some grated nutmeg, as I was making this sauce for a lasagne.
Add the flour; I prefer to use a whisk, as it mixes better. You can buy whisks designed for sauces, but as you can see, I make do with a balloon whisk.

"Cook" for 3-4 minutes or so; this should stop the sauce tasting of flour.

Stir regularly.
Remove the pan from the heat.

Add a small, and I mean small, dash of milk, and stir. The heated flour/butter mix means it will become a congealed blob. This is good.

DON'T PANIC!
Continue to add milk, a small amount at a time. If you do it slowly, you won't get any lumps. Trust me.
Keep on whisking in more milk until you have a liquidy mix that is not as thick as you want it. The sauce will thicken when it's returned to the heat.

Don't add too much milk at this stage; you can add it later, if your sauce is too thick.
Return the pan to the heat, and stir until the sauce is close to the desired thickness.

Remove from the heat and keep stirring; the sauce will continue to thicken, which is why you take it off before you get there.

If your sauce is too thick, slowly add more milk until you get the consistency that you want.

Once you've made the sauce, you can add your flavours, be it parsley, cheese, tarragon. And there you have it!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Lamb Tagine


Another dish that has become popular following its appearance on certain TV cookery competitions, the Lamb Tagine is a Moroccan based slow cooked stew. But a bit spicy.

I looked at a few recipes, and then experimented. As you can see from the pic, it was a bit "sloppy", but it still tasted great, and the OH recommended mopping this up with toasted pitta bread.

For this dish, I actually used:

A 266g pack of lamb neck fillet - other recipes will say shoulder, but I couldn't get any. Neck's nearly shoulder, anyway....
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Water - to wash out the tin, and the saucepan at the same time. In future, I will skip this.
½ pint of lamb stock - in future I would reduce this to 
50g flaked almonds - I didn't actually use this, as I had run out, so threw in some ground almonds instead.
A few squirts of tomato purée

The spice mix, which will need preparing in advance is:

¼ tsp cayenne pepper - in future, I will leave this out. You can increase if you like it spicy.
1 tsp ground/crushed black pepper
¾ tsp paprika
¾ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp turmeric
2 tsp  ground cinnamon

Chop the lamb into mouth-sized chunks, and marinate, preferably overnight, in half of the spice mix.

Remove from the fridge, where you should store it, about half an hour before you start cooking.




Chop the onion.
Heat the oil over a medium heat, and add the onion and remaining spices.
Soften the onion for 5-10 mins, depending on how thickly or thinly you've chopped the onion.
Added the garlic, either crushed, grated or finely chopped around the middle part of this stage.
 Once the onions have softened, add the marinated lamb, and brown. You might need to turn the heat up but remember, you don't want to burn the onion, garlic or spices, or you'll end up with a bitter flavour, not a sweet, fragrant one.
 Add the tomatoes and stock, and heat until it starts to bubble.
Purists would also add apricots, dates, and sultanas, but we are not fans of fruit in savoury dishes (yes, I know, tomato is a fruit...)
Carefully transfer to a casserole dish, or a tagine dish.
If you're really posh though, you'll have a casserole dish that you can do all of the above in. I am not that posh.
At this stage, I used a tin full of water but will not bother in future.


I covered the dish, and placed in an oven pre-heated to 150°C or Gas Mark 2 for 90 minutes. I found that the liquid hadn't reduced enough, so added the tomato purée and gave it another 20 minutes at 170°C for 20 minutes. The lamb was, however perfectly cooked, and melted in the mouth.

I served this dish with my Moroccan inspired couscous, but you can serve it with rice, flatbreads, chips if you so desire!

Mo"rocking" Style Couscous



Who says couscous is boring?


Couscous is a versatile grain, and can be mixed with all manner of different flavours. It's quick and easy to prepare, it can be eaten as a side dish or as a main, and if you make too much, you can save it and have it for lunch the next day, instead of a dull sarnie. With the added benefit of not having to get up early to make it!

