Gutsy and gorgeous this lasagne, it feels like the type of comforting and tasty dish that you should come home to after a hard day’s labour. It’s rich and creamy but not sickly and the mushrooms and chicken livers combined with the parma ham ensure it has real depth of flavour. Lovely and so different from my usual, favourite traditional lasagne. This one will be punctuating the winter menus regularly from now on.
What you need…
1 x baking dish (mine is 26 x 18 x 7cms deep) lightly buttered
50g dried porcini mushrooms
250ml boiling water from the kettle
1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)
150g parma ham slices
6 sheets fresh lasagne
1 tablespoon olive oil
450g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
400g chicken livers, trimmed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
for the sauce
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 litre milk
6 fresh bay leaves, crumpled
2 large thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
65g plain flour
150g cheddar, grated
¼ nutmeg, grated
What to do…
For the sauce, tip into a medium saucepan the onion, cloves, milk, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Make your stock by pouring the boiling water into a jug, dropping in the stockpot and dissolving it using a balloon whisk.
Put the porcini mushrooms into a small bowl and pour over the stock. Pop a saucer over the top to keep the mushrooms submerged. Set aside.
Cut the parma ham slices in half lengthways, stack them up, then cut them across in thin slivers. Set aside.
Drain the porcini, reserving the stock, then squeeze out any excess liquid.
Heat the 30g butter and olive oil in frying pan, add the porcini and fry gently for 2 minutes. Add the chestnut mushrooms, increase the heat to high and fry for 3 minutes. Add the reserved stock and cook until the liquid has almost disappeared. Chuck in the chicken livers and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring. Tip in the parma ham, separating the slices as you go, and stir until well mixed. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper – go easy on the salt – the parma ham has a lot in it.
Whilst you are doing that stuff in the frying pan, you need also to be making the sauce. Strain the milk, discarding the onion, cloves, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Then bring it back to the boil. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the ring so that it continues to stay warm.
Melt the 75g butter into a medium pan, tip in the flour and cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring. Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the milk, stirring the whole time. Bring back to the boil and simmer gently over a very low heat for 10 minutes or until it thickens.
Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in half the grated cheddar and the nutmeg. Season, taste, adjust if necessary.
Line the base of your baking dish with 2 sheets of lasagne. Spoon over a third of the chicken liver mixture, then a third of the sauce. Repeat this process –lasagne, mixture, sauce – two further times. Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and pop your vincisgrassi into the oven for 30 – 35 minutes until golden and bubbling. Enjoy the fabulous aroma that drifts from the oven as you clear up your pots and pans.
To serve, I think this is best plonked into the middle of the table with a large spoon and everyone involved asked to help themselves. Pour yourself (and them) a large glass of full-bodied red and enjoy. It’s a meal that could be served with salad but definitely requires relaxed, convivial conversation….and more red…
If you’re lucky enough to have a Thermomix…
To make the sauce, just stick all the ingredients except the cheddar into the bowl and cook for 7 minutes at 90° on speed 4. Tip in half your cheese and set it to stirring at a low speed for about 2 minutes. Leave the sauce in the bowl until you’re ready to assemble.
Easy but quite long haul with quite a bit of washing up. But you know what, it was worth it!