I got so excited reading through my first Jamie Oliver cook book ("Cook with Jamie") that I literally could not decide what to make first. After I got something relatively simple out of the way (check out my sweet coleslaw here), I sought after a recipe that was slightly more of a challenge.
Now, the other thing you have to know about me is that I will do anything it takes to convince myself what I'm eating is healthy. So long as it gives me an excuse to help myself to 'x' number of serves!
What's healthy? Well fish! Surely. Everyone knows that, right?
Beef lasagna sounds fatty and 'no no' but if the filling is fish, we're definitely doing our bodies a huge favor by scoffing down the Omega 3 and what not.
And thus the decision was made. For once, I did not halve or quarter or do any other meddling to the recipe. I cooked at my parents house for 4 people and we had a bit left over. In other words, the recipe is quite accurate in stating that the lasagne feeds 4-6 people.
I have a few comments on the procedure that may make more sense to you should you decide to try the recipe.
1. When you're adding the milk into your vegetable and prawn stock, it WILL seem like too much milk. I made the mistake of thinking it was too much and putting in about 200mL less than the recipe stated. A few steps later, I had to make up for this by adding in the rest of the milk anyway.
2. When I was making the sauce, I was in a state of constant panic. It just looked like a gluggy mess! You have your butter and flour mix first - which is doughy and thick. Then, you gradually add in your milky vegetable and prawn stock. The flour is supposed to absorb the stock and once all the stock is added, you have a lovely thick and flavorsome sauce. This did work in principle but before you reach that end point, the sauce is less than attractive. I suggest turning the heat down to low so that you're not rushing and scared that the stock and flour will burn or cook into a chunk of bread. Mix each ladleful thoroughly into the flour before adding the next. And also, I hope you used to full amount of milk as specified in point 1 because now, you'll see why you need so much liquid!
3. I used quite a deep dish to load the lasagna and my dad thinks that makes it harder to cook throughout and also compromises the end aesthetics. My lasagna DID cook all the way through but I see his point and I think a shallower dish would have been better. To be honest I didn't use an authentic lasagna dish at all so if you are using the proper utensils, you probably won't have any of this trouble.
Jamie Oliver's Fantastic Fish Lasagna
For the sauce
- 125g butter
- 1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
- a small bunch fresh parsley stalks
- a sprig of fresh bay leaves (I used dried bay leaves)
- a rasher of pancetta or bacon
- 10 whole fresh prawns, heads removed and reserved (I accidentally bought some cooked prawns and some fresh prawns - I just used them all the same way and they turned out fine)
- 100mL white wine (I used cheap carton wine)
- 850mL milk
- 80g plain flour
- sea salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 a nutmeg, grated (I used ground nutmeg to taste)
- 600g fish fillets (Jamie suggests cod, red mullet, sea bass, bream or salmon but I used barramundi), skinned and cut into small chunks
- 300g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 70g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- the leaves from the bunch of parsley that you took the stalks off, finely chopped
- 250g lasagne sheets (I used fresh sheets that didn't require blanching but you should read the instructions on your sheets for advice on how to cook)
- 50g breadcrumbs
- small bunch of fresh parsley, leaves picked
- zest of 1 lemon (I couldn't be bothered zesting so I just used some lemon juice)
- Fresh rocket, washed and dried
1. Melt 30g of the butter (approx 1/4 of the total amount you're using) in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. Add all the veggies for the sauce and leave for 10min.
2. In the meantime, you can wrap the parsley stalks with a piece of pancetta and tie with a string. If you're using fresh bay leaves, they should also be included in the herb bundle.3. Add the herb bundle and prawn heads (and dried bay leaves, if you didn't have fresh ones) to your vegetables and cook for around 15min until the veggies are soft but not browned and the prawn heads have turned pink (see pics 1 and 2 below).
4. Add the wine and boil with lid off until reduced (I turned up the heat for this bit)
5. Pour in the milk and bring slowly back to the boil (had heat on med-high). As soon as milk boils, turn off the heat, pop on the lid and let the flavors infuse into the milk (see pic 3 below).
6. In another deep saucepan, plop the rest of the butter.
7. Once that butter is melted and bubbling, add in the flour and stir until smooth.
8. Fish the prawn heads and herb bundle out of your milky stock mix. Squeeze out any liquids before removing because good flavors shouldn't be wasted!
9. Add the milk and vegetable mix to the flour and butter one ladle at a time. I had my heat on low to do this and remember to mix in each ladle until it's absorbed by the flour before adding the next ladle (see pic 4 below).
10. Once all the liquid has been incorporated, bring to the boil gently, stirring constantly and simmer for a few seconds longer to cook the flour.11. Remove your white sauce from the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. At this point, you can remove any prawn whiskers that may have fallen off. Blanch your lasagna sheets now if you need to
Building the lasagna
Before you start: preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. I used the fan-forced + convectional mode on my oven
1. Ladle 1/4 of the sauce into your pan and smooth out evenly (see pic 1 below).
2. Scatter 1/3 of the fish and 1/3 of the prawns. What I did was chop the prawns up into nice chunks and combined with the fish chunks in 1 bowl so that I could layer them on at once (see pic 2 below).
3. Add 1/3 of the tomatoes, 1/3 of the chopped parsley and approx 1/4 of the grated Parmesan4. Cover with a layer of lasagna sheets and repeat 2 times till all your fish and tomatoes are used up (see pic 1 below).
5. Sprinkle the last of the parmesan over the top sheet of pasta.
6. Make your breadcrumb mix by popping the breadcrumbs, zest and parsley in a food processor. I just mixed by hand. Note: the breadcrumbs are REALLY YUMMY on the end product so I suggest you maybe up the amount. You don't want too much though because if it's layered on too thick on the top, it won't go crispy (see pic 3 below).
7. Sprinkle your breadcrumb mix over the top of the lasagna
8. Cover the dish with foil and bake in preheated oven for 45min. Remove the foil after the first 30min so that the breadcrumbs can go crispy and golden in the last 15min. Make sure the lasagna is piping hot all the way through (see pic 4 below).9. Serve with fresh rocket (really compliments the lasagna if you eat a bit of lasagna with the rocket at the same time). I also cut some peach wedges to eat with the rocket for a nice seasonal touch.
I won't kid around and pretend this lasagna wasn't hard work. I was so scared it would fail and the sauce was quite involved but it was a crowd pleaser! My parents first had a look at my huge pot filled with fish and pasta and proclaimed that we would never finish it. By the end of the night, only a small amount remained. This goes to show that if somethings tasty enough, left-overs are the least of your problems.And hey, let's not forget the when it's 'fish', pigging out is still passably healthy.