Tag Archives: beef stock

Spinach lasagna al forno

spinach lasagna al forno

Nothing quite beats the winter chill like a good lasagna or lasagne if you feel like saying it in Italian.

Growing up my mom always made “green” lasagna, leaves of spinach lasagna with a rich bolognese and béchamel (white) sauce. It was only years later that we found out lasagna also came in a non-green version. Hmm…I think my parents wanted to make sure we got some extra vegetables in. That said, when there wasn’t a lot of meat in the house, I remember my mom adding more grated carrot and other veggies into the dish to “bulk” up the dish.

Either way it was super yum.

Fast forward to today, a cold and blustery winters day in Johannesburg. The only thing that could satisfy a hungry family – a hot and hearty meal. Lasagna fit the bill perfectly. I also like to make lasagna, mac-and-cheese, bobotie etc. in bulk so I doubled up the recipe below. Except for the mince, for which I bulked up with extra veggies. This yielded about 3 freezer tins of lasagna, each tin enough to feed a family of four.

Ingredients for the bolognese sauce

  • 350g minced beef
  • approx 10 sheets of spinach lasagna
  • 80g tomato paste
  • 100g grated cheddar cheese / or parmigiano if you prefer
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 onion
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce

  • 1lt milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 50grams flour
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • nutmeg (to taste)

Method for bolognese sauce
Melt the butter in a pan and add the finely chopped celery, carrot and onion. Fry for about 5 minutes. Add the mince and cook till browned. Add the cup of wine and cook till evaporated. Add the tomato paste and stock. Cook uncovered on a medium heat for 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Method for béchamel sauce
About 20 minutes into the cooking time of your bolognese sauce, start making your béchamel sauce. There are few steps, but you have to take this part easy to make sure you don’t burn the milk.

Heat up the milk in a pan – the hot milk combines better with the flour and minimises lumps forming.

In another pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and make sure all of it combines with the butter. Now add about 2-3 ladles of hot milk at a time to the flour mixture. Whisk rapidly. Keep on adding ladles of milk and whisking. The sauce should be nice and thick. Take off the heat before it boils and add salt and pepper to taste.

Building your lasagna
Spread a ladle of béchamel on the bottom of the foil tin or a buttered ovenproof dish. Add leaves of spinach lasagna to cover the tin, taking care not to overlap too much. Cover the sheets with a layer of bolognese, followed by béchamel and some grated cheese. Continue to build up your dish alternating the layers of lasagna, filling and cheese. You should end up with a top layer of cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Your dish should be golden brown on top and the pasta cooked through. Serve with a side salad and a glass of wine in front of a fire.

Slow cooker oxtail stew

We received a Kenwood slow cooker as a wedding gift a year ago, and although I’m really keen on using it more often I find that there aren’t many recipes available. My first attempt at slow cooking, coq au vin, wasn’t exactly a success… the chicken turned out to be dry and the whole thing too watery. That was a recipe directly out of the kenwood slow cooker recipe book… This time was different. We bought fresh oxtail, which was really well-priced from our favourite butcher. We also picked up some lovely fresh veggies. I looked up a recipe or two on Google, read through a few of my mom-in-law’s potjiekos recipes before beginning… and best of all spent the entire day fussing over the pot, pouring as much love in as possible!
Preparation is key with this recipe… What’s nice is that you can prepare the veggies while the meat is cooking and wash up everything before you even need to add the “hard” vegetables (carrots and potatoes). We also suggest starting this early! I started cooking at 9 (the start of the 3 hour meat cooking period) and only finished by 5.

oxtail stew 2

Ingredients:

1 or 1.5kg Oxtail (we used 0.7kg, which was not really enough for 4 people)
Butter for sauteing
2 beef stock cubes
1 litre boiling water (maybe less? – I’m not sure how the food to liquid ratio works yet, but perhaps there will be less liquid at the end if less water is added in the beginning. However, I don’t know whether this affects the ability of the meat and veggies to cook or not…)

2 dried bay leaves (I added about 4)
1 tsp fresh thyme (I love fresh herbs from my herb garden so usually just chuck in a whole lot according to how I feel)
1 tsp fresh rosemary (ditto for rosemary, my favourite herb)
1 tsp ground black peppercorns

2 cloves of garlic (I added 4 small cloves, whole)
3 large potatoes
4 medium carrots
1 cup red wine
1 onion
1 red or green pepper

A pack of assorted baby marrows (e.g. patti-pans, courgettes, etc.)
1 punnet button mushrooms
Maizena mixed with a little red wine for thickening the stew

Method:

Add the bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, ground black pepper, and garlic to the slow cooker.
Fry the oxtail in some butter until well-browned on all sides.
Dissolve the stock cubes in the boiling water and add to the pan. Bring to a boil.
Add the oxtail & broth to the slow cooker.
Turn the slow cooker on to High.
Simmer for 3 hours.
Wash the potatoes and cut them into small chunks (about 1/8ths)
Wash the carrots and cut them into slices or dice them.
Add the potatoes, carrots, and wine to the slow cooker pot.
Continue simmering on high for about 2.5 hours (hopefully softish by now).
Chop up the onion and saute in some butter until clear and soft. Add to the pot.
Chop the baby marrows.
Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth.
Add the marrows and mushrooms (whole) to the pot. There is no need to stir them in, don’t worry if they are not covered with liquid.
Simmer for 1.5 hours on High.
Remove the lid and add the maizena mixture to the pot (enough to thicken the amount of liquid in the pot).
Season with salt according to taste.
Simmer on High with the lid off until the sauce is thickened – anything from 30 min to 1 hour. The meat should be falling off the bone by now.
Serve with rice or some chunky crusty bread.