Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bean and bacon lasagna

Greetings again from my little shoebox of an apartment, which is made even smaller by the piles of moving boxes waiting for the end of May. I'm lucky we will have a bank holiday Monday coming up in a few weeks, which will be a perfect moving day. Sadly it will mean I won't have time for any birthday celebrations this year, but hopefully I can make up for that later in the summer. For now, I'm still busy trying to use up all the food I have stockpiled in my kitchen. Oh how I wish I would learn from this and not hoard food in the future. It's crazy, I will probably be able to go all of May without grocery shopping (apart from the occasional fresh fruit/veg and milk) and just use up stuff I have hoarded. I keep thinking I will have to be incredibly firm with the whole no-hoarding rule in the new kitchen though, as the Culinary Consultant is even worse at hoarding than I am. Maybe we should join hoarders anonymous or something. I will have to give up the luxury of being within walking distance of a handful of grocery stores though. Well, I will be giving up on the luxury of being within walking distance of anything but sheep, it seems. Maybe a cow or two also, but that's it. And I worry, that if I have managed to stockpile all this food into a kitchen the size of a stamp, what will happen when I have a proper kitchen with loads of cupboards? I can already see it in my head. Piles and piles of tins, beans and rice which are months if not years out of date. Does anyone have a good system to prevent this? Maybe hook everything up to a database with expiry dates, which would send emails when things are about to expire. "Warning, you have three kilograms of pasta which will expire in three days."

I have been wracking my brain to come up with ways to use up all the beans in my pantry. And to add insult to injury, I found another four packs of chickpeas hiding at the bottom of a bag stuffed into a corner. I have been throwing various things into the slow cooker over the last few weeks, mainly tinned tomatoes and beans. This time I just had to come up with something different. So after rooting through my pantry a bit more, I also found some lasagna that needed using up. Perfect, bean and bacon lasagna it is. This actually helped me get rid of not only the lasagna but also a pack of chickpeas, two tins of beans, two packs of tomato passata and some bacon and parsley that have been hiding in the back of my freezer. Now I think I'm down to only two tins of beans and three packs of chickpeas. And a freezer bursting at the seams of the various more-or-less disgusting slow cooker bean stews. Pork, beans, tomato and barley or how about chicken, pineapple, coconut milk, beans and quinoa. I still have loads of tinned tomatoes, so I see another few weird bean-and-tomato-and-whatever-else-I-can-find-in-the-house combinations.

Making lasagna from scratch has quite a few steps, but it's worth it in the end. Making your own Bechamel is really rewarding. I used this recipe from Delia on BBC Food. I guess this is as close I will ever come to supporting the Culinary Consultant's football team. Apparently after the last game, they are safe from being relegated, so crisis is averted for this season. I just can't wait for the same craziness to start again next season...

Bean and bacon lasagna (serves 6-8):
Bechamel sauce
1 l semi-skimmed milk
parsley
2 bay leaves
20 whole black peppercorns
2 slices onion (1/4 inch or 5mm thick)
80 g butter
40 g flour
salt and black pepper

In a saucepan slowly bring milk, parsley, bay leaves, peppers and onion to a boil to infuse the flavours. Strain the boiled milk into a jug and discard the flavourings. In a saucepan, melt butter and add flour. Using a wooden spoon, whisk the mixture until smooth. On medium heat, add milk a little at a time (a few tablespoons) and mix until completely smooth before adding more milk. After adding about half of the milk, you can start adding more milk at a time. Keep whisking so that no lumps form. Turn down the heat to low, and let cook for 5 minutes and season to taste (I added a bit of black pepper but no salt, the bacon in the lasagna will be salty enough for my taste).

Lasagna
1/2 tbsp olive oil
8 strips of bacon
2 cloves of garlic (I used smoked garlic because I just loooove it)
2 tins (400 g each) beans (I used butter beans and borlotti beans)
1 pack (380 g) chickpeas
2 packs (390 g) tomato passata (mine had basil in it)
500 g lasagna
1/2 cup of grated cheese (I used mature cheddar)
Bechamel sauce as described above

Finely chop garlic, and cook for a minute or two in a pan with the oil. Add bacon and cook until cooked through. Finely chop the bacon and mix with with the cooked garlic. Preheat oven to 200 degres C. Assemble lasagna in an oven proof dish. Start with about a third of the bechamel sauce, then lasagna, top with one tin of beans and half of chickpeas. Add half of the bacon/garlic mixture. Add one pack of tomato passata and about a third of the cheese. Add another layer of lasagna, the other tin of beans and the rest of the chickpeas. Add the remaining bacon/garlic mix and the other pack of tomato passata. Top with one more layer of lasagna, and add the rest of the bechamel on top, along with the rest of the cheese. Bake for about an hour until golden and bubbly.
The verdict:
As so many times before, I apologize for the utterly terrible photos. The tiny apartment makes any kind of food photography challenging under the best of circumstances. As the apartment is currently full of moving boxes, I would say that's a far shot from the best of circumstances. Also, as usual I was cooking way too late in the evening to have any resemblance of daylight left when the food was done, and the alternatives were taking crappy pictures or taking no pictures at all. I will leave it up to you to decide which one you would prefer, but this is what I went with. However, to my utter joy the flavour of the food was nothing like the pictures. Unlike most of my recent bean concoctions which have ranged from almost acceptable to purely disgusting, this actually turned out really delicious. If you want to make it vegetarian, you can exclude the bacon, but I think it really brings a lovely flavour to the rather mild beans, along with the soft and full flavour of the smoked garlic. I fed this to the Culinary Consultant, and he also ate it without any complaints. Although to be fair, he eats pretty much anything without complaints. But still, I consider this creation quite a success, and after I have gotten over my trauma of eating nothing but beans for the better part of two months, I might even make this again. I think this goes to show that as long as you have tomato passata and bechamel, anything you put between sheets of lasagna will taste like proper lasagna. Oh and if you are looking for other somewhat non-traditional takes on lasagna, take a look at my accidental sea-food lasagna.

Card of the day:
I made this for a chocoholic friend, with a sentiment inside saying "if all else fails, there's always chocolate". I cut out two different sized squares from brown cardstock, and used vintage photo and walnut stain distress inks around the edges. I attached them using dimensionals to look like pieces of a chocolate bar. For the bottom of the card, I used a part of a real chocolate wrapper and some aluminium foil. I stamped the sentiment using Hobbycraft black pigment ink, cut it out with scissors and used ink blending foam and spun sugar distress ink around the edges. Matted with some white cardstock, again with vintage photo and walnut stain blended around the edges, and to finish, everything was adhered onto pink cardstock.




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