Mexican Pasta Bake

I love being creative in the kitchen. And if you can be creative and use leftovers at the same time, then even better. I wanted to make a pasta bake for dinner last time and, when faced with the prospective of baking the traditional British tuna and sweetcorn pasta bake, I decided to give it a twist using some ingredients I had leftover in my fridge and cupboards. Mexican-inspired was the choice of preference after I found a tin of baked beans, the abovementioned sweetcorn and some pinto beans in my cupboard, but the addition of a half a jar of red roasted peppers and some chipotle paste helped the dish to come together. Very easy, delicious and can be made with a little effort.

20130726_200434

Ingredients

  • 500g fusilli pasta
  • 1L whole milk, at room temperature
  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g plain flour
  • 85g red roasted peppers, drained
  • 400g can of sweetcorn, drained
  • 300g can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 250g smoked cheese
  • 100g chorizo sausage
  • 150g can of baked beans
  • 100g mascarpone
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt & pepper
  • chopped coriander, to decorate

Method

  1. Start by making the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour. Put the saucepan back on the heat and cook gently to create the so-called roux. You should get a smooth and golden-tinted paste, but don’t cook it too long or you-ll burn it. Start adding the milk by pouring it gently into the saucepan and mixing it in with a wooden spoon. Keep on stirring over a medium heat making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture starts to thicken a little and covers the back of the spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove the bechamel sauce from the heat, season with some salt and pepper, then stir in the ground cumin, chipotle paste and chilli powder. Cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming on the surface, then set aside.
  2. Put the sweetcorn, beans (both pinto and baked) and mascarpone in a big bowl, then mix to combine. Add the peppers, previously sliced into small strips.
  3. Slice the chorizo into pound coin slices, then quarter them. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, then tumble the chorizo in and cook until crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain over some kitchen paper. Once cooled, add to the big bowl.
  4. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to packet instructions in plenty of salted boiling water. You want it al dente rather than mushy, as it will have to hold its shape. Once cooked, drain and tumble in the bowl with the beans and sweetcorn. Mix to combine and coat the pasta evenly with the mascarpone. This will prevent the pasta to stick. Add the oregano, then coarsely grate the smoked cheese and set aside.
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 180C, then take a big roasting dish.
  6. Remove the clingfilm from the spicy bechamel sauce and spread about 1 ladleful on the bottom of the dish to prevent the pasta from sticking to the dish. Use half of the pasta mixture to create an even layer in the roasting dish, then scatter with half of the grated smoked cheese. Cover with half of the bechamel sauce and spread it around.
  7. Top with the rest of the pasta, the remaining cheese and bechamel sauce. Bake it for about 35-40 minutes until slightly scorched on top. Remove from the oven and let cool down a little, then scatter with coriander and serve.

20130726_200428

Advertisement

3 Liqueur Cupcakes

These were the lucky outcome of a small experiment in the kitchen. It all started when I set off to make the Espresso & Brandy cupcakes from here. I soon realized, however, that I did not want to have to make some coffee just to use 1 tablespoon (especially as I have a 6 cup caffettiera). Instead of using coffee, I thought, why not use a coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua? Unfortunately (or luckily?), my liqueur cabinet is always adequately stocked. Not that I sneak downstairs when my partner is fast asleep and drink in the solitude of the night, but I do keep a good assortment of booze for baking and cooking. You would be amazed at how many uses a bottle of brandy can lend itself to. Anyway, I decided to slightly change the frosting recipe too, thinking 5 tablespoons of liqueur would have made it exceedingly runny. Therefore, I decided to match the flavour of the cupcake by adding some Kahlua, followed by some Brandy (the only one in the original recipe) and, weirdly enough, some Malibu (a coconut flavoured liqueur). The result was a deep success, with my partner (who doesn’t like sweet things) even declaring the icing reminded him of ice-cream. Yippee!

