Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest Post: Homemade Pasta - Lasagne

A little while ago, my lovely friend Ash swooped in and saved me from another night of mother-in-law fare and arguing over which tiler to go with, and offered to cook me dinner. At her place. WIN. Now, if you knew my friend, you'd know that she has a lot of talents she keeps very well hidden. Such as this amazing cooking talent she claims she's too 'lazy' to use most of the time.. Now, Ash, you f**ked up. Cos now I know how much you rock in the kitchen. I suspected it, but this sealed it!

The tender, perfectly cooked pasta sheets, the tasty, savoury mince and the delicious cheese perfectly crispy on top.. This was one of the most delicious lasagnes I've had in a long time, and one that I'm definitely going to be whipping up at home (as soon as my kitchen is finished!)

And now, over to you, Ash! 

Wednesday night I had your favourite blogger, Polkadotcupcake, over for dinner at my house. In keeping with my new years resolution to be healthy and fill my life with GOOD things, I decided to make my favourite comfort food from scratch: lasagne.

Not only is it cheaper to make pasta from scratch, its tastier and healthier. And so easy to make. Total cooking time was about an hour, and this was to feed ten people.. Not that she and I eat for five people each... I have a lot of housemates. Total cost of the meal was about R90. Number of pots and bowls used: four. Could it be any easier?

Start off by making the pasta (recipe below), and then while it dries, you can start on the mince and white sauce.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the middle. Beat the eggs and olive oil together in a separate bowl, and add the wet ingredients to the dry flour mix. Stir until it combines and becomes a soft dough. Sprinkle a flat surface with flour and knead the dough for about 7 minutes. Divide the dough into 5 pieces. 

Now, pull out that pasta machine that’s been sitting in your cupboard gathering dust. If you don’t have one, never fear, you can do this by hand quite easily.

Flatten a dough ball in the palm of your hand and feed it through the pasta machine at the widest setting. Carry on doing this, closing down a setting each time. My pasta machine has ten settings. By the time you get to the smallest, narrowest setting, run the pasta through twice. Now either place it on a damp dishtowel (otherwise its going to stick to your table), or hang it over a clean chair. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.

If you don’t have a pasta machine, you’re going to have a fun time with your rolling pin. Sprinkle flour on a flat surface and start rolling until your dough ball is about 1.5mm thick. Repeat with all the dough balls. Place the lasagne on a damp dishtowel or hang it over a chair. 

Now you can start on the mince and white sauce. For the amount of lasagne I made, I used about 700 grams mince, two tins of tomato and onion mix and one onion {Editors note: you can use your favourite bolognaise recipe, or this one}. My secret ingredient is bisto (two tsp). I used about 1.3 litres of milk for the white sauce, and my secret ingredient for that is a cube of chicken stock.

The trick to home made lasagne is making it quite saucy. The liquid soaks into the pasta, softening it and allowing it to cook faster.

Start by pouring a little white sauce in the bottom of a large oven proof dish. Then put a layer of your fresh pasta in the dish. Spoon a layer of mince onto the pasta, and then a generous amount of white sauce. Repeat. I used three pasta-mince-white sauce layers. Put one last layer of pasta on top, and cover generously with the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top, and pop in the oven at 160 Celsius for half an hour or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. 

Take it out of the oven and leave it to cool for 5 minutes. Serve with a green mixed salad.

Homemade Pasta 

500ml (2 cups) flour
3 eggs
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the middle. Beat the eggs and olive oil together in a separate bowl, and add the wet ingredients to the dry flour mix. Stir until it combines and becomes a soft dough. Sprinkle a flat surface with flour and knead the dough for about 7 minutes. Divide the dough into 5 pieces.

White Sauce
1 tbsp butter or margerine
2 tbsp flour
(Note: no matter how much white sauce you want, you need to use double the amount of flour to butter)
± 1 litre milk

Melt butter in a pan, until liquid, but not brown or burnt. Then, add the flour, and stir to mix, incorporating all into a paste. While still over a low heat (or off the plate, if it takes too long to cool), add a little of the milk, just enough to create a more liquid paste, and use this opportunity to squash out all the lumps with the back of a spoon. This will help your final sauce to have as few lumps as possible. Once the paste is smooth, add the milk a little at a time, making sure to incorporate it. When about half is added, change to a whisk, and keep whisking until almost all the milk is added. Then, let it cook for about 5 minutes, whisking from time to time, to cook the flour, letting it thicken. If it gets too thick, add some milk, if not, remove from heat when thick, and add a grind of black pepper, or even some grated cheese.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011


So, you may have noticed that I've gone silent again. I could tell you why, but then I'd have to kill you.. Nah, I'll tell you. At the moment, my kitchen looks like this:

Ok, ok, I may be exaggerating slightly, but right now, I'm kitchenless! See, we're 1.5 weeks into revamping the kitchen (and downstairs loo and sunroom, and putting in a little pool), so the house is a bit of a war zone right now. In fact, 'a bit' is putting it lightly. We've knocked out walls, walls that were supposed to stay, have fallen down, we've knocked out the back of the house, removed the bathroom with shower, that was en suite to the kitchen (because you *always* need to shower when making dinner, right? No? That's what we thought, too.) In short, things are a mess.

And to top it all off, we've got the in-laws staying with us for the duration of the renovation, to supervise the builders, and make sure the dog doesn't kill them. Or the other way round, whichever comes first. So, every day I get home, dinner's cooked. We don't even go out (which I was sooo hoping for), because the in-laws aren't really out-eating people. So. Not much on the blogging front for me, though I am working on a few ideas for you lovely lot.

Bear with me, while I get a fancy new kitchen? Just to whet your appetite, I'll share some of our building plans with you, and let you in on my newest accessory..

We used to have the aforementioned bathroom-en suite to-kitchen vibe going on. It was very 1950s in the kitchen, though our house is a 100 year old Victorian row house. So, you can guess what we had going on. White floor tiles (why?? impossible to keep clean), funny little rooms, walls and weird corners. Not very user friendly, and blocked a lot of light. We had funny uneven cabinets, which I swear were put in by a dwarf without mathematical skills. The fronts didn't line up, they weren't all the same length, so much space was wasted. Urgh. It wasn't my favourite room.

At the moment we have a big, bricky hole. We have some holes where there used to be walls, and some walls where there used to be holes. We've moved the toilet (and removed the shower, we tend to shower upstairs ;) ), and we've created a lovely little sunroom/indoor braai room. It'll get lots of afternoon sun, especially in winter, and it makes our indoor-outdoor flow a little better. Ok. It *will* make it better. At the moment it's just draughty.

Future (ETA: 2-3 weeks)
We're putting in white Supawood cabinets, with a panelled groove running lengthways, cashew colour Travertine tiles throughout, from the kitchen, through the sunroom, to the guest loo. We're tossing between black granite countertops and brown Technistone at the moment. Just can't decide! And we'll probably end up with some kind of white wall tile, with a bluey-grey paint on the walls above the cabinets (we have extremely high ceilings, so the cabinets don't go to the ceiling.)

I've drawn up some diagrams to illustrate the changes (I'll try take photos, I promise!) I'll add a post on the sunroom (with diagram), with toilet, but here's the kitchen for now.

In the interim, bear with a sad kitchenless food blogger, wontcha? Thanks!

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