This is the dish I made to go along with the spicy garlic-olive bread that I posted about on Wednesday. They did share the centre stage, both being recipes that I immensely enjoyed both making and eating. I felt a little sorry for the accompanying salad, which was an excellent supporting artist, but one destined not to be in the limelight because the other two were so outstanding.
The idea for the lasagne started with a Jamie Oliver recipe (a bit predictable as I’m having a Jamie phase right now) for a quick ragu – he calls his recipe Pregnant Jools’s Pasta and you can find it through the link. The idea behind it is making a rich pasta sauce in very little time, and as part of the recipe he breaks up sausages in a food processor to add to finely chopped and sautéed vegetables. The idea is that the sausages are already well seasoned, so they will replace the need to simmer a sauce for hours to make sure the meat is full of flavour. I initially wanted to buy some venison sausages and more or less follow his recipe, but I couldn’t find any on the day. What I did find was venison and pork grillsteaks, which I decided would work just as well. In fact, they may even be better since they don’t have any skins. This is what they look like to start with:
They have 64% venison and 16% pork in them, giving a total of 80% meat – the full ingredients list and nutrition content are available on Highland Game’s website if you want to check it out.
I put these together with some veg (and, technically, fruit) to make a lovely, rich ragu. This recipe makes four moderate servings, two of which I used in the lasagne:
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 red onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 sticks of celery, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- red wine
- leaves from one stem of rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 tsp juniper berries, well crushed
- 2 venison and pork grillsteaks
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 240ml boiling water
- 1 beef stock cube
- black pepper
First, finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and saute both in the olive oil over a medium high heat, until the garlic is fragrant and the onion soft. You’ll have to stir continuously to stop any burning.
Next, add the celery and carrot, and cook (still stirring almost continuously) until you can see the veg starting to soften round the edges. Now add a good splash of red wine, which should sizzle excitingly and make you feel like a proper chef, but without the hat. Unless you have a hat.
Cook until the wine is almost totally absorbed by the veg, then add the rosemary and the juniper berries, and stir through. Now break up the grillsteaks by hand into small chunks, and add to the pot. Stir, breaking the meat up with your spoon, until the meat is browned.
Put the tomatoes in a blender with the tomato puree and blitz until liquid. It will be a bit pink and a bit fizzy. This is OK. You can also use a small can (200g) of tinned tomatoes instead, I just happened to have some tomatoes going begging. Pour the tomatoes into the ragu, then add the boiling water and beef stock.
Stir well again, then bring to a boil. Allow to boil for twenty minutes, by which time it will be very thick and rich. Season with black pepper and taste. You probably won’t need any salt, with the grillsteaks already being seasoned, but you can add some if you think it’s required.
While the ragu is simmering, you can prepare the mushroom sauce and the salad. The mushroom sauce is so easy, some might even say it’s cheating. I would never say that. Oh alright – it’s cheating. Delicious, delicious cheating. This recipe makes enough for three thin layers, on a lasagne for two. Here’s how you do it:
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 150g chestnut mushrooms
- pinch salt
- 50g cream cheese
- 4 tbsp milk
- 20g parmesan, grated
- black pepper
Chop the mushrooms really finely, then add to a frying pan with the oil and salt. Fry them for several minutes, until cooked through. Add the cream cheese, mashing it a little to help it melt in the pan, then tae off the heat, add the milk and stir until mixed. Stir in the parmesan and, if required, more milk to make a thick but pourable sauce. Season with black pepper.
The salad I served was really simple, just rocket, cucumber and tomato. I cut the cucumber and tomato into wedges, put on a chopping board and covered with a good handful of rocket. I drizzled with balsamic vinegar and then ginger flavoured rapeseed oil, then scooped up into a fancy soup bowl to serve. I thought that dressing the salad this way might help keep it light and avoid a pool of dressing in the bottom of the bowl. Also I felt very avant-garde.
OK! By this time your ragu should be ready, so you can layer up the lasagne. The dish I was using, which is adorable and has polka dots, is an awkward size so I had to break up lasagne sheets to fit. If you have a dish that will exactly fit the lasagne sheets you’ve bought, or if you can make your own and cut them to size, so much the better!
Start with a layer of pasta, which will make it easier to serve your finished lasagne. Add a layer of meat sauce, then mushrooms sauce. Do the same again: pasta, meat, mushroom. Finally, add a layer of lasagne to the top, coat this with the last of the mushroom sauce and sprinkle over 30g of grated parmesan. then season with black pepper.
Bake the lasagne at 200 C for 20 minutes, until the top layer is browned and crispy round the edges.
Serve with salad and garlic bread.