The Perfect Christmas Dinner with Crisp ‘n Dry #Ad

The Perfect Christmas Dinner with Crisp ‘n Dry #Ad

How to make the perfect Christmas dinner with Crisp ‘n Dry (a collaboration)

Making Christmas Dinner can be very daunting. I remember very clearly the first time I made one and I was scared. Having always had my Mum’s delicious Christmas dinners on Christmas Day, which quite honestly is the best one, I probably put too much pressure on myself. I was worried that I would not cook the turkey properly and I was concerned that I would not get everything ready at the same time. I attempted my first Christmas dinner in my first (bought) house which I shared with an ex boyfriend so we are talking about 15 years ago probably. I think I did it twice over two consecutive years and then I did not cook another one until I was pregnant with Burton in 2008. That Christmas dinner was a vast improvement on my earlier attempts and I did not feel quite so nervous about it. I think watching lots of Nigella and Jamie Oliver Christmas cooking shows, and owning some festive cookbooks in the years in-between helped me, and gave me some confidence to really push the boat out and enjoy cooking Christmas dinner instead of dreading it!

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The Perfect Lasagne Recipe

The Perfect Lasagne Recipe

My perfect homemade lasagne recipe with a little help from Schwartz recipe mix

Perfect lasagna recipe

I can still remember the first time I made my own lasagne. I had always enjoyed eating it, in fact it was probably my very favourite main meal when I was a teenager. I would often choose it off a menu if we went out for lunch, and occasionally we would have a ready made version at home with some oven chips and peas on the side. However, the best lasagne was my Mum’s homemade version. So I was thrilled when I was able to watch her make it, step by step from scratch and learn how to make, what I think, is the perfect lasagne.

I am pretty sure that back then Mum would have used a Schwartz recipe mix for lasagne (don’t worry, she will soon correct me if I am wrong!), as I recall that she often had a little collection of packet mixes lined up in one of the kitchen cupboards. 

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Anyway I have digressed slightly. As I mentioned dat the start of this blog post, I can still remember the first time I made my own homemade lasagna from scratch. It was March 1987 so I would have been 12 (13 in the June), and I know this because my Mum had gone into hospital for an operation and while she was in the Zeebrugge ferry disaster occurred as I remember it being shown on the TV in the hospital. Well, while my Mum was staying in the hospital I must have helped (or maybe thought I was in charge of it!) with the cooking for my Dad and brother, and I decided on one of the days to make a lasagne. I had watched Mum make it once not too long before, and it looked simple enough as it was basically a bolognese sauce (which I must have made before), with a cheese sauce. Mum showed me how to make a roux and then stir in lots of grated cheese with a dash of mustard and cayenne pepper, so I thought I would be able to replicate it. Then it was just a case of layering it with lasagne sheets and topping the final layer of cheese sauce with some mozzarella (might have been cheddar back in 1987, but hey, lasagne cheese topping has evolved since then!).

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So that was the start of my lasagne making days and no-one was sick from eating it, so from that moment I think I would offer to make it often as a way of helping mum, who did pretty much all the cooking back then. Bar my dad bunging a ready made lasagne with oven chips in the oven, and some peas in the microwave!!! I enjoyed making it to be honest, and I made many version over the coming years: a vegetarian one, a bacon one, a chicken and bacon one, a tuna one, a turkey mince one and a prawn and spinach one. I have even made a Slimming World version, which is ok but not the same as one made with a real cheese sauce!

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However, the best lasagne is one made from minced beef and one based on my Mum’s recipe and the same one I have been making for almost 30 years. When I recreated this recipe the other weekend for my OH and the boys because Schwartz invited me to write about and feature a recipe that was a family favourite and one which brings back fond memories, I have to say it was devoured happily by all of them and my OH I particular was pleased that it was a full fat version and not a SW one!

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The great thing about the Schwartz recipe mixes is that they hardly take up any room in your kitchen cupboard, and they are full of all the herbs and spices your meal needs to really bring out the flavour and make it extra tasty. It was really delicious and made me realise how much a SW version sucks compared to the real thing!

