LASAGNE WITH CHEAT'S WHITE SAUCE INSPIRED BY SIMON RIMMER
I have to hold my hands up and tell you that I love a shortcut. If there's a way to do a few less lunges in the gym, I grab it. If I can make my breakfast the day before so that I can get those few extra precious moments in bed, I do it. If I can persuade my boyfriend / mum / dog for a lift to the station...I do and/or would. I have a propensity to opt for the shortcut and I'm not even sorry.
I'm not talking about the big things in life. Don't get me wrong, I know there's no shortcut to happiness or success. There's no substitute for working hard, being nice to people and getting stuck in, and I'm kind of glad of that. It's all about the journey after all.
People can be sniffy about shortcuts when it comes to cooking, but I my friend, am none such person.
When it comes to the kitchen, there are some great shortcuts. Incredibly easy ice cream made by whipping together double cream and condensed milk. Fold in some chopped up crunchy bars and pop in the freezer to firm up and hey presto! Or those little bottles of egg whites you can buy? Those are brilliant for when you just can't be faffed to separate out the eggs and can't bear the guilt that comes from the egg yolks sitting in your fridge for the next couple of days. Chopped chilli and garlic you can keep in your freezer? One of each please. Filo and puff pastry bought from the supermarket? A total time and sanity saver. I learnt to make both at cookery school safe in the knowledge it would probably be the first and the last time.
None of these things make you a bad cook or a lazy person. They are ingenious ways other people have thought up to save you time in the kitchen, and I am all in favour. Of course there are times you want to nothing but potter about in the kitchen, diligently feeding your risotto with more stock, or proving your dough or lovingly shelling broad beans. And then there are the other times. For most people, realistically, there are more "other times".
So when Simon told me of his mum's nifty little lasagne trick, my ears pricked up. Simon's mum makes lasagne with cottage cheese rather than white sauce. I've used yogurt before with great success in a vegetable lasagne but I liked the idea of the tangy-ness from the cottage cheese. Simon declared it to be his favourite ever lasagne and as a man with 9 restaurants, no less, I am going to take that kind of declaration seriously.
I experimented in my kitchen and played around with this idea and finally settled on a combination of cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, parmesan and eggs. And it's great! Of course making a béchamel (white sauce) isn't hard but this is even easier. Simply mix in a bowl and you're done!
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
500g mince beef
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1(125g) ball of mozzarella torn into bits
80g grated parmesan
250g lasagne sheets
300g cottage cheese
200g Greek yoghurt
25g grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan/160C/gas 4. Lightly oil an ovenproof dish (about 20 x 20cm).
Gently fry the red onion until lovely and soft. Season.
Then add the crushed garlic and stir for another minute or so. Add the mince and up the heat a little to encourage the mince to brown. But keep stirring as you don’t want the onions and garlic to catch and burn.
Once the mince is browned and there’s no hint of pink left, add the tinned tomatoes. Once you’ve poured them into the pan, fill the empty tin with water and add this to the pan also.
Reduce the heat and allow to bubble for 46 minutes until the sauce is lovely and thick.
For the cheat’s white sauce, mix together the cottage cheese, yoghurt, parmesan and eggs. Season this well with salt and pepper.
Now you are ready to get assembling.
Spoon the mince into the dish first, followed by the lasagne sheets and then the white sauce. Top the white sauce with grated parmesan and mozzarella and then keep going. You want at least 3 layers but I always try for thinner layers and see if I can get 4.
Top the final layer with lots of parmesan and some blobs of mozzarella and another grind of pepper. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until golden and bubbly and the pasta is soft when you poke it with a knife.
Serve with a crunchy green salad with a mustardy dressing.