As you know, my family takes food seriously - and in the case of my middle sister, Meg, wine. We learnt the basics from Mum and we all love to cook.
But in recent months, I've found myself in a bit of a rut, cooking a pretty standard and repetitive repertoire. Over the weekend I got out my favourite books, worked out a menu for the week, headed off to Fyshwick Market to stock up, then came home, turned on Motown 50 (in honour of my media advisor) and got cooking.
Here is Sunday night's recipe from Antonio & Priscilla Carluccio's 'Complete Italian Food'.
Meat and Vegetable Lasagne
Ingredients – for 10
900g (2lb) fresh spinach
150g (5oz) parmesan cheese, grated
About 1 TBSP breadcrumbs
2 large aubergines, cut into slices
5mm (1/4 inch) thick
450g (1lb)large porcini, sliced
6 small, thin courgettes
1 Recipe quantity of bolognese ragu
400g (14oz) Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Olive oil for frying
Seasoned flour, for dusting
Wash the spinach, put it in a pan with just water clinging to its leaves and then cook for a few minutes until wilted. Squeeze out all the excess liquid. Chop roughly and mix with 1 egg, 30g (1oz) of the grated Parmesan and nutmeg and salt to taste. Stir in the breadcrumbs to give a binding consistency, then form the mixture into small balls. Heat some olive oil for deep frying and fry the spinach balls until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Lightly beat together the 2 remaining eggs. Dust the aubergine slices with seasoned flour, dip them in the beaten egg and then shallow-fry them in a good layer of olive oil until golden. Drain and set aside. Shallow-fry the porcini in olive oil, too, then season with salt and pepper.
Cook the whole courgettes in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain.
Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/gas6. Roll out the pasta dough and cut it into sheets of lasagne. Cook the lasagne in a large pan of boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes or until all dente and then put on a tea towel to drain.
Take a deep 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inch) baking tray and spread a third of the ragu over the bottom. Cover with a layer of lasagne, then a third of the Fontina and Parmesan, then half the fried aubergines and mushrooms. Add more sauce and another layer of the lasagne, then arrange the whole boiled courettes on top lengthwise. Cover with another third of the cheese and the remaining aubergines and mushrooms. Finish with a layer of sauce, then the spinach balls and the remaining cheese. Bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove and leave to set for 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.
Tagliatelle Al Ragu Bolognese
Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce
Ingredients – For 4
500g (1lb) Fresh Tagliatelle
OR 400g (14oz) Dried Egg Tagliatelle
60g (2oz) Parmesan Cheese, Grated
For the Ragu:
55g (1 ¾ oz) butter
55g (1 ¾ oz) minced prosciutto fat or Pancetta
1 large Carrot, finely chopped
1 Celery stalk, finely chopped
1 Onion, finely chopped
100g (3 ½ oz) Minced lean veal OR Beef
100g (3 ½ oz)Minced lean Pork
1 Glass of dry red wine
A little beef or chicken stock
3 TBSP Tomato paste
Salt and Pepper
To make the ragu, heat the butter in a large pan, add the prosciutto fat or pancetta, carrot, celery and onion and fry gently for about 10 minutes. Add the minced meats and stir with a wooden spoon to break them up into smaller chunks. Cook for about 15 minutes to brown the meat, then add the wine and bubble for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate a little. Stir in a little stock to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and dilute with a few tablespoons of stock to give a saucelike consistency. Leave to simmer for 1 ½ hours, adding more stock if the mixture becomes dry. At the end of the cooking time, add a little more stock to obtain a smooth consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the tagliatelle in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain and mix with the sauce. Serve with the Parmesan cheese.