This recipe is inspired by the North African flavours; I used the following ingredients, and got a two "me" sized portions (one of for now, one for another day) and a "man" sized portion for the OH. I used:

100g couscous
1tsp cumin
1tsp coriander
1tsp paprika
10g dried onion - I prefer dried as it easy and saves on the washing up
1tsp chicken stock granules - veggies should use vegetable stock, or bouillon, obviously
handful of sundried tomatoes - chopped
handful of frozen sweetcorn - yes. Frozen.
1tsp butter - you can use olive oil as an alternative

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl, except the butter/oil, and give it a good stir.
Add the butter/oil.
Add boiling water until the couscous is covered.
Give it a quick stir before covering the bowl.
Leave for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, stir with a fork to fluff it up and to ensure all of the couscous has an even flavouring.

If you've misjudged the amount of water, you can either add a little more, or you'll need to transfer to a microwavable dish and give it a quick blast in the microwave, or a saucepan to reduce the liquid on a hob.

But it is really that simple.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Cheesey Caramelised Onion Tartlet





I don't often feel like cooking when the OH is away, cooking for one seems frivolous.  But..... I needed to use up some bits and pieces that have been lurking in the freezer, and one of these was some spare shortcrust pastry that I had used to make my world famous Cow Pie.


Caramelised onion tarty dishes are quite common place, but I remember the days when you could gauge the standard of a pub or restaurant by its menu, and the classier establishments would include one in some form or other. Quite commonly, it's coupled with goat's cheese, as the two flavours compliment each other very nicely.

I was shocked at how easy it is to make the onion part, and now understand why you can find it everywhere, including at least one weekly appearance on cookery competitions, or so it seems.

I decided to use cheddar, as it was the only cheese in the house. It's quite a nice, crumbly mature Welsh cheddar, and I was hoping that the strong cheese flavour would combine with the sweet and sour onion taste.

For this recipe, I used:

For the base:
Shortcrust pastry - I had some leftover from another cooking session, but you can easily find a recipe. It's basically plain flour, hard fat (butter, marge, lard or a combination) and ice cold water. If you have warm hands, it's advisable to cool them under a running cold water tap before making.

For the caramelised onion:
A small amount of butter - I used a teaspoon worth
1 tiny red onion - I was making just the one!
About ½ dessert spoon of demerara sugar
About 2 dessert spoons of balsamic vinegar

For the topping:
Cheese - I thinly sliced mine, similar to shaved parmesan
2 baby plum tomatoes, chopped (optional)

I pre-heated my oven to 190°C - it's fan assisted, so will be cooler than a normal gas oven; I would suggest 200°C. I am reliably informed that this is Gas Mark 6.

I rolled out my pastry, which had been left to defrost/chill in the fridge. I did attempt to shape it so that it was a proper case, but I don't own any tartlet trays, and I blind baked on a baking tray, so it flopped. You might be better equipped than me!

I placed some baking beans into the centre of my case (as it was still at that point....), and blind baked for 15 minutes. This is to prevent the tart from having a soggy bottom, so's to speak.

Whilst the pastry was baking, I made the caramelised onion part.

Firstly, I heated a small amount of butter in a pan at a medium heat; I use butter for the taste, and also because it requires a lower heat. The aim is to caramelise, not to burn, or fry the onion.

Add the onion, which should be thinly sliced. Make sure that you coat as much as you can with the butter, and then leave to soften, occasionally stirring or shaking.

Once softened, add the sugar, and stir.

When the sugar has melted, add the balsamic vinegar, and leave on the heat until the mixture starts to go sticky.

By this point, the pastry base should be ready. Remove from the oven, turn off the heat on the caramelised onion, and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. If you're tight, like me, you can also turn off the oven! I leave it to cool, as when I've made this using puff pastry, it is easier to prep.

Once cooled, top the base with the caramelised onion, and then the cheese, and then the tomatoes (if you wish).


Bake in an oven pre-heated to the same temperature as before.

Remove and serve warm; I had mine with some rocket (the only green salad I can eat) and a slice of Parma ham. I would say it was a total success, but then again I would!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Toad in the Hole

I believe in the old adage "ne'er cast a clout 'til May is out", and even though June is almost upon us, on a day like this, I crave comfort food. Something like Toad in the Hole.

