Friday, February 11, 2011

My biggest baby is home!


After 3 day’s at school camp all I want to do is pick mima up, bring her home, get her cosy and feed her a delicious comforting meal.
And as I forgot to ask her what she wanted before she left, it was up to frank and I to come up with something special!
What do I usually make her when she comes home from camp? Frank suggests “Lasagne” as this is hand’s down one of Mima’s most favourite meal. 
Lasagne it is!
Depending on what’s in season, I have 4 variations on my lasagne:
1.      Traditional meat with béchamel
2.      Meat with spinach and ricotta
3.      Spinach and ricotta — and sometimes a little roasted pumpkin
4.      And last but not least, my most popular  - roast pumpkin, roast beetroot, spinach and ricotta.
So today after school, I will pop into my local (organic store) and see if they have any beetroot.
I always have Bolognese in my freezer and frozen organic spinach, so worst case scenario is the meat one, but Mima’s favourite is the beetroot, so fingers crossed.
And for the record this version doesn’t taste like its full of vegies. I once made it for Jemima and Frank’s whole school (200 kids)! And every child ate it. It is pink inside and is very pleasing on the eye and your tummy.
The roast vegies before and after
*Went to the farmer’s market and got beetroot, but they were quite large, so I only used 2 and I peeled them.
I started to prep the lasagne at 12.30, it’s now 1.45 and I’ve finished the roasting of the veg (they are cooling on the table snug under a tea towel) and the red sauce.
Snug as a bug 
I forgot the spinach (which I thought I had in my freezer), so I’ll have to pick some up after school.
You will need:
2 box’s of organic lasagne sheets or 2 packets of fresh lasagne sheets (I always grab an extra just incase).

325g Ricotta – give or take a couple of grams, mine just happens to be that much. I use the Bio-Dynamic Mungalli Creek whole milk ricotta
200g Frozen spinach – thawed in a pan with a little butter on low heat

¼ pumpkin; cut into large chunks, skin and all. Seasoned and drizzled and popped on a lined baking tray along with the beets and roasted in the oven on 180c until caramelised and soft. Once cooked, it will be very easy to scrape all the pumpkin flesh of the skins — and then you can eat the skins with a little sea salt.
4 small beetroots peeled or scrubbed and then cut into smaller wedges, as these take longer to cook than the pumpkin.
Cheese for the top – I’m divided, I think ordinary cheese mixed with good parmesan is fine for the top, but Jemima is a cheese connoisseur and always wants Buffalo mozzarella. So that is what it will be today! 
plus a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Red sauce

1 bottle of passata
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 onion cut in half
1 large carrot, also cut in half
1 bay leaf
A few basil leaves
In olive oil — about 3 tablespoons, fry off your onion, garlic and carrot on a medium heat, until they start to get a little colour. Season with pepper and salt.
Being careful, add your tomatoes and passata — stand back as it may spit.
Season again and bring the heat down to the lowest and simmer for about 30min (there should only be a blip — if you know what I mean) oh and pop in your bay and basil. (my sauce was ready in 45min)
This is just how I make my sauce. Of course would prefer to have my very own Nonna cooking it for me, but unfortunately, no can do!
*Remove onion and carrot before using, then use the carrot with pasta for baby's dinner.
(onion and carrot purely for flavouring the sauce)

Back to the lasagne-

Béchamel sauce:
I used Delia’s basic white sauce and added nutmeg.
the making of the filling
The beetroot/pumpkin mixture:
In a whizzer blend the pumpkin, beetroot, spinach and ricotta and a handful of Parmesan cheese, until it is a smooth-ish paste — oh and don’t forget to season. Set aside in a bowl.
OK let’s get assembling…
Preheat your oven to 180c
Get your baking dish and it goes like this:
1.A little béchamel and red sauce down the bottom of the baking dish to coat it. Then we start layering.
2.Pasta sheets, layer evenly
3.Then a ladle of red sauce, sprinkle parmesan cheese (just a little)
4.Pasta again
5.Sauce again
6.Pasta again
7.Your beet / pumpkin mix — use half the mixture and spread evenly.
8.Pasta again
9.Sauce again
10.Pasta again
11.Your beet / pumpkin mix — use half the mixture and spread evenly.
12.Pasta again
Into the oven....and out
Then finally the rest of the béchamel plus the last little bit of sauce, dotted all over the top and then finish with your cheese of choice.
Cover with wax paper and foil and bake in the oven for 30mins covered. Then check your pasta is cooked and rip the paper off and let the top turn brown and bubbling (it will need to cook for a further 15 – 20min depending on your oven).
I am going to have one happy 11 year old tomorrow  — well here’s hoping!!
Serve with salad or as Jemima prefers, cut up raw vegies.
To make this recipe gluten free, just swap wheat pasta for a quinoa or rice lasagne sheet's and swap béchamel for a little cream instead.

In the end with these ingredients, I have made one small Cannelloni PLUS 1 large Lasagne. The Cannelloni was eaten on Mima's return and served 2 or 3. The Lasagne was enough to feed 8 easily (eaten tonight by jemima's friend Layla and her familyand us)!
I even had enough sauce left  for 1 pizza, popped in the freezer.
It is really worth ago - even Frank commented on how good it smelt and her words not mine “one day far away, I might try it”. I’m happy with that!

Dinner last night at our house went like this:
Welcome home dinner for Mima – cannelloni with raw vegies
Frank – Pan fried John Dory with crispy pink (princess) potatoes and raw vegies

Wilco – Crispy pink potatoes with the leftover stock from the night before cooked with wilco’s favourite, carrots and rice to make a kind of risotto. It was delicious.
Max and me — the left over cold cannelloni from jemima’s dinner and wilco’s leftover risotto.

Tonight we all had Lasagne - except for frank who had a toasted cheese sandwich with vegies.

It’s always busy in my kitchen.....

©Michelle Schoeps 2013
All photos taken by Michelle Schoeps