This great big plate of vegetarian delight comes from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries.
It’s something of a cooking marathon his – I think that beginning to end took about 2 hours. That’s because you have to cook the mushrooms and onions, plus you have to make the pesto, and in our case we also had to make béchamel sauce. None of these tasks are particularly strenuous, but together they add to the time and coordination required.
Once you’ve got everything ready, alternating layers of pasta and mushroom filling are put into a dish, and then topped out with the pesto and finally the béchamel. It takes about 40 minutes in oven at the end, so this clearly isn’t a quick thing to throw together but the end result is a really nice take on lasagne and despite being vegetarian it completely satisfied us two omnivores.
A friend of ours managed to cut down the prep time by using ready made pesto and béchamel sauce which still produced something tasty – you can check out the evidence on his Instagram here.
I can’t remember the official name for this one – it’s not polenta lasagne, but that basically describes what this meal is. What it doesn’t describe is the faff involved making it. This is another one from Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy.
So why the faff? Well, you have to make polenta and the described method takes 40 minutes. Then you pour it out into a layer and leave to cool and set. Meanwhile you have to cook various bits and bobs on the hob and leave them simmering for two hours. Finally, you slice the polenta and assemble layers of polenta and meat mixture before baking in the oven for another 30 minutes. The instructions in the book were a bit off as well – for example, advising you to warm the oven 2 hours before you’d actually need to use it.
To add insult to injury, I used fine instead of coarse polenta by mistake. Coarse polenta doesn’t flow as easily, meaning it tends to create clumps… not ideal, but I managed to beat most of them out during the 40 minutes of stirring over a low heat.
End result was nice, but hardly amazing. Polenta lasagne pretty much sums it up.
So the copy of Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy has been taunting me from the book shelf – I finally cracked and am cooking a few things from it this week.
This was the first. A risotto which is baked in the oven – less stirring which can only be a good thing.
All in all, it’s pretty easy to put together. It also doesn’t take too long – only about 15-20 minutes of baking (it’s amazing how fast and how much liquid the rice absorbs!).
This on wasn’t the prettiest meal, but it was tasty. It also made a huge amount – there was enough left over for a massive portion to take to work the next day. Once reheated in the microwave, the office smelt of porcini mushrooms all day!
A while back I bought a copy of How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food for the sake of completeness of our Nigella Lawson bookshelf. It’s very unlike her other books though – no pictures, and the focus is more on cooking things “the right way” rather than a quick way.
As such, the book has languished on the shelf for some time. But it does feature a chapter of recipes for one or two people, so tonight I used one of these – making it the first real meal we’ve cooked from the book.
We couldn’t track down any morels but used dried porcini mushrooms instead which worked really well. The chicken thighs were also supposed to have skin, but there was substitution in our online shop so we ended up with a healthier version through no effort on our behalf.
Served up with some mash and new potatoes, this recipe was a definite winner. The sauce was so creamy and tasty. I know we were supposed to use morels but we didn’t care – this was a delicious dinner.
Conclusion: How to Eat contains no pictures but don’t be put off – it contains some wonderful recipes.