Sunday, 6 January 2013

Christmas 2

This year I spent Christmas away with friends and didn’t come back until the 27th – so no leftover turkey or gammon for me.  It’s a bit of a shame actually as that’s one of my favourite bits of Christmas!  That is, other than watching The Snowman on Christmas Eve and the Back to the Future trilogy on Boxing Day (the latter still being the best trilogy ever made).

However, I had to see my family as well, so we decided to do ‘Christmas 2’ on the Saturday and I would cook.  There were 8 of us so, rather than going for the standard Christmas roast or buffet, decided to make something a little easier, and went for two different sorts of lasagne – a meaty and a vege.  I won’t give you the recipe for the meaty lasagne as there are hundreds out there – but a good tip (particularly if entertaining a lot of people) is to make the Bolognese base in advance so that all you have to do on the day is make the béchamel and layer it up).

 The vegetarian option was a Nigel Slater ‘mushroom lasagne with basil and cream’ and was genuinely a bigger hit on the day than the meaty version.  Try this one below and see what you think.  I served both with the standard massive mixed salad and some homemade garlic bread.  (Oh and photo coming shortly – had a few issues with uploading them).

Mushroom lasagne with basil and cream
Serves up to 6

2 x onions
3 x garlic cloves
Thick slice butter
10g packet dried porcini mushrooms
750g chestnut mushrooms
Handful chopped parsley
8 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
150ml double cream
750ml béchamel sauce (homemade or ready-made)
180g dried lasagne or 350g fresh lasagne

For the basil sauce
60g pine kernels
50g basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
Enough olive oil to make a thick, spoonable paste
4 tbsp grated parmesan

1. Peel and roughly chop the onions, peel and thinly slice the garlic and set them to cook in a deep-sided frying pan with the butter.  Cook for around 20 minutes until softened and they have taken on an almost translucent quality.
2. Whilst the onions and garlic are cooking, cover the dried porcini in warm water (barely 100ml), and leave to soak and cut the fresh mushrooms into thick slices.  Blitz the pine kernels, basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan in a food processer (or by hand with a pestle and mortar) and add enough olive oil to make a slightly sloppy, spoonable paste (you could also take the easy option and buy some good quality ready-made pesto).
3. 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, followed by the parsley, 4/5 tablespoons of the grated parmesan and the cream. Season with salt and ground black pepper and simmer and stir until the cream has thickened somewhat.
4. Spread a few spoonfuls of the béchamel sauce over the bottom of a large dish (40cm oval baking dish works well), then cover with a single layer of the pasta. Spoon over half of the mushroom filling, cover with another layer of pasta, then a second layer of the mushrooms. Top with a third single layer of pasta. Spread the basil sauce over the pasta, then smooth the last of the béchamel sauce over and cover with the remaining parmesan. Bake at 180C for 50 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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