20130723_214303

Ingredients (for the cupcakes)

  • 185g unsalted butter, softened
  • 185g golden caster sugar
  • 185g self-raising flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp Kahlua

Ingredients (for the icing)

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g full-fat cream cheese
  • 400g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp Kahlua
  • 1 tbsp Brandy
  • 1 tbsp Malibu
  • cocoa powder, optional

Method

  1. First of all, line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases and pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  2. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, then slowly add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  3. Incorporate the flour and the salt, then pour in the liqueur and beat well until very smooth and pale.
  4. Divide the batter between the paper cases (I used an icre-cream scoop), then bake for 35 minutes, until the sponges spring back when lightly pressed.
  5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
  6. In the meantime, prepare the icing. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the butter with the cream cheese, then slowly add the icing sugar and use a rubber spatula to mix that in with the butter and cheese mixture.
  7. Using the paddle attachment, beat the icing on high speed until very light and fluffy, then gradually add the liqueurs, mixing well after each addition.
  8. Transfer to a piping bag with a star nozzle attached and, once the cupcakes are cooled, pipe big swirls on the top surface, trying not to break the flow and to pipe moving from the outsides to the insides. Dust with some cocoa powder if you want to.

20130724_070224

20130724_070232

Jewelled Couscous

I find couscous to be an extremely easy to use ingredient. All you need to do with it, really, is add some water (or stock, if you prefer) and let it stand for a couple of minutes, then fluff it up using a fork. I am aware of the fact real couscous is actually steamed rather than poached, but the ‘cheap’ version is so versatile it can easily be adapted to curries, stews, tagines or on its own, like in this recipe. Plenty of vegetables and extra bits here and there contribute to make this couscous dish ‘jewelled’ and speckled with emerald green, topaz yellow and ruby red gems. Quick to prepare, the overall idea is from the one of the July issues of the Good Food magazine, although as usual I added my personal twist to it.

In fact, this recipe is so versatile you can easily adapt it to suit your lifestyle and/or taste by adding cubed feta, spices, more vegetables, etc. The couscous itself needs a generous amount of seasoning as it would be very bland on its own.

20130724_195817

 

Ingredients

  • 400g couscous
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of half a lime
  • 250g soft dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 140g pitted black olives, whole
  • 140g sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • salt & pepper
  • coriander, to decorate

Method

  1. Place the couscous in a bowl and cover with 650ml boiling water. Cover with a towel and leave to steam for about 5 minutes, then remove the towel and use a fork to fluff up the couscous.
  2. Pour over the oil, lime juice, a good amount of seasoning and the ground cumin, then stir them in.
  3. Gently stir through the remaining ingredients and serve.

20130724_195807

20130724_195825

Water (eggless & milkless) Brioches

When you have been baking for a while, simple recipes are simply not enough. As a confident baker, you turn towards more complicated and challenging ways of making bread, cakes etc. That’s why when I stumbled upon this recipe twice on Italian food blogs, La Tarte Maison and Trattoria da Martina, I decided to give it a try. The concept behind it is very interesting. If normally a brioche is made with eggs, milk and flour, to make these small brioche (bun-size ones) you ditch the eggs and the milk in favour of water. The fat component (traditionally butter) can either be provided by lard, butter (ditto) or, in my case, oil. Martina from La Tarte Maison jokingly said that when this recipe came out on the web, her blogger friends and herself managed to try all ‘3 shades of fat’ in making it. I decided to use oil and the result is a very soft and moreish texture.

Making these is very easy and you will be better off kneading the dough by hand rather than in a freestanding mixer. It is easier to incorporate the oil by hand – if you do it in a freestanding mixer, the dough just floats in the oil and does not absorb it. However, I still put my dough in the mixer to knead for a couple of minutes once the oil had been worked in and this made it extra soft and pliable. The dough also needs to be rested in the fridge: this also makes it easier to work with it afterwards.

