Fad Diets – lifestyle choice or money spinner?

Fad Diets | Gather and Graze

There are a plethora of diet options out there when you start to look. Paleo, Macrobiotic, Zone and Raw… are just a handful of the current, trending diets that people seem to be signing up for these days.

They dictate what you can and can’t eat… depending on the whim of the mastermind behind the particular diet. It might be cutting out broad food groups like dairy and grains… or counting calories or grams… or perhaps even stipulating the percentages of carbs, protein and fat… or hey, why not refuse to cook above a certain temperature. Always something a little different to stand out from the rest.

Quite cleverly, they create a sense of belonging for their followers… with an ideology of sorts. To be purchased are books, DVD’s, seminars, subscriptions to multi-week/month plans, food delivered direct to your door…  not to mention the full-suite of social media avenues to follow them by. Of course there’s strength in numbers when a community has been formed. If lucky enough to have high-profile celebrity adherents, this will always add to the seduction and provide the public with confidence that this MUST be good for you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they’re ALL bad. In fact the saving grace for many of these fad diets is that a number of people are finally relinquishing much of the high-processed food on the supermarket shelves and buying fresh fruit, vegetables and quality meat. I’m sure many have lost weight in doing so and are feeling good about the way they feel and look. This is wonderful, but for the fact that they’re either shelving a number of food groups that provide nutrition in ways that other food groups can’t or that hey’ve turned the privilege and joy of eating into a numbers game, of rules and restrictions, that drains the very heart and soul out of what should be a delight for all five of our senses.

I recommend that you give thought to the long-term effects of what your body is being denied. There are potential repercussions from not getting enough of the right nutrients required for both immediate and long-term health. You may well be feeling energised and great right now, but how will your body be in your 50’s, 60’s and beyond? For example, for those who’ve totally removed dairy from their diets, are you getting enough calcium from other sources to give your bones and teeth the strength they’ll need later in life? Leafy greens contain calcium too, but be aware that the body doesn’t take up those nutrients as readily as it does from the likes of yoghurt or cheese.* Find here a list showing the Calcium Content of Foods to know whether you’re getting enough for your age group.

My concern with Fad Diets also extends to any children out there whose parents are subjecting them to these diets. They are being drawn into this due to YOUR choice, not their own.I really do hope that you’ve sat down and worked out what their bodies need, for the age that they’re at, as far as nutrition goes. I know it could be worse, you could be feeding them Fast Food and soft drink on a daily basis, but even so… this is someone else’s life that your impacting on… make sure that you know what you’re doing and that there won’t be repercussions for them later in life!

Everyone needs to make their own informed decisions, I just hope that you’re not being sucked in to the fad of the day! Your long-term health (and bank account) may ultimately pay for it.

Please note… I realise that this is a topic that some people will have strong opposing views on. Please respect my right to hold an opinion on this and I will respect yours. All I’m really asking is that people think long and hard before adapting and restricting their (and their children’s) diets in any significant way.

* Regarding Dairy… I certainly don’t believe that all dairy out there is healthy for you. Much of what we find on our supermarket shelves should be forcibly removed, due to the dubious nature of how it has been produced/processed and because of the high levels of sugar added.

Hungry for… Honey Cake

Honey Cake | Gather and Graze

It is doubtful that you’ll come across another cake that is quite so easy to make, yet rewards with such beautiful taste and moist crumb. Honey is the obvious star, bringing a touch of sunshine and happiness… subtle and well-balanced… demanding only a cup of tea as the perfect partner.

This flavourful cake has been making a regular appearance on our table for the past few months now. Spotted first on The Hungry Mum‘s fabulous blog, who in turn had spotted it in a Donna Hay cookbook or website. The Hungry Mum made only one small change to the recipe, using yoghurt instead of sour cream… something I’m more than happy to adhere to, as Greek yoghurt can always be found in our fridge.

I must say that I hesitated in re-posting this recipe, which has already been covered so well by a fellow blogger (please do go and visit The Hungry Mum, to view this fabulous recipe and many more, through here or by using the link above); but as this is a cake that both myself and my children adore, I hope she won’t mind me promoting it here on Gather and Graze as well. My boys will then have no trouble finding it later in life, when they are searching for the perfect cakes to bake for their own families or friends. To the recipe below, I’ve also added weights for most of the ingredients (being my preferred way of measuring for baking)… and a pinch of salt, as is also my preference with baked treats.