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If you fancy having a go at making what I think is the perfect lasagne, which has had slight tweaking over the years but is essentially the same as what I made all those years ago.

The Perfect Lasagna
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 500g minced beef (I used the 5% fat version)
  • 6 rashers of bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 apple, core removed and chopped into 4
  • 2 x peppers
  • 1 spoonful of oil
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • good pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried mixed Italian herbs
  • 1 Schwartz Lasagne recipe mix
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 500g pack of passatta
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (depending on taste)
  • *CHEESE SAUCE*
  • 250g grated cheese - I use a mature one, which is a half fat version - just to help with the calories 😉
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 500ml milk
  • A dash of english mustard
  • sprinkling of cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. *Meat Sauce*
  2. place the minced beef into a large non stick pan and brown it
  3. after a few minutes add the bacon and continue to cook for about 5 minutes
  4. meanwhile, place the onions, carrots and apple into a food processor (otherwise chop very finely if you do not own one) and blitz until they are tiny pieces
  5. add the veggie mix to the pan with the beef and bacon and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes
  6. do the same with the pepper with the food processor, and then add this to the other veggies and meat and cook for 5 more minutes. Remembering to stir often so they don't stick to the pan
  7. add the Schwartz recipe mix and give it a good mix
  8. Add the tinned tomatoes, passatta and the garlic, herbs and pepper and give it a good old stir.
  9. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. One this has happened, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer away for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  10. minutes into the simmering, pre heat the oven to 180oC / 160oC (fan)
  11. *Cheese Sauce*:
  12. Add the butter to a medium sized non stick saucepan and when it is starting to melt add the flour and stir well until combined.
  13. Keep stirring and very soon the mixture will come away from the sides, once this happens the mixture must be cooked for 1 minute to cook the flour, and it must be continually stirred.
  14. Once this has happened remove from the heat and add a few glugs of milk to start with, and stir the pan so that the flour mixture and the milk combine. You may find that using a whisk helps here. The idea is to get rid of the lumps before you return the pan to the heat.
  15. Once the lumps have gone, return the pan to the heat and while stirring all the time, allow the milk to heat up. Add the rest of the milk and after a couple of minutes you should feel the sauce thicken. Now add your cheese, probably in three parts, and again keep stirring.
  16. Once the sauce comes to the boil, keep stirring and allow it to cook for 1 minute.
  17. Remove from the heat and add the mustard and the cayenne pepper and stir well. The cheese sauce should be lovely and thick now.
  18. *Assembling*
  19. Once both sauces are ready, get a large square/rectangular oven proof dish and lightly grease the bottom of it
  20. Line the bottom of it with the ragu sauce
  21. Add a layer of lasagne sheets
  22. Add a layer of cheese sauce
  23. Repeat layers, making sure the final one has cheese sauce on the top
  24. Add the mozzarella liberally across the top of the lasagne
  25. Cook in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until the cheese is all golden and bubbling
  26. Cut into portions (you could possibly get 8 portions if you served with chips) and serve with salad and garlic bread, or whatever takes your fancy

 

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Simply scrumptious! Hopefully it is a recipe which I will one day pass down to Burton and Jenson for them to adapt and cook for their families, and maybe they will recall the first time they made their own lasagne too with fondness.

 

I wrote this post in collaboration with Schwartz

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Beer Batter Yorkshire Puddings

Beer Batter Yorkshire Puddings

These Beer Batter Yorkshire Puddings are made using beer to make a light batter that rises superbly in the oven, and make the perfect accompaniment to roast beef.
Beer Batter Yorkshire Puddings

The best Sunday roast is beef, because not only is it the tastiest meat roasted, and not only does it makes the best flavoured gravy, but it also means there are yorkshire puddings to eat too. Let’s be honest, it is hard to beat a good Yorkshire pudding; all crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.

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