Wednesday, 12 December 2012

LASAGNE ALLA BOLOGNESE





 This isn't the easiest and quickest dish to make, but it is always very welcome by everybody, most of all kids. A few weeks ago I had a few friends over for lunch: French, Chinese, German. I wanted to cook something typically Italian so I decided for Lasagne. You'll need 2 or 3 hours to make them but believe me, it's worth it. You can even freeze them and use when most convenient.


Ingredients for 6 people:

2 tins of chopped tomatoes ( or 750 ml Passata)
100 g Italian sausage or Pancetta cubes ( the sausage is much better if you find it)
1/2 onion
1 carrot
800 g minced beef (or veal, or half beef and half pork)
1/2 glass white wine
500 g di lasagne all’uovo ( I use the dry De Cecco ones)
500 g mozzarella
bechamel sauce
30 g grated Parmesan
salt
olive oil
1 liter chicken stock

For the bechamel sauce:

1 litre whole milk
a pinch freshly grated nutmeg
50 g butter
50 g plain flour

Slice the mozzarella and put in the fridge to let it dry.

Now make the ragu' alla bolognese:

Heat the olive oil in a hot pan. Grate the onion and carrot before frying together.
Allow the onion to soften before adding the sausage or the pancetta in the middle of the pan and stir. When cooked add the mince. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until all the meat has browned nicely. Add the wine and cook off the alcohol. At this point I usually mince again the cooked meat as in my experience it tastes much better ( here in the UK the minced meat is always too thick).
Then put it back in the pan and add the chopped tomatoes or the passata and allow to dry a bit. Then add some boiling chicken stock and cover. Cook for about 2 hours on a low heat (or until the sauce has dried.)

To make the bechamel sauce, first melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and using a wooden spoon, stir to form a paste. Over a gentle heat add a third of the milk, whisking to prevent any lumps forming. Add the rest of the milk a third at a time, whisking as you go. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Stir and remove from the heat.

For the lasagne, blanch the pasta in salted boiling water and a spoon of olive oil for three minutes, then put on a towel to dry.

Turn on the oven to 180 degrees.

Then start to compose your dish:

Spoon a third of the bechamel sauce into the bottom of a lasagne dish in a layer, then place some of the pasta strips over the top. Follow this with some ragu' sauce, some of the mozzarella slices and cover with bechamel sauce. Sprinkle some Parmesan then start again with the lasagne layer. Repeat these steps until you've used all the ingredients.
The last layer has to be ragu' sauce + bechamel sauce + mozzarella + Parmesan.

Cook for about 30 minutes or until the mozzarella is golden brown.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

RICOTTA AND SPINACH STRUDEL



After all the recipes for sweets I've posted ( I've realised later!!!!) finally a savoury dish!
This is a good idea for when you don't have much time. In 45 minutes it's done and ready. I often make this for dinner when I come back late from the kids swimming or gymnastic or whatever and it's a good way to make them eat spinach which is not their favourite food. The thing is, they love Frankfurters and looking for them, they necessarily have to eat some spinach as well!!!

1 roll of puff pastry
spinach ( I use frozen spinach)
1 clove of garlic (optional)
125 gr Ricotta cheese
1 small/medium egg
2 Frankfurters
salt
nutmeg
milk for brushing
sesame seeds (optional)

Defreeze the spinach by taking them out of the freezer a few hours in advance or, if you are late, using the microwave. Then cook them slightly in a pan with a bit of olive oil, a bit of salt  and a clove of garlic. When dry, take out the garlic and set thm aside to cool ( or put in the fridge to do it quickly!).

Cut the Frankfurters in small pieces.

Open the puff pastry sheet and put it on a piece of baking paper on a baking tray.

In a bowl, mix the slightly beaten egg with the Ricotta cheese, the Frankfurters and add some salt and some grated nutmeg. Add the spinach and mix well.

Turn on the oven to 180 degrees.

Spread the mixture in the middle of the puff pastry roll, fold it and brush it with some milk. Add some sesame seeds on top, brush with milk again and put in the oven.

Cook for about 30/40 minutes or until golden.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

CIAMBELLE ( OVEN BAKED DOUGHNUTS) WITH NUTELLA




The other day I've decided to make these ciambelle, but only later I've realised it's the same recipe of the doughnuts!They are lovely and above all they're NOT FRIED, so they're not as bad...and I felt allowed to have at least two at a time!!!!!!Nice for breakfast or for the afternoon snack. They are best eaten on the same day, but if there are leftovers just warm them in the microvawe for about 20 seconds.


Ingredients for about 15 ciambelle:

1 egg
225 ml lukewarm whole milk
120 g sugar
450 g (250 g Manitoba and 200 plain)
1 sachet dried yeast
100 g softened butter
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 pinch of salt

for the finishing touch:
melted butter
sugar
Nutella

Put the yeast in a bowl with the lukewarm milk and a teaspoon of sugar and mix well.

Beat the egg in a bowl ,then add the milk, the sugar, the vanilla essence and the salt and mix well.

Add 2/3 of the flour and mix very well.

Add the butter, one piece at a time,( when one has been absorbed add the other one), then add the remaining flour until you get a smooth, soft (but not too sticky) dough.

Then place it in the bowl and cover it for about an hour, or until the volume has doubled.

On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough to a 1 cm thickness. Cut the doughnuts with big round shaped cookie cutters, use a smaller cutter for making a hole in the middle ( I've used the oil lid!) and put them properly spaced on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Cover with cling film and let them rest in a lukewarm place for other 20-30 minutes or until when the volume has doubled.

In the meantime turn on the oven to 200 degrees.

Cook the doughnuts for about 6-8 minutes or until golden. When cooked brush them with melted butter, sprinkle some sugar and pour some Nutella on top.

They are best served warm.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

MILK BREAD




The other day I was craving for hamburgers, but after the recent bad pub experiences I've decided to try and make them by myself. I made the bread and the hamburgers and...what can I say? They were lovely, much better than those you usually eat at the pub...and if you make them,  for once you know WHAT you're really eating!!! I used 4 buns for the hamburgers and I kept the other 4 covered overnight. The day after they were still very soft.

Ingredients for 8 buns:

250 g plain flour
250 g strong flour (Manitoba)
40 g butter
10 g sunflower oil
20 g sugar
1 teaspoon honey
10 g salt
1 sachet dried yeast (7 gr) or 2 teaspoons dried yeast
300 ml milk
milk for brushing
sesame seeds (optional)


Warm the milk in the microwave for one minute, then pour half of it in a bowl with the yeast, the honey and the sugar and stir to dissolve, then leave to rest in a warm place for a few minutes. Pour the other half of the milk in a second bowl with the salt and stir to dissolve.

Sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the milk with the yeast and that with the salt. Add also the melted butter (cold), the oil and the sugar.

Mix to form a soft and slightly sticky dough. Add some milk or flour if you need it.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and lightly flour your hands. Knead the dough for ten minutes until it is smooth and pliable.

When finished, put the dough inside the bowl dusted with flour (remember that it has to be large, as the dough will double in size) and cover with a dishtowel. Set aside in a warm place (20 degrees) for about 1 and 1/2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, it needs to be knocked down by simply punching all the air out of it with your fist; the dough will be brought back to its original size. Now, put it to rest for other 15/20 minutes (covered).

Turn on the oven to 190 degrees.

When risen again, form 8 small balls and put them on a baking tray (be careful to leave some distance between them). Brush them with some milk, sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top, then brush with milk again.

Put them in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden.