Possibly the finest Lasagne I have ever made or eaten. Even if you think hmm Fennel, ain't that liquorice? Then please don't leave me so soon - it has a slight aniseed taste and I promise its not a new variety of allsorts!!
Okay so I admit its not beef, pork or veal based as such but I did use lasagne sheets and a sort of bechamel so I am stealing the name Lasagne for this beautiful creation! I used the translated name of fennel salami for those not fluent with Italian but its natural form is better known as Finnocchiona Negroni Salami, which no I can't pronounce it too good either. Even less after a glass of wine!
This delightful dish came about as sometimes I agree to being sent items to try, some turn are good, some turn out bad and some indifferent, and some that make you look at things in a whole new light! And with open arms I welcomed two rather large bags of Kale to experiment with!
Initially I wondered what the hell to do with it, and more importantly would it taste nice. Well it does, I was so wrong. I had tried it I think boiled a few years back and was very unimpressed and never bothered again.... and I missed out on all the good times we could have shared! It turns out that boiled, yep ain't my thang but given some kitchen magic and voila! A star is born. Maybe I should make the Christmas tree from Kale this year?
The salami idea came about as I had popped into the local deli to get some awesome pasta for a friend that morning, which I had previously discovered (will blog soon!) and whilst waiting to pay I was admiring all the meats and cheeses and the idea of having something meaty with the iron rich Kale seemed like a great idea, and with my bad pronunciation I acquired 6 slices, though only needed 4 in the end , which was fortunate as I was er, testing it out...the mozzarella seemed like a good idea too so quickly grabbed that too!
Anyway back to my new creation - I was forcing persuading B to help in the kitchen more, as he isn't very confident and whilst we didn't really weigh anything, I was trying to explain that the whole weighing things isn't essential - what's more important is to picture your finished dish and then work out by eye how much filling you will need. Obviously there are pesky things like spinach, and er Kale that like to reduce down rather well but they are just a nice little red herring to break the rules!
I'm not sure how much I succeeded in persuading him cooking can be fun but as I always tell newbies - don't be scared - nothing will bite unless you happen to have a lobster on the prowl behind the kitchen door! Have some fun, you never know - you could make something beautiful!
85g kale, tough bits removed and roughly shredded by hand
1 ball mozzarella thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
150g finnocchiona Negroni Salami, sliced into 2 cm pieces
4 good quality lasagne sheets
2tbsp cherry tomato puree
2 tbsp grated mature Cheddar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated parmesan
½ red chilli finely chopped
½ red pepper, sliced
10 baby plum tomatoes
1 large red onion. Halved and sliced thinly
1 tbsp pine nuts
½ pint milk
appx 2 heaped tbsp butter
2 heaped tbsp flour
¼ pint spinach water
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Cover the lasagne sheets in boiling water.
You will need a square dish that fits 2 sheets of the lasagne.
1) Boil the kale in a inch of salted boiling water for 3 minutes, reserve all the liquid in a jug.
2) Fry the onion until lightly browned, stir in the peppers and half of the tomatoes and fry for a further 3 minutes or so till they have a little colour and starting to soften. Stir in the garlic and chilli for a further minute.
3) Stir in the tomato puree and add a splash of the kale water to loosen if needed. Add the salami and cook for a further minute until it starts to brown
4) Stir in the kale and a couple of tablespoons of water to make a slightly sloppy sauce, cover and keep warm.
5) Heat the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the flour and whisk like mad to form a paste (roux), after a minute or so slowly stir in the spinach water, a little at a time whisking continuously as we don't want lumps! Then add the milk until you have a nice smooth sauce, simmer for a couple of minutes to cook the flour through, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat, season and stir in the parmesan.
Pre-heat oven to 190o
6) Now its time to layer up! For the bottom layer, spoon over half of the kale/ salami mix, top with 2 lasagne sheets, spoon over half the bechamel sauce, and scatter over half the mozzarella slices and a little of the grated cheddar, repeat again to form the next and final layer. Place the tomatoes on top, then the pine nuts, parmesan and remaining cheddar.
7) Bake for around 45 minutes or until golden and bubbling, and piping hot. Poke with a knife to check the pasta is cooked through. (see my giant doughballs in the background!)
8) Serve and eat! We had the doughballs but as I mentionned earlier a nice crisp green salad would be good too.
The flavours were simply amazing, I dreamt about this! Meaty..a little spicy..silky comforting pasta..cheese..you can't go wrong! It ticked all of our boxes!