Friday, 29 July 2011

Recipe - Potato Lasagne

Towards the end of term, I was getting a salad for lunch. The person serving me was someone to whom I had previously expressed the view that I was unlikely to feel satisfied by a meal without any meat or fish in it. At the time of ordering this salad, I'd decided to only eat meat 6 months of the year. (It sounds like a bigger commitment than it is phrased like that, all it amounts to is restricting meat to one meal a day, if that.) Vegetarian Friend: 'No no no. I agree that your meat consumption would be the same as if you only ate meat 6 months of the year but it's definitely not the same if you just eat meat every other meal.' Anyway, the person serving me expressed surprise and faint ridicule before deigning to overstuff my salad bowl (my fault - should've asked for more stuff). Yeah, once upon a time I held the view that without meat a meal was incomplete. And what? People change. Now, I admit that was a retarded view to hold and the not feeling full after a vegetarian meal was alllll in my head.

So anyway, this is all a segue. A vegetarian friend came to stay and I made the most of the fact that my parents are away (they try to stop me cooking because they think I can’t use knives and always burn myself) and I have a non-student kitchen at my disposal.

Pesto and Potato Lasagne
It’s a thing. So I was pondering what to make and Smitten Kitchen proffered this simple rocket and potato pasta recipe. But then I was doing some browsing and her squash and caramelised onion galette made me start to crave sweet onions. And then since I was thinking about potatoes and thinking about onions , I looked up some gratin recipes. But all the recipes I saw referenced winter in some way. So I thought about things which are summery which led me to thinking about potato salad and pesto for a while. And then some more browsing led me to pesto and green beans and pasta in one dish, a favourite of the Liguria region. Anyway, all of these different musings led me to decide to try out pesto and potato lasagne. I wanted the layering of a gratin, the starchy plainness of pasta, the summery saltiness of pesto against caramelised onions and the texture of potato. I figured it might work: I know the sweetness of the onions goes with pesto from a quick lunch I frequently make that couples the two with pasta. Surely, changing pasta shape and adding potatoes won’t change things too much..? Also I have great faith in unexpected pesto making things delicious: one time I wanted to use the remnants of the Sacla up so I stuck it in a Spanish omelette. It added a lovely silky wetness to the omelette that I usually get from the patatas bravas on the side.
Plus, I totally have Ottolenghi’s backing on this one.
3 small onions
2 garlic cloves
About 4 lasagne sheets (there were three lasagne layers and I used 1 and a bit sheets for each layer.)
500g new potatoes
(I don’t really know what measures of things I use to make a white sauce but I vaguely remember way back when I first read a recipe for it that it used 50g butter and flour and I think you use about 600ml milk with that. But I didn’t make that much sauce so I guesstimated quantities based on those proportions)
25g butter
25g flour
300ml milk
100g cheddar cheese
Pesto (quantity explained in a min)

Thinly slice the onions and the potatoes. Finely chop the garlic.

 Place the onions on a low heat with a sprinkle of salt and sugar until caramelised. Ottolenghi says this should take about 20 minutes but mine took about 25.

Make the white sauce: on a medium heat, melt the butter, add flour, continuously stirring to make a golden brown ‘paste’ (would you call it a paste?). Turn the heat down and slowly add the milk, stirring the mixture constantly to avoid lumps. Keep on the heat for about 7 minutes so the sauce thickens. Add a touch of nutmeg and cayenne pepper and season liberally with pepper. Stir in the cheese.
Toss the sliced potatoes with salt, garlic and enough pesto that it’s not drowning in it but is all nicely, if lightly, coated in it.

I also used Ottolenghi’s layering system: cover the bottom of the dish in lasagne sheets, then a layer of onion, then the potato, then the cheese sauce. Then repeat so the top is cheese sauce covered potato.
Bake, covered in foil, for 45 minutes at 190C. Uncover and bake for a further 15 minutes. Check the potatoes and lasagne sheets are cooked before removing.

Hey, look, my photos are getting better! Imagine what they'll be like in a month! (Probably not that much better but plz keep reading.)

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