The key is getting the batter right; not enough flour, and you end up with sausage omelette. Too much, and you've got a stodgy mess.

I have experimented and have come up with my ideal recipe. It makes enough for two, if you're not planning on having spuds with it. If you fancy mash or roasties, then there should be enough for four people. Just add more sausages. I prefer it without spuds, serving it with veg and  decent onion gravy.

One final comment; it's not a dish for the faint hearted. The fat from the sausages, if you're not going veggie, adds to the taste of the batter, and you will need a fair amount of oil in the dish in any case. I like my Yorkie pudding to be crispy on on the outside, and moist in the middle. Not uncooked, mind. The crispiness comes from the oil. Add less, and you will have a perfectly fine Yorkie, just not a crispy one.


Ingredients:-

For the batter:
½ cup of flour
1 cup of milk
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Sausages - 2-3 per person

Vegetable or sunflower oil



Add the ingredients to a bowl

Whisk vigorously

Leave to rest

Preheat the oven to about 220°C

At this stage, I add a couple of ice cubes - I don't know why this works, it does

Pour the oil into a non-stick dish - I tend to make sure that there is a 2-3mm coating on the bottom. Also bear in mind that if you are using meat sausages, these will release oil, and add to what you have

Cook the sausages for about 10 minutes

After the 10 minutes is up, take the dish out of the oven, quickly turn the sausages and then add the batter - the batter needs to be added whilst the oil is very hot, so be careful when doing this

Return to the oven, and turn the temp down to 200°C

Cook for 25 minutes



There you have it, perfect comfort food!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Eaten Back to Life

Interesting fact: there are no good Italian bands.

One of my favourite things to do is to make interesting recipes using leftovers - particularly roast chicken carcasses.  All too often we throw them away even though there are so many nice piss-easy recipes you can make with them.  For this recipe I'll describe how to make the stock and the risotto, but the stock is useful for many other recipes too and tastes way better than stock cubes.

Ingredients (stock - makes about 1.5 litres):
  • 1 x leftover roast chicken carcass
  • 2 x sticks of celery
  • 1 x large onion
  • 2 x carrots
  • 1 x leeks
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil
Ingredients (risotto - serves 4)
  • 400g arborio/carnaroli rice
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • A few handfuls of kale leaves
  • Chicken stripped from the carcass
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms
  • 6 x slices of good quality streaky bacon/pancetta
  • 1 x red onion
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • A few sprigs of lemon thyme
  • Glass of dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few knobs of butter
  • 100g freshly grated parmesan (not the powdered or ready grated crap

1) To make the stock, strip all the chicken meat from the carcass and set it aside in the fridge.  Heat the oil and chuck all the roughly chopped veg into a big saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the onions, leeks and celery have softened.  Don't bother peeling anything as long as it's clean.  Then chuck the chicken carcass in, cover with water, add the bay leaves and bring it to the boil.  Simmer briskly for about 2 hours and skim it occasionally.  Don't add seasoning at this stage as you will season the final product.  If you want to make this in advance, let it cool, then strain it and chill it in the fridge, where it will keep for a few days.


2) When you're ready to start the risotto, make sure you have your stock to one side in a saucepan and keep it hot.  Finely dice the onion, slice the mushrooms and chop the bacon/pancetta into small strips.  Heat the bacon in a heavy-based saucepan so that it goes crispy and the fat renders down, stirring and adding a little butter if necessary to stop it sticking too much, then add the onion and mushrooms and cook them gently until it's softened.  Next, add the rice for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time, and add the wine to deglaze the pan.


3) Using your wanking arm, keep stirring the rice at all times - this releases the starch and gives it its creamy texture. When the wine has almost entirely evaporated, lower the heat to medium and add a ladle of stock and the lemon thyme, tied together with an elastic band.   When that has evaporated, add another ladle, and so on, for about 12 minutes until the rice is al dente.  Add the seasoning little by little and don't be too overzealous with the salt as this recipe contains bacon (which is obviously salty), parmesan and chicken that's already been seasoned from the first time it got cooked.

