Unusual twist on lasagne

lasagnemontageWith the thought that many of us may have had more than enough turkey… I felt it might be timely to do a quick note to mention the new lasagne sheets I have discovered in Sainsbury’s. I am always on the hunt for new ideas and products when I am out shopping, or chatting to other keen cooks, and this is the newest vegetable offering from Mr Sainsbury.

I did not use it to make a vegetarian lasagne (Richard would shudder at the thought) it’s a normal beef lasagne but instead of using pasta sheets for the dividers, you can now get butternut squash sheets or courgette sheets. If you imagine a peeled butternut squash going through a thin bread slicer – that’s what you get, firm but slim slices that are almost the size of a normal lasagne sheet. Likewise with the courgette version although they were a little smaller.

I layered mince cooked in a tomato sauce, you can make your own or cheat as I did and use a Dolmio version (sorry but I was in a hurry that day), anyway a layer of that then a layer of your veggie sheet, then white sauce or cheese sauce depending on your choice, another layer of the vegetable sheets and then more tomatoey mince. Obviously, easy peasy to create a purely veggie lasagne – just leave the mince out of the tomato sauce.

I continued with this until the dish was pretty full (as you can see from the photo) and then topped it off with some grated mozzarella and a grind or six of pepper. Forty minutes in the oven and hey presto! Even veggie-averse Richard was very complementary – that’s one way to get veg down them!

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Clotted cream at Christmas!

clottedsprouts

Have you ever seen sprouts look so delicious?

I came across a sweet little free booklet this week entitled ‘Clotted Christmas Recipes’. Aha, I thought, this looks interesting! I think most of us tend to think of clotted cream as a summertime treat for afternoon tea in the garden, served with a scone and homemade jam. This little booklet, and then a trip to Trewithen Dairy’s website soon made me rethink that view!

Their website has lots of delicious recipes and the one that caught my eye was for… wait for it… sprouts! How seasonal is that? Do have a look at their other recipes, there are some lovely ones… and it is a Westcountry product, so I am all in favour!

We love sprouts. We love clotted cream… so why not put them together? The clotted cream will coat the sprouts with a rich glaze while the crispy bacon seasons them with a lovely umami quality. You can prepare your sprouts traditionally by scoring the base with a cross before boiling or for a slightly different version make a sprout hash by shredding them finely and steaming for 1-2 minutes before sautéeing with the bacon and coating in clotted cream.

Serves 6clotted

Ingredients

  • 700g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved and washed
  • 4 rashers crisp-cooked bacon, finely sliced
  • 50g crème fraîche
  • 25g Trewithen Dairy Clotted Cream
  • 2 teaspoons horseradish sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10ml vegetable oil

Method

  1. clotteddairyIn a bowl mix together the crème fraîche, clotted cream and horseradish sauce, and set aside.
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the sprouts and simmer for 4 minutes, drain well in a colander.
  3. In a frying pan, add the vegetable oil and fry the bacon strips until crisp and golden, carefully remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen paper.
  4. In the pan add the sprouts and carefully sauté in the fat from the bacon for a few minutes until they just start to colour, remove from the heat and add the cream mixture and crispy bacon, ensure they are liberally coated, taste for seasoning and serve.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and that your sprouts are delicious, however you cook them! Smiles, Joanna.

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Dear Santa…

I thought I’d share my personal ‘wish list’ for Christmas books, both cookery and fictional. I have cheated and also included one book that is top of Richard’s wish list – just in case there are any history buffs reading, or if you need an idea for a history-loving relative!

I try very hard to limit my intake of cookery books these days as there’s so much out there for free on the internet. However, nothing compares with curling up with a cup of tea on the sofa and a beautifully illustrated cookbook!

