Today’s recipe is not a Turkish recipe by any stretch of the imagination, so how has a recipe for homemade lasagne made it into our blog?
Well, you may remember last Wednesday’s blog post was all about our love for visiting Istanbul and, at the end of it, we said we would be in Istanbul again in April of this year – but we are only there because we will be en route to another city of the world.
That city of the world is Rome. We’re very excited to be going to Italy for a week to see some friends where we’ll have one night in Rome (yes, we know we’re not going to be giving Rome the attention it deserves in such a short amount of time but at least we get a taster) before heading south to our friend’s town of Monte Cassino.
The upshot of all that is we’ve got Italy on the brain at the moment and, as yesterday was Valentine’s Day, we treated ourselves to some minced beef (expensive in Turkey) and I made a lasagne.
Recipe For Homemade Lasagne
We’re quite fussy with our lasagne. It’s got to be homemade! While the invention of jarred sauces may have made life more simple and the making of lasagne much quicker, they’ve also taken away the flavour of what a real lasagne should taste like.
In this recipe, we’re making our own bechamel sauce and we’re certainly not going to be using a jarred bolognese sauce!
First of all, we need to prepare the meat filling.
- Finely chop two medium-sized onions, 1 sweet, red pepper and a green chilli (optional).
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions and peppers.
- As the onions start to sweat, peel and grate 1-3 cloves of garlic (depending on how strong you want the flavours) and stir the garlic into the mixture.
- Now add 500g of minced beef, mix it all up and stir it round until the meat has browned.
- Pour in a tin of chopped tomatoes (we usually use 3 large, fresh tomatoes but they’re not so red and juicy at this time of year) and a splash of water.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper, a splash of vinegar and half a teaspoon of sugar and a sprinkling of dried oregano.
- Mix it all up and simmer for around 20 minutes, adding a dessert spoon of tomato puree at the end.
Now the meat is prepared, we need to preheat the oven to 190 degrees and move onto the bechamel sauce.
There is a myth that making a bechamel sauce is difficult. It’s actually very easy. You just need to keep stirring, hence the lack of photos for each stage of the process. Stirring and snapping photos isn’t easy.
- Over the lowest heat, melt 50g of butter into a saucepan.
- Now add half a cup of plain flour a little at a time and keep stirring. Once you’ve used all the flour, your mixture will resemble a rich, sticky pastry.
- Remove the pan from the heat and, a little at a time, add 2 and half cups of milk, stirring all the time.
- When all the milk is used you should have a sauce resembling creamy milk.
- Sprinkle some parmesan cheese into your sauce (parmesan is really expensive in Turkey so we substituted parmesan for a handful of strong, grated cow’s cheese) and return to the heat.
- Keep stirring the sauce on a medium heat and after a few minutes it will start to thicken.
- When stirring becomes slightly more difficult and you can see the traces left by your spoon, remove the sauce from the heat.
Now we need to build the lasagne…
No need to be too careful with this; try to work quickly as your bechamel sauce will thicken as it stands.
- In a shallow oven dish, place a layer of lasagne sheets.
- Spread some of your meat mixture over the top followed by a thin spread of your bechamel.
- Now you need another layer of lasagne sheets, then meat, then sauce.
- Keep going till you run out of mixture. The final layer of your lasagne should be lasagne sheets topped with the rest of your sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan.
- Place your lasagne in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until it is browned on top.
About this lasagne recipe:
- This recipe makes 4 big servings. If you’re intending to have garlic bread and/or salad on the side, it will easily serve 6 people.
- Our oven dish measures 11 inches by 11 inches and is just over a couple of inches deep. Our lasagne had 4 layers of pasta, including the base and the top layer.
- As it was the only choice available to us, we used lasagne sheets that didn’t need to be pre-cooked. If you use pasta that isn’t quick-cook, blanch it first in boiling water for a few minutes just to start it off.
- The measurements for the bechamel sauce don’t need to be too accurate. We used a small coffee mug to measure out the milk and the flour. If you buy a pack of butter, the weights are usually marked out on the back so you don’t need to use kitchen scales.