20130721_164601

Ingredients

  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 125ml water, at room temperature
  • 1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • 70g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 30ml vegetable oil
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or in a normal bowl), pour the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest, then add the water and mix it all together for 8-10 minutes on low speed.
  2. Once all of the ingredients have been thoroughly incorporated, tip the dough on a clean work surface and spread it out a bit. Pour some oil in (adding a teaspoon at the time is the best way forward), then knead that in, ensuring the oil if fully absorbed. If needed, put the oily dough back in the bowl of the freestanding mixer to knead a little bit more.
  3. Once all of the oil has been slowly worked in (it will take you about 30 minutes by hand), transfer the dough back into the bowl of the freestanding mixer and knead for another 10 minutes – the mixture should be shiny, elastic and smooth and come away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Transfer the dough in a bowl or a plastic container, then cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm environment until doubled (an hour should be enough). Punch the dough down, cover tightly with clingfilm and put the dough to rest in the fridge for 3 hours.
  5. Once the dough has been properly chilled and rested, remove from the fridge and tip onto a work surface. Use your hands to roll the dough into a long sausage, then cut it into 8 equal pieces using a small knife.
  6. Line a baking tray with some parchment paper, then use your hands to slightly roll each small piece into a ball and place them on the baking tray, well spaced. To give you an idea – I saw Paul Hollywood doing it on TV once – put your hand, finger down, in the shape of a cage around the dough, then roll each small piece until it’s completely round and resembles a small ball.
  7. Turn your oven on to 50C, cover the tray with a towel and put the small uncooked brioches to rise again in the oven (don’t worry, they won’t cook) for about 40 minutes. They should more or less double in size.
  8. Turn the temperature of the oven up to 180C, remove the towel and bake the small brioches for 15 minutes. They will be well browned when cooked.
  9. Remove from the oven, let them cool down slightly, then dust with icing sugar before serving.

20130720_174215

 

20130720_174201

20130721_164657

Summery Apricot Cake

I have to apologise for not having posted anything in the last week or so, but these past few days have been extremely exhausting. I am running behind on some work as well, which means I am neglecting my actual work too (not sure that might make you feel any better). Anyway, temperatures have reached an all time high here in the UK, the sun has been shining for over a week now (very unusual) and we are talking at least 23-24C every day (extremely unusual) with hardly a cloud in the sky (so so unusual). People have gone mental. Back home in Italy said weather would be the norm, with people actually wondering when the real summer would start. Here in the UK, people have rarely witnessed a heat wave of these proportions.

Therefore, let’s keep it nice and fresh, shall we? It’s summer anyway and a bit of fruit has never killed anyone. This cake is extremely easy to make and, if you don’t want to go mental trying to peel, core and quarter apricots on your own, you can simply use the tinned ones in juice you easily find in supermarkets (I did). Decorating this cake was also a really good exercise for someone with an OCD for perfection and regularity, you should have seen me trying to make all slices equal and placing them on the cake so that no gaps were left between them. I clearly failed, but that doesn’t matter, it still looks amazing. Enjoy this cake on its own or, should you feel extra indulgent, with some ice-cream on the side.

20130710_062645

Ingredients

  • 2 x 400g tinned apricots in juice tins / 800g apricots
  • 250g plain flour, sieved
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tsp ground cardamom
  • 4 tbsp apricot jam
  • icing sugar (optional)

Method

  1. Line and butter a 26cm round springform cake tin and preheat your oven to 180C.
  2. Wash and dry the apricots, then stone them and cut 400g into small cubes or, alternatively, drain and pat dry the apricot slices with some kitchen paper, then cut half into small cubes. Slice the rest of the apricot into regular and equal slices.
  3. Put the eggs and the sugar in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, then whisk until pale and increased in volume. Gradually add the ground cardamom and the salt.
  4. Put the mascarpone in a bowl, then work it for a good minute with a rubber spatula to loosen it up. Add it to the egg mixture and fold that in.
  5. Slowly fold in the sieved flour, then the diced apricots. Pour the mixture in the prepared tin, then bake for 50 minutes. Check the cake is cooked using a skewer.
  6. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool over a wire rack. Unmould from the tin once cooled, then set on a cake stand/platter.
  7. Warm up the apricot jam with 1 tbsp of water, then brush about half of it on the cooled cake. Arrange the apricot slices on top in concentric rows, then brush the rest of the apricot jam on top of the cake, making sure the apricot slices are evenly coated. This will ensure not only that the final result is nice and shiny, but also that the decoration stays in place.
  8. Leave the cake out to firm up or put it in the fridge for a couple of hours (better if overnight). Dust with icing sugar before serving.

