12 February, 2011

Freezer Pleasers

Do you ever get sick and tired of eating the food at work?  I know I do.  After a while, the food starts getting boring and I shudder to think of the true nutritional value or the lack there of.  But I regret to say that I already have enough difficulty waking up in time for work, much less to cook BEFORE going to work!
There are days where I bring the dinner left overs from the day before and there are days where I just force myself to eat what the food court offers.  So I figured, why not have something that can be easily prepared before I go to work if there are no left overs!  Congratulating myself on that brilliant idea, I went on a search for freezer friendly food.

If you are of the same generation as I am, you'd recall Garfield scarfing down pans of lasagne and it was a dish that always intrigued me as a child.  Mum never cooked "Western" food of this kind and when we ate out, fish and chips invariably was THE western food we'd order.  I also remembered reading of how bechamel sauces turned lumpy, how lagsane sheets would disintegrate and such - hardly encouraging to someone who felt an aversion to chucking food even if it turned out to be a disaster.
But curiosity got the better of me and I'm glad to say, I can make lasagne!  There are a few tricks which I learnt along the way (at the end of the recipe) which makes making lasagne and freezing it a breeze.  The hubs loves it, the bubs loves it even more and it freezes so well!  I've also done some tweaks - my bechamel sauce is made from wholemeal flour.  A great way to hide fibre in food if your kiddy is veggie and fruit adverse!

Lasagne
Meat sauce
1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
700g minced pork (or beef)
2 cans (800g) of canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan and stir in the garlic until fragrant.  Add the onions and sautee until soft.
  2. Add the minced meat and continue to stir, breaking up the meat.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, bay leaf and oregano when the meat is almost cooked.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remember that you'll be adding cheese later and so you will need to cut back accordingly on the salt.  (I omit salt here)
Bechamel sauce
80g wholemeal flour
120g butter
1 litre of warm milk
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp of salt
  1. On low heat, melt the butter.
  2. Using a whisk, slowly incorporate the flour until the mixture forms a ball.
  3. Take it off the stove.
  4. Using a ladle, add the milk one ladle at a time and continue whisking gently.  This ensures that lumps don't form.  I highly recommend patience.
  5. Put back on the stove and bring to a gentle boil, stirring ever so often.
  6. The sauce will thicken and reach a consistency that should coat the back of your spoon.
Others
Instant lasagne sheets 1 - 2 boxes
Grated mozarella cheese
Grated cheddar cheese

Assembly
  1. Use aluminium foil to line your baking tray. (9x12 inches or so)
  2. Preheat over to 180 degrees celsius.
  3. Place a layer of instant lasagne sheets at the bottom.
  4. Layer the lasagne sheets with a thin layer of meat sauce and then bechamel sauce.  Finally layer a mixture of mozarella and cheddar cheese on top.  The cheese serves to bind everything together.  Add according to your taste.
  5. Layer another layer of lasagne sheets followed by meat sauce, bechamel sauce and cheese.
  6. The final layer should be lasagne sheets followed by a thin layer of bechamel sauce and cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees celsius.
Note
  1. Instant lasagne sheets don't have to be pre-prepared and can be used as is.  This saves you having to fiddle around with fragile sheets.
  2. To fit your pan better, you may have to break up the lasagne sheets and piece them together like a puzzle but keeping the sheets as a whole piece makes it easier to cut and transfer.
  3. Don't worry if your meat sauce is a bit wet - the lasagne sheets soak up all that fluid well and need it.  Otherwise, you'll have very hard pieces of pasta!
  4. When I run out of bechamel sauce by the last layer, I layer with more cheese and pour some milk over the top to cover and moisten the pasta.
  5. To freeze, leave the lasagne to cool first - this improves the handling qualities of the pasta and it retains it shape without falling into a cheesy heap.

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