Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lasagna with Love for Rohan

When I decided to cook a special birthday dinner for my nephew Rohan just before I left for Kerala, I ambitiously but rather worriedly planned Lasagna. I had a full day that day;reviewing a restaurant at lunch, followed by a couple of meetings before I could get home to work. And Lasagna from scratch was an epic recipe, I had not made in years. I made Lasagna entirely out of my head based on tasting it once in a little Bagni in Italy a few weeks after I married. With no Pasta machine, it took me two days to get the whole thing done using a rolling pin to make the pasta, slow cooking sauce, but it was worht it because my husband still sings praises of it! However the sheer amount of time it took, always detered me from making it again and while I made many lasagnas with ready pasta sheets they were neve quite the same. It was becoming a thing of fantasy. But I was determined to make a special dinner for Rohan and this was a signature dish. 

What made it easier and very special was the entire Ghildiyal Family decided to pitch in. Shekhar who has been making pasta at home of late, did the Pasta sheets using my technique of flavouring them with pepper and herbs, helped by Rohan and 'assisted' by Aman (who kept stealing peices of pasta to make farfale and odd shaped bits of pasta). While I made the sauces in the kitchen. i usually do a tomato sauce but because Rohan loves mushrooms, I was going to do a Mushroom sauce this time. I also did a Minestrone soup and Baked corn on the side. So a few hours later we sat down to dinner and it was the best Lasagna in the world; whisper-thin sheets of fresh oregano flavoured egg pasta intersecting earthy mushroom sauce and warm, oozy, cheesy bechemel with oodles of love stirred in....

Now I COULD tell you that this is the only lasagna recipe worth making and that once you have this lasagna, you will never accept anything less. But you might not believe me. So give it a turn (of the pasta machine) and tell me I am wrong. I certainly will never make a Lasagna with ready sheets ever again. Be warned, however, this is not a Lasagna for the faint-hearted. Making it requires commitment, patience - and TIME (which is probably why I made it after years) and plenty of it. Although, you could shorten cooking time by a few hours, that's right. Hours. If you used Pasta sheets. But then you might as well order in Lasagna!

So while this thing IS a weekend project if there ever was one, we go everyone involved around here the good news is that it makes a lot, and if it does not get wiped out, you might be able to freeze some!
The best Mushroom Lasagna in the world (Time taken: 1 hour plus baking time, Serves: 4)
Notes: You need to pass the pasta sheets through a pasta machine a few times to achieve the most thin and delicate sheets of pasta possible - if you don't have a pasta machine a rolling pin will do, (it did for me all these years) but the results are not quite the same. But really fresh pasta with a rolling pin work better than ready pasta any day so... Also fresh pasta means you can skip the pre-boil step just use a little more sauce. Also remeber proper seasoning is important throughout this recipe, if you undersalt it is going to taste flat and this is one of those recipes you can't correct later.

Thin Oregano flavoured homemade pasta sheets layered with peppery mushroom filling cheese and Bechemel sauce.

For the Pasta sheets
250 g maida
½ tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs

For the Mushroom filling
1/3 c oil
1/2 c garlic, finely chopped
1/2 c onion, finely chopped
1/2 c carrot
1/2 c celery
1 kg mushrooms washed, coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
2 tbsp black pepper or 1/3 cup pickled green peppercornscrushed coarsely
Corn flor or Maida (to thicken if required)

For White/Bechemel sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 c milk
4 tbsp Parmiggiano cheese, finely grated
Salt to taste

To assemble
1 large or 2 small baking dishes
250 g mozzarella cheese grated

For the Pasta sheets - In a bowl mix maida, oregano, salt and pepper together. Add oil and mix until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add eggs and knead in as well as possible. Only if required, add cold water kneading well to form smooth dough. Divide into 5 portions and roll out as thin as possible, trim to the shape and size of your container and laying out to dry for about 10 mins. (To store bake on a tava on both sides for a couple of minutes or until little brown spots appear, roll up separated by foil sheets and freeze.)

For the Mushroom filling - in a large vessel, heat oil. Add garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Sautee on a low flame so the vegetables soften and cook but do not brown. Add mushrooms and cook untill done. If the mushrooms let off too much water and it looks like they will not dry out, dissolve 1 tbsp of cornflour or Maida in a little water and add to mushrooms. Allow to cool.

For White/Bechemel sauce - Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour. Stir in and cook, continuing to stir, for 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat and slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Return to heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 12 minutes or until sauce comes to the boil, thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and salt.

To assemble – spread a little mushroom filling on the base of the baking dish. Lay a pasta sheet on top. Spoon over and spread a little more mushroom filling over the pasta sheet. Scatter grated cheese. Repeat pasta layer, spread a layer of bechemel sauce over, cover with a layer of pasta. Repeat untill you have finished saving the thinest pasta sheet for the top, spread last sheet over with white sauce, scatter with cheese and grill or bake in the oven until cheese is melted and top layer is browned. Serve hot!

Beautiful cakes from Le 15 Patiserrie for a sweet Finale! Mine was a Raspberry tart (that, Aman gobbled three pieces of) and Rohan's was a Chocolate Layer bit of deliciousness (that I gobbled three pieces of)! 

1 comment:

pooja dhingra said...

Awesome Rushina! Wish Rohan enjoyed the cake!