20130710_062611

20130710_062619

Seafood Peppers

The jury seems to be out on whether we eat enough or too much fish on a daily basis. Some maintain the fish stocks are currently running out (and aquaculture is not helping in the slightest), while other believe we are consuming too much meat and that fish is a sustainable source of food. Whomever side you might be on, you surely cannot deny fish plays a very important role in summery dish. Personally, I love fish. I would eat it all year round, were it not for the price. And I do try as much as I can, mostly because it is good for you (and I’m not saying this just for the sake of saying it) and because, let’s face it, it tastes amazing.

This dish manages to combine vegetables and fish in a very peculiar and still tasty way. The peppers are slightly roasted with some olive oil, then stuffed with seamince (yes, that’s not a word, I know) and covered in crunchy breadcrumbs. The stuffing is both delicate and ‘meaty’ at the same time, which makes it a perfect main. It can also be eaten cold. The recipe comes from the July issue of La Cucina Italiana.

20130704_201533

 

Ingredients

  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 yellow peppers
  • 250g cleaned squid
  • 200g seabass fillet, deskinned and deboned – any other ‘white meat’ fish would also do
  • 300g crayfish
  • 150g rustic bread, sliced
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50ml white wine
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. Slice the peppers in half, remove the green top, the white membranes inside and the seeds. Lay them empty side up on a lined baking tray, drizzle some olive oil on top, season with salt and pepper. Roast at 200C for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the side.
  2. In the meantime, finely chop the garlic clove and the onion, then tumble in a frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil and fry over medium/high for 3 minutes, until golden. Add the seabass fillets, squid and crayfish and cook for 3 minutes, until slightly firmer.
  3. Add the white wine and let it bubble away, then turn the heat down to medium/low and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Cut the bread slices into small cubes, then tumble those in the pan too and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with pepper.
  5. Remove from the heat, transfer to the bowl of a food processor and whiz until smooth.
  6. Use the stuffing to fill the peppers and ensure you use all of it by pressing it down inside the pepper cavities. Scatter the breadcrumbs on top, then drizzle some olive oil and roast for 20 minutes (still at 200C). Remove from the oven, decorate with the finely sliced spring onions and serve.

20130704_201512

20130704_202039

Peach & Frangipane Tart

The perfect dessert to serve at the end of a meal or for breakfast (which is what I made it for), this tart is both delicate and delicious. It comprises two main parts: a sweet shortcrust pastry and a frangipane custard, which is a traditional custard flavoured with ground almonds. From start to finish it merely took me one and a half hour to make it and bake it, and that includes chilling times!

The original recipe also asked for a long rectangular fluted tin (approximately 12 x 35cm), but the same tart would look just as good in a round one.

20130707_120046

 

Ingredients (for the pastry)

  • 200g plain flour
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 100g butter, chilled and cubed

Ingredients (for the frangipane custard and decoration)

  • 70g ground almonds
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 20g plain flour
  • 30g butter, at room temperature
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 1 orange, zest of
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 x tin apricot halves in juice