4) Chop up the kale and stir it into the risotto, along with the reserved chicken, for the last few minutes of cooking.  Beat in some cold butter and the parmesan right at the end - this is called a mantecatura and it makes a silky smooth risotto.

5) Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and serve it to your girlfriend, who will love you.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Έχω ένα Παρθενώνα στο παντελόνι μου

Ah, Greece... the land of Socrates, tear gas and Skodas with missing radiator grills.  How I miss those Erasmus days...

This was one of my favourite dishes during my Erasmus year and cooking it tonight brought so many memories flooding back.  Greeks use a lot of lamb and veal in their dishes because their pasture is not so suitable for grazing large adult animals - for that, you want a crap rainy country like England.  They have perfected the art of slow-cooking such meat to make it tender and delicious.  They also have a lot of pasta dishes, such as this, which is basically your classic lasagne al forno but with tubular pasta instead of lasagne sheets.  Make this in bulk, bring your friends round, crack open a bottle of Greek wine and enjoy!

NOTE FOR BRITISH PEOPLE: bear in mind that, like lasagne, this is a pasta dish with meat - not the other way round.  That's why I haven't used a metric tonne of mincemeat like I would if I were making shepherd's pie.  Also, don't overcook your pasta unless you're a school dinner lady called Pat.

Ingredients (to feed six Greeks/four Brits):
  • 500g good quality minced lamb
  • 1 x 400g tin of Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • 1 x red onion
  • 1 x carrot
  • About a third of a bottle of red wine
  • 3 x rosemary sprigs
  • 250-300g penne/macaroni/whatever the Greeks call their version
  • 600ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A bit of grated nutmeg (to taste)
  • 50g (roughly - use what you like) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotiri if you can get it)
Method:

Meat sauce
  1. Get your lamb mince out of the fridge about half an hour in advance so it can adjust to room temperature.  Get your frying pan very hot and add a little olive oil - not too much as lamb is very fatty.  Sear the mince in batches, removing each batch when it's lightly browned.  Season each batch in turn.  Drain the mince into a bowl using a strainer so that your meat sauce doesn't get too greasy, but reserve the collected fat.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium.  Top and tail the carrots.  Slice the onions in half, cut off the offending protuberances and peel them.  Grate the carrots and onions into the pan and sweat them for a few minutes.  If you need more fat in the pan, use some of the reserved lamb fat in the bowl for extra flavour.
  3. Finely chop the garlic.  Take the rosemary sprigs off the leaves and chop them finely too.  Add both to the olive oil and stir in.  When they become fragrant, pour in the wine and put the mince back in.    Bring it to the boil then reduce to a simmer until there's hardly any liquid left, which should take about 15 minutes..  Add the bay leaves and chopped tomatoes and, again, bring it to the boil then simmer it gently for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Use your spatula to break up lumps.  You should be left with a thick, smooth meat sauce.  Discard the bay leaves when it's finished.
Cheese sauce

  1. Go and have a cup of tea and watch the One Show or something, then melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat.  Stir in the flour bit by bit - you may only need 50g but you should get a paste (called a "roux", for future reference).  Stir in the milk a bit at a time until you have a thick but smooth white sauce.
  2. Grate in a bit of nutmeg and some parmesan cheese according to taste and set aside.
Putting it all together

  1. Stick the oven on at 200 degrees.  Boil your pasta for 8-9 minutes (ignore the instructions on the packet - they're designed for old people who read the Daily Express and listen to Daniel O'Donnell) until al-dente.  Add a bit of the starch from the water to the meat sauce to loosen it, then drain the pasta.
  2. Stir about a fifth of the cheese sauce into the pasta, making sure it gets a good coating.
  3. Lightly grease a lasagne dish with olive oil and arrange all your components in layers as follows:  pasta, half the meat sauce, pasta, the other half of the meat sauce, cheese sauce, pasta, LOADS of cheese sauce, then grate some more parmesan over the top.  See above for an artist's impression of what this should look like.
  4. Bake it in the oven for about 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.  Leave it to rest for a few minutes, then serve it with a nice green salad on the side and a glass of red wine.