Please welcome back John with his fourth guest post.
Ok, I didn’t mean to be overly dramatic with the title to this post but my neighbour and old housemate Mark and I were having the conversation the other day about if we were on ‘Death Row’, what would be our last meal the night before ‘the deed’ as traditionally prisoners in the USA were able to choose whatever they want.
Apparently this doesn’t happen anymore, only a recent change but could be another casuality of the debt that most western countries seem to have accrued. Anyway, some opportunists go for the full works with lobster or caviar etc, but since we’re talking about the USA here; historically the most popular ‘last supper’ is the double cheeseburger and fries. I digress.
My friend Mark informed me that his choice, rather flatteringly would be my pork lasagne recipe, that I’ve made quite a few times and get requests for at least once a month (usually more).
This got me thinking that I must for my next blog on here share this recipe with all of you lovely readers of Nat’s blog, this dish which has become one of my classics.
The official title is ‘Fast Lasagne With Pork and Spinach’, which we’ve shortened to simply ‘Pork Lasagne’. The recipe comes from Mary Berry; whom in my opinion is one of the most underrated cookery writers around today, generally famous for her cakes and baking but she has produced some extremely simple savoury dishes that work without fail, and are just what you want for that speedy evening meal. This is definitely one of them.
A word to the wise before we start; dont even attempt this without a good non-stick pan. No amount of oil in a regular pan base will stop the sausagmeat from sticking and catching which gives a burnt after taste to the whole dish. Trust me; I learnt the hard way!
For the Ragu sauce
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 450g Pork sausagemeat
- 1 red chilli, (de-seeded and chopped)
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 150g button mushrooms, sliced
- 200ml creme fraiche
- 100g fresh spinach
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Tomato Sauce
- 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- 2 tbsp of sun dried tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- pinch of brown sugar
- 6 sheets lasagne ( if using dried soak in hand-hot water for about 5 mins before use). I like using Lasagne verdi for the spinach connection.
- 50g strong cheddar cheese, grated
To make the ragu:
- Preheat your oven to 190c or the gas/American equivalent.
- Firstly heat the oil in your non-stick pan over a high heat, add the sausagemeat to the oil and whilst breaking up with 2 wooden spoons, cook until it starts to brown and caramelise. You should have very small bite size pieces of sausagemeat by the end of this.
- Add the chopped chilli, mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking over a high heat until the mushrooms are cooked (only a couple of minutes)
- Add the spinach and wilt down for a minute or so (dont worry about the water coming out of the spinach; this helps makes the sauce)
- Stir in the creme fraiche, season very well and bubble for a couple of minutes until the sauce has changed colour and slightly reduced.
- Turn the heat off and leave aside momentarily
Next simply combine all the tomato sauce ingredients together in a jug and stir well, and we are pretty much ready to assemble the lasagne!
You will need a baking dish for this that can take three lasagne sheets laid next to each other across. Give it a quick spray with cooking spray for ease of removal later
Spoon a third of the ragu into the bottom of the dish then spoon over a third of the tomato sauce, cover with 3 sheets of the lasagne. Try to make sure no pasta overlaps as this will cause them to stick together and end up being very chewy.
Repeat this stage with the second third of ragu and tomato and cover with the last 3 sheets of pasta. Then put the last remaining ragu and tomato sauce on top of the final layer of pasta, sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is golden and the whole dish is bubbling away invitingly!
Leave to stand for about 5 minutes before serving. Interestingly the original recipe does say it will serve 6; but whether my friends and I are unashamed gluttons or not or simply due to the amazing combination of flavours I wouldn’t bank on this serving more than 3 or 4! Must be served (and I’m gonna be bossy here) with a simple green salad and mountains of freshly baked garlic bread.
And as a final point before I sign off, if you are wondering what my last dish as a condemned man would be. Despite how much I love this dish and it has never failed me; I think I would have to go for some classic British Fish and Chips as my last supper; crispy, golden and with loads of ketchup!