D's Cookery Corner: Learn How To Cook Italian

D is on a mission, his mission is simple: if he can learn to cook, so can everyone else. He wants to learn how to cook his own meals, we suspect this may be because he wants to make us redundant. He is under the misguided belief that if he controls the means of production, he can up the production but we all know this will end in only one way, at the barricades with him waving sausages at us and making demands about having supper before he goes to bed. There is something very Italian about his passion for food and his desire to taste everything, even when it is uncooked - we draw the line at him chomping on raw meat - so, this week we have embraced his Italian food tendencies and have decided to show him how to make Andrew's scrumptious lasagne. This is a lasagne that has meat in but Andrew points out in his student days and many days afterwards, he often dropped the meat and put in more veg. So, sit back, put your feet up and follow their journey into the Italian cookbook.

D's Cookery Corner: Learn How To Cook Italian

Like all good dishes it starts with an onion, Andrew shows D how to chop a medium sized onion, after they have both washed their hands like good cooks. Andrew shows D how to sweat off the onions, which simply means cooking them in a pan on a medium heat. The tip here is to not let them burn. A little oil and a cup of water on stand by means a little water can be added as the onions turn soft, and this stops them from burning. D gets the chance to take charge of the stirring and appoints Andrew as chief chopper of vegetables.

Teaching children how to cook lasagne

How to sweat off onions

Andrew adds one large carrot. We don't clean our carrots beyond washing them, it seems daft - like peeling potatoes - to lose most of the carrot to the compost heap and most of the vitamins (this is such a leftover of our Wartime Garden years). So, the whole thing is chopped. Andrew chops half a large courgette for the pan.

Add veg to all your meat dishes

Add the chopped carrot and courgette to the onions and stir, add water and keep stirring and add salt, just a pinch to draw out some the moisture.

Salt is not evil in the kitchen, just don't over do it

Next, add pepper, you don't have to grind your own in a mortar and pestle but our handheld pepper grinder seems to be on the blink. It's a chance for D to get a work out with Carol.

Grinding pepper

Next we add the pepper to the vegetables and then the minced beef, we're using 1lb of mince and we cook until it is browned and we have stirred in all the vegetables. 

Bolognese mix

A neat little trick here is to stir in some gravy granules, this adds depth to the mix. Many cooks add their tomato puree after adding canned tomatoes. A few years ago we decided to turn this around, and started to add the puree first, coating the mixture with it. We learnt that by doing this we used less puree and added depth to the sauce.

When to add tomato puree to your Italian dishes

We then add herbs, in our case an Italian mix of rosmary and oregano. Then add a can of tomatoes and fill the tin again with water, add this to the pan too. We often make our own tomato sauces from the garden but at this time of year we are clean out of produce from our greenhouse.

Using tomatoes in your food

We then grate in garlic, two cloves. Little D tries this but a mishap abounds and he catches his finger, and refuses to do anymore grating. Grating garlic boosts the taste and the after effects, the garlic melts into the sauce.

Grating garlic boosts the taste

Then stop for a taste. Add more herbs or pepper, depending on your tastes. Never trust a recipe that dictates how much salt and pepper or even herbs you should add, everyone's tastebuds are different, so put in what you enjoy.

Learn to taste your food as you cook it

Learn to taste your food as you cook it because a mistake can be rectified in any sauce but when it's on the table it's too late. We then add the sauce to the bottom of a large baking dish, this stops the pasta from burning. We add layers of dried lasagne pasta sheets over the sauce. Do not overlap these or else you will end up with cardboard, layered parts will take longer to cook than the rest of the pasta. Break the sheets up to fill the gaps and spoon the mix over again. Get kids to do as much of the cooking as they can, D here is happy to spoon in the mixture and the sauce is off the heat.

Get kids to do as much of the cooking as they can

Get kids to do as much of the cooking as they can

You then have to make a roux, this is equal amounts of flour to butter, add milk and heat on a low heat whisking or stirring the flour out until it makes a sauce the consistency of double cream. If the sauce gets lumpy, take it off the heat and whisk/stir until the sauce has no lumps. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat to speed up the thickening process, you'll just end up with burnt lumpy sauce. Patience is the keyword here. D is not know for his patience so it was his job to pour the milk in. You are looking to use 2/3rds of a pint in the sauce. This will make a basic white sauce. Grate a quarter of a nutmeg into it.

Making a white sauce for lasagne

Making a white sauce for lasagne

Add another layer of pasta sheets and pour the white sauce across the pasta until you cannot see the sheets anymore.

Add white sauce to lasagne

Use a spoon to spread out the sauce.

Add white sauce to lasagne

Cut up some cheese, we are using cheddar and a crumbly Lancashire.

Adding cheese to the lasagne, how kids learn to cook

Then crumble the cheese across the top of the lasagne.

Adding cheese to the lasagne, how kids learn to cook

Put the oven on 200c and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden. This gives time for Carol to get in on the act in her new larder to throw together a steamed treacle pudding. Carol will have to give you the recipe for this at a later date.

Making steamed treacle pudding

When the lasagne comes out there should be enough for 4-6 people. We eat our's over two days and the taste on the second day far exceeds the first meal.

The finished lasagne, enough for 4-6 with a salad

Finally, we see the happy cooks and their lasagne.

The finished lasagne, enough for 4-6 with a salad

The finished lasagne, enough for 4-6 with a salad

However, a main meal is only half the story at Pig Row and our treacle pudding rounds off the meal with some lovely custard.

Steamed treacle pudding and custard

Yes, it's Birds Custard. We've tried the real stuff. We are children of the 1970s. Bring on the Birds.


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