The novels I have included are definitely not candidates for any Booker or Orange, or whatever, book prize – my reading tastes are very straightforward and, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s pretentious literature that you are ‘meant’ to like as you struggle through it. I want to be entertained by a book, I want to smile a bit, cry a little and definitely feel I can’t bear to put it down until I have finished

So, I offer this list just as a personal – “hHere you go, this is what I am asking Santa for this year!” They are all available on Amazon – as are all my own novels (hah!) – surely you knew I wouldn’t be able to resist a plug!

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A Christmas cracker!

You can’t have Christmas dinner without Christmas crackers – well, that’s my view anyway! We groan at the awfulness of the mottos, we laugh at the pointlessness of the ‘gift’ and we feel silly wearing the paper hats… but it is a tradition and we stick to it every year.

In moments of great industriousness, I have made my own crackers and spent ages thinking of appropriate gifts and jokes to go inside. They always go down well, but they take a lot of planning.

This will be my first Christmas without my parents, Diana and John, so this year will be tinged with sadness for all the family. But Mummy’s enthusiasm for a traditional family Christmas is firmly entrenched with all of us and I shall be filling stockings, dressing the table and fussing about the sprouts just as always.

I love decorating the table, I think it makes such an impact with pretty napkins, candles and, of course, a special Christmas table centrepiece. I have produced so many over the years and always find myself getting excited as I add the finishing touches. If you don’t have a large table, you can still make it look lovely with a table runner ­– cheap enough to buy even in supermarkets these days – or run up one of your own very simply. Table sprinkles are also great fun and really do add a touch of glitz and sparkle… but you’ll be hoovering them up for weeks afterwards!

Returning to the Christmas cracker… did you know they were invented in 1847 by a London sweet maker called Thomas Smith? Rather unromantically, he devised the Christmas cracker as a money-making idea when bonbon sales slumped. They originally contained love messages and a sweet. The enterprising Mr Smith then went on to the snapping strip to replicate the sound of a crackling log fire!

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Heart-warming hygge

jo4sm

I have to say, this is my idea of hygge! Hidden away in a corner of the lounge in a nice warm wooly jumper, a comfy chair and a book!

I keep seeing the word ‘hygge’ and wondering not only what it is, but also how on earth you say it!

Apparently, it is pronounced “hoo-ga” and is a Danish word that is a feeling that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special. I think as crafters, we can probably all identify with that sentiment!

Hygge is usually translated into English as ‘cosiness’. But it’s much more than that, apparently, and is an entire attitude to life that helps Denmark to vie with Switzerland and Iceland to be the world’s happiest country.

With up to 17 hours of darkness per day in the depths of winter, and average temperatures hovering around zero ºC, Danes spend a great deal of time indoors and, as a result, there’s greater focus on home entertaining. The idea is to relax and feel as at-home as possible, forgetting life’s worries. Sounds jolly good!

From what I have read, hygge seems to be about being kind to yourself – indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself anything. All very useful come January when in the UK everyone’s on diets or manically exercising or abstaining from alcohol!

Apparently, the Danes are kinder to themselves and to each other. They don’t binge then purge and there’s not much yo-yo dieting in Denmark. No wonder they’re happier than we are back in dear old Blighty!

Certainly, everyone seems to be talking about hygge in the UK even though there isn’t an English word that means the same. It sounds a little like the English word ‘hug’, for which the Oxford English Dictionary lists no origins. You could argue that the effect of hygge and a hug is similar – comforting and secure. An obsolete meaning of hug is ‘to cherish oneself, to keep or make oneself snug”, according to the OED.

Hygge comes from a Norwegian word meaning ‘wellbeing’ and it first appeared in Danish writing in the 19th Century and has since evolved into the cultural idea known in Denmark today. Some older Danes feel that hygge isn’t what it used to be, as the stress on socialising has lessened. It’s now generally considered hyggeligt to watch TV alone or watching a DVD set, perhaps while eating crisps. Oh dear, a sign of the times even for the cosy Danes then…

And so, perhaps it’s safest to say that hygge was never meant to be translated – it was meant to be felt. I shall be attempting to feel some hygge this weekend – enjoy!

 

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