Method

  1. First of all, start with the pastry. Sift the flour and icing sugar in a big bowl, then add the cubed butter and work it in using your fingertips by rubbing it with the flour and sugar. You should aim for a sandy texture. If you haven’t already, have a look at my shortcrust tutorial. Alternatively, you can put the ingredients in a food processor and whiz until combined.
  2. Crack the egg in a small bowl and lightly whisk it with a fork. Start adding it little by little to the flour and butter mixture and work that in. You might not need the whole egg. Don’t overwork your pastry but only ensure it is smooth and evenly combined. Wrap it in clingfilm, flatten it slightly and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Now move on to the custard. In a saucepan, combine the egg, egg yolks and icing sugar. Whisk the ingredients together with a balloon whisk, then sift in the flour and whisk that in too. Slowly pour in the milk, then combine the ingredients.
  4. Put the saucepan on a medium heat and keep on stirring with a balloon whisk until slightly thickened. This might take between 10 and 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to increase the heat or your eggs will scramble!
  5. Once thickened nicely, remove from the heat and stir in the ground almonds, orange zest and softened butter. Lightly scatter the top surface with some caster sugar and set aside.
  6. In the meantime, drain the apricot halves from the liquid and pat-dry on kitchen paper. I found the tins I buy yield exactly 12 apricot halves, which is perfect.
  7. When the pastry is thoroughly chilled, remove from the fridge and from the clingfilm, set between two pieces of baking parchment and start rolling out to the thickness of a pound coin. When ready, transfer to the fluted tin and press gently on the sides. Trim any excess pastry by passing the rolling pin on the tin. Chill for another 15 minutes.
  8. Pre-heat your oven to 180C and put a baking sheet in the oven to warm up.
  9. When your pastry case has hardened again, prick the base with a fork, then pour in the frangipane custard and spread it around. Arrange the apricot halves in rows of two all over the surface and lightly press into the custard. Bake for 35 minutes until slightly golden.
  10. Turn the oven down to 150C and bake for a further 15 minutes, to ensure the case is baked all the way through. Remove from the oven and, while still warm, use a pastry brush to spread the apricot jam on top. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

20130707_120026

20130707_120115

 

Chocolate Orange Mousse Cake

I remember watching the Great British Bake Off episode where one of the contestants (Mary Anne, if I’m not mistaken) created this beautifully complicated cake and left the judges amazed at such precision and skill. Back then, I thought I didn’t stand a chance. But then I gave it a try. And it might not look exactly like the one she made, but believe me it was a blast and it went down a treat with my work colleagues.

It’s not an easy cake and it takes long to make, mostly because of all the stages involved and the chilling times needed for the cake to set. The original recipe required me to decorate the top with a jelly-like concoction made with orange juice and arrowroot but, as I didn’t want to have to buy another ingredient for a one-off cake, I decided to leave it plain. The mousse has a strong orange flavour anyway, the jelly top can easily be left out.

20130624_062229

 

Ingredients (for the paste)

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 110g plain flour, sifted
  • orange food colouring (I used red + yellow)

Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 4 large eggs
  • 15g caster sugar
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • 25g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 55g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Ingredients (for the mousse)

  • 175g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up, melted and cooled
  • grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed orange
  • 1 tsp powdered gelatine
  • 2 large eggs
  • 300ml double cream, whipped

Ingredients (for the decoration)

