pork and sage lasagne

Although it was a while ago now, I am coming round to think that perhaps I was too harsh with my branding of lasagne as a “Food Technology” dish. Before I broke up from University for the holidays, I ate out with my family, and saw on the menu a roasted pork lasagne – which as I’m sure you’ll agree, sounds fairly sophisticated. A far cry from a school kitchen. Despite having no recipe for this dish, it sounded delicious; knowing how to cook pork, garlic and peppers respectively, I guessed that it’d turn out okay!

Whilst the main components of the dish were given in the restaurant menu, I chose to modify the tomato sauce, using sage to replace the basil or oregano found in ordinary lasagne. The herb sage pairs perfectly with pork. Used most frequently in sausages, the sage gives a savoury and minimal peppery flavour to the meat. Opting for this instead of Italian basil or oregano sets this lasagne aside from the usual bolognese variety, and thus makes it stand out as a dish. Moreover, the ready-listed ingredients went well with the choice of herb. Roast garlic is far sweeter in taste compared to the sometimes harsh flavours of raw pureed garlic – combined with the sage, the peppery nature of the herb offsets the sweetness of the garlic and creates an excellent balance of flavours. So here is my make-shift recipe, inspired by the menu of a lovely little pub in Kenilworth.

Ingredients

  • 350g diced pork
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, skin left on, with one end trimmed
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Dried sage
  • 20g butter
  • 20g flour
  • 300ml cold milk
  • Grated cheddar cheese, to taste

Method

  1. Timing is crucial to this recipe – have a watch or a clock to hand!
  2. In a large piece of silver foil, place the garlic cloves with their skin still on with one end trimmed. Season with salt and coat in a small amount of olive oil. Wrap the foil tightly, and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the time – half way through the 25 minutes place the peppers in the oven to roast too.
  3. Whilst the garlic is cooking, prepare the two sauces and the pork.
  4. Begin with the tomato sauce, as this needs to simmer for the longest, and therefore can be left on the back burner whilst other components are made. Begin frying sliced red onions; when softened, add the tinned tomatoes and stir. Place a lid on the pan, turn the heat down to low and simmer.
  5. Around this time, the 25 minutes for the garlic should be reaching half way. To an oiled baking tray add the sliced peppers, and place in the oven for the remainder of the cooking period for the garlic.
  6. Heat a small amount of oil in frying pan over a medium heat. As the oil warms, add the diced pork and fry until browned, seasoning with pepper. When browned, remove from the heat and cut each pork piece into thin slices.
  7. Take the tomato sauce off the heat, and add the balsamic vinegar. Break the shape of the tomatoes against the side of the saucepan. Season, and sprinkle in some dried sage. Stir in the pork slices.
  8. Check the garlic and peppers – remove from the oven. Add the peppers whole to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Open the foil wrap and leave the garlic to cool slightly, then squeeze the soft garlic out from the hardened clove shell into the tomato sauce. Stir once more, and then return the sauce to the heat to simmer through again.
  9. Now turn your attention to the béchamel sauce. Melting the butter in the pan, add flour until a ball forms. Stir in the milk gradually until a smooth sauce is created; season and add grated cheese to taste.
  10. As all components are complete, now is the time to form the lasagne! In a deep oven-proof dish, layer the lasagne – to ensure the lasagne doesn’t stick to the bottom of the dish, first place down a layer of pork and tomato sauce, followed by lasagne sheets.
  11. Then, order another layer of pork sauce, followed by béchamel sauce, followed by lasagne sheets. Repeat this order until all the sauces are used up, finishing with a layer of béchamel sauce over lasagne sheets. Top the final layer of béchamel sauce with more grated cheese, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the top is browned and slightly crisp.
  12. Remove from the oven, and serve with a fresh rocket salad.
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