  • 200ml double cream, whipped
  • zest of an orange
  • grated chocolate

Method

  1. First of all, make the paste. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the egg whites and continue whisking for 2 minutes. Sift the flour into the bowl and fold in. Add a little food colouring to tint the paste a light orange. Transfer to a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
  2. Line 2 rectangular baking trays (approximately 31.5 x 25.5cm), then pipe the orange paste in swirls over them, creating an artistic and curly design. Transfer to the freezer and chill until rock solid.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C and now make the sponge mixture.
  4. Put the egg whites into the mixer bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks. Add the caster sugar and continue to whisk until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
  5. In another large bowl with the mixer on medium speed, whisk together the almonds, icing sugar and whole eggs for about 3 minutes or until very light, thick and increased in volume. Sift the flour and cocoa on top of the mixture and gently fold in with a rubber spatula. Fold the meringue in three batches.
  6. Take the trays out of the freezer, then use a palette knife to spread the mixture over the paste and cover all of the gaps. Ensure the mixture is spread evenly, even in the corners. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the sponge has risen and springs back when pressed. Remove from the oven and set over a wire rack to cool.
  7. Take a 20cm springform tin and measure its height – that will be the thickness of your sponge strips. Transfer the cooled sponges to a towel, then cut long strips from the longer side using a very sharp knife. Place the sponge strips inside the tin to line the sides, patterned side against the tin. You should only need 2 strips to line the whole tin, but if you need more, make sure the ends of each are tightly pressed against the ends of the other.
  8. Cut a circle from one of the sponge sheets to fit the inside of the tin and place that on the bottom (patterned side against the tin, again). This will be your top. Reserve the remainder of the sponge sheets.
  9. Now move on to the mousse. Strain the orange juice through a fine mesh sieve into a small heatproof bowl, then sprinkle the gelatine and leave to rest for about 3 minutes. Warm over a pan of boiling water until the gelatine has completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
  10. Mix the orange zest and egg yolks into the melted chocolate, then gradually stir in the gelatine mixture followed by the whipped cream. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold those in as well. Very important! Ensure all of these ingredients are at the same temperature.
  11. Pour the mousse into the cake-lined tin. Cut another circle of sponge (or use pieces of it) to close the top of the cake. Chill in the fridge for at least 5 hours, best if overnight.
  12. Once ready to decorate, transfer the whipped cream to a piping bag equipped with a star nozzle, then pipe small stars around the outer top edge of the cake and decorate with the orange zest and grated chocolate.

20130624_062251

20130624_062259

Courgette Pesto Lasagna

My mum makes a mean vegetarian lasagna. And, as I discovered over the past few days, it’s the simplicity of homemade Italian dishes which I probably miss the most. And, weirdly enough, it wasn’t until now that I realised this, probably inspired by the small trip back home I embarked on to attend the wedding of a very good friend. It always amazes me how tasty Italian produce can be if compared to the one found in the UK (not to mention the size), so much so it needs very little manipulation to create a very interesting and effective dish.

This is a very creamy and tangy lasagna, full of flavour and very easy to assemble. I used mushrooms for extra meatiness and flavour, but mostly because after our weekly shopping trip today I realised my partner had slipped them in the trolley by pure accident. The recipe is so easy and immediate adding them felt like the right thing, but please feel free to use other vegetables to suit your taste and preference.

20130703_204706

Ingredients

  • 600g courgettes (3 big ones)
  • 1l whole milk + 150ml
  • 200g smoked cheese, coarsely grated
  • 200g fresh lasagna sheets
  • 200g rindless smoked bacon, cut into strips
  • 70g cornflour
  • 60g shelled pistachios
  • 30g grated Parmesan
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 5-6 mint leaves, freshly picked
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. First of all, get the courgettes ready. Wash them, then cut the ends off and slice lengthways. Arrange them cut side up on a lined baking tray, then drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Finely chop the mint leaves and scatter on top, then roast at 180C for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the courgettes from the oven, then put them aside to cool. Once cool, cut them into small cubes and blend them in a food processor together with the pistachios, lemon juice, 60ml water, 30ml olive oil and some salt. This will be your pesto. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan, then tumble in the bacon strips and fry until crispy. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper. Tumble in the mushrooms and leave to cook in the bacon fat for about 7 minutes or until just softened. Remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the litre of milk into a saucepan, season with some salt and pepper and bring to the boil. In the meantime, mix the cornflour and the remaining 150ml milk in a jug. When the milk comes to the boil, pour the milky mixture in and let it come back to the boil, then tip in the grated Parmesan, stir that in and remove from the heat. This will be your white sauce.
  5. Spread some butter in a high-sided roasting dish (I used my Le Creuset cast iron pan), then spoon about 1 ladleful of the white sauce and spread it around. Top with enough lasagna sheets to create a nice and even layer, then top with more white sauce (about 1 ladleful again), scatter some of the bacon strips on top, then dollop about a third of the courgette pesto on it, scatter about a third of the grated smoked cheese and top with about half of the mushroom slices. Cover with some more lasagna sheets and repeat until you run out of all the ingredients.
  6. Bake in a preheat oven to 180C for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it stand for about 10 minutes, then dive in!

20130703_204717

20130703_204725