Honey Cake | Gather and Graze

Honey Cake

  • Servings: 12 Slices
  • Difficulty: Easier than Easy
  • Print

  • 260g (1¾ Cups) Self-Raising Flour (Sifted)
  • 170g (¾ cup) Raw Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 155g (2/3 Cup) Unsalted Butter (Melted)
  • 170g (½ Cup) Honey
  • 200g (¾ Cup) Greek Yoghurt (or Sour Cream)
  • 3 Free-Range Eggs (Lightly Beaten)
  • 1 Tablespoon Icing (Powdered) Sugar (for dusting the top)

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of a 24cm round cake tin (or 25cm fluted cake tin if you have one).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.

Place all other ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. Stir well, until combined and light in texture.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold gently until combined. Pour into the cake tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 35-40 minutes (or until a cake tester comes out clean). If you find that the cake is browning too quickly during the final 10 minutes of cooking, cover lightly with a sheet of foil.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before removing to a cooling rack. When completely cool, dust the top with icing sugar.

Serve as is, or with a drizzle of honey and dollop of Greek Yoghurt on the side.

Honey Cake | Gather and Graze

* A Donna Hay recipe

Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake

Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake | Gather and Graze

Many moons ago, I think I mentioned that most Wednesdays I meet up for a coffee with a number of other parents from my children’s school. Yesterday was no different (though it was the first of the new school year)… hot coffees and teas sipped and relished, conversations criss-crossing the table, laughter permeating the air. Then, a wonderful surprise when John (one of the Dads) pulled from his bag a number of packages holding beautiful little pears, plucked from his tree at home to share with us all. The gift of produce or food is always something that excites me and that I’m truly grateful for. A couple of these sweet, ripe pears were munched as nature intended, but the rest were set aside in anticipation of making something extra delicious this morning.

There are days when I’m happy to just follow along with a recipe… it will usually be one that appears perfect as it is, requiring no tweaking whatsoever.  Then there are days like today, when I’m open to a little experimentation, to see what may come… you just never know when you might hit on a winner. The flavour combination of pear, almond and olive oil to be transformed into a cake was floating around my head… and so this is what finally came to be.

A Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake that is beautifully moist and flavourful. The slivered almonds give the topping such a great texture, that match so well with the fruitiness of the pears. It doesn’t sit very tall…  a little more like a Tarte Tatin… but presents wonderfully on the plate all the same.

My very sincere thanks to John for his delightful gift!

Pears | Gather and Graze

Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: 8-10 Slices
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For the caramel:

  • 60g (¼ Cup) Unsalted Butter
  • 115g (½ Cup) Raw Caster Sugar
  • 3 Small Ripe Pears (Peeled, Cored and Quartered)
  • 2 Tablespoons Slivered Almonds

For the cake batter:

  • 125g (½ Cup) Unsalted Butter (Softened)
  • 115g (½ Cup) Raw Caster Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Free-Range Egg
  • 100g (⅔ Cup) Plain Flour (Sifted)
  • 40g (⅓ Cup) Ground Almonds
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 60ml/¼ Cup Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

I used a (23cm) Le Creuset cast iron braising dish to bake this cake in, though a similar sized (greased and lined) cake tin would work just as well. 

To make the caramel:

In the cast iron dish (or a small saucepan, if you’ll be using a cake tin to bake in) melt the butter and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for a minute or two. Remove from the heat, arrange the pear quarters in a pattern over the top and scatter, between the gaps, with the slivered almonds. Set aside for the moment.

If using a cake tin, pour the caramel evenly over the base of your greased and lined cake tin and arrange the pears and almonds on top, as suggested above. Set aside for the moment.

Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake | Gather and Graze Now for the cake batter:

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract and egg. Combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt in a bowl, then fold it in to butter/egg mixture in two lots, alternating with the milk and olive oil.

Spoon the cake batter over the top of the pears and using the back of a spoon or a knife, spread it over evenly to cover. Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until golden on top and cooked through. A good sign is when it’s just starting to pull away from the sides of the baking dish (or cake tin).

Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake | Gather and GrazeAllow to cool for 5-10 minutes before carefully turning out onto a cake plate. Serve warm or at room temperature with some double cream on the side.

Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake | Gather and Graze

A Fading Summer

Dusky Pink Rose | Gather and Graze

The Canberra children returned to school today and it feels already as though summer is shutting up shop. The past week has been riddled with selfish thoughts of ‘thank goodness they’re back at school soon and I’ll be able to find a moment of calm’, but it’s morning tea time… and I miss them already.

Apricot and Lavender Jam

Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze

The stone fruit has been spectacular this summer… the nectarines, the peaches, the plums! Mostly purchased from the farmer’s market, but even our new little peach tree managed to produce a small crop, to give us a taste of what’s to come – such a sweet little tree that he is! Somehow though the apricots never managed to make it into my basket. Something just wasn’t quite right with them… they never looked like they held any flavour. So as you’d expect I passed them by… that is, until today. When I saw these little blushed beauties, I knew exactly what I wanted to make – jam!

Last year I made my first ever batch of Apricot and Lavender Jam and when I initially tasted it, I thought I’d completely ruined it with the addition of the lavender (perhaps one sprig too many?) but with time to sit… and infuse… and mellow… it actually became my favourite jam of the year. So… desperate to make this again before the apricots disappeared completely for the summer, my afternoon was very pleasantly spent in the kitchen stirring and breathing in the aromas of this delightful jam.

One interesting change to note… last year I used about 400g of sugar (50% sugar to the amount of fruit) to make the same size batch of jam, however this year I’ve enthusiastically adopted the idea of a ‘Low Sugar Jam’ from my friend Johnny, at Kitsch n flavours, who is working towards creating a fabulous line of Jams and Chutneys to sell in the UK (and hopefully beyond)! He makes jams with only 20% or 30% added sugar, which is a far cry from many other recipes that combine equal quantities of fruit and sugar! Mostly for the purposes of keeping the ingredient quantities tidy, I went for 25% sugar in this particularly recipe. The apricots are sweet enough and this allows their natural flavour to shine through. Plus, a little sugar helps to preserve the jam, so that it doesn’t all need to be consumed in the coming week… You’ll also see that I like to use lemon juice in my jams, which seems to substitute quite well for pectin. Apart from that, just be sure to protect your hands and arms when the jam is bubbling away, to protect from burns… the oven gloves came in handy today!

Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze

Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: Produced 3 smallish jars of jam
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  • 800g (Approx. 14) Fresh Ripe Apricots (stones removed and chopped into chunks)
  • 3-4 Sprigs of Lavender (flowers removed from the stems)
  • 60ml/¼ Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 125ml/½ Cup Water
  • 200g/¾ Cup + 1 Tablespoon Raw Caster Sugar

Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze

Place the apricots, lavender flowers, lemon juice and water into a medium sized saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the fruit has softened nicely.

Add the sugar and stir to combine as you bring the fruit back up to the boil. Allow to boil for about another 10-15 minutes (stirring often to ensure the mixture doesn’t catch and burn on the base). When the jam has thickened (and ideally reached 105°C on a jam thermometer) remove from the heat.

Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze Allow to cool for a few minutes, before scooping into hot sterilised jars. Tighten the lids immediately and allow the jars to sit until they come to room temperature.

Sandra from Please Pass the Recipe has very wisely recommended that jams with less than 40-50% sugar should be stored in the refrigerator, as the lower sugar content may not be sufficient enough to act as a preservative if you intend to stack them in the pantry cupboard. So it’s off to the fridge they go!

Apricot and Lavender Jam | Gather and Graze

Ottolenghi’s ‘Prawns, Scallops & Clams with Tomato & Feta’

Gather and Graze

Being aware of how many Ottolenghi fans are out there, I’ll be surprised if there aren’t at least a few of you who have tried this dish already! It’s a delicious, saucy dish that feels suited to any and all of the seasons, packed full of seafood… and flavour!

In a comforting kind of way, it reminds me very much of a Greek dish that my Mum often makes, called ‘Gharithes Me Feta’ (translates to ‘Prawns with Feta’). She’s been cooking it for years… I think perhaps it was a recipe passed on to her from our Greek neighbours who were (and still are…) fishmongers in Adelaide. Now I realise that Mr Ottolenghi has upped the ante somewhat with the addition of scallops, clams and fragrant strips of lemon zest, but somehow I know that deep down I’m going to be just as likely to think of my Mum whenever I make this in future. The flavours seem so attached to her… and to her kitchen.

I made the decision to use Persian feta when I cooked this for the family the other night and despite it’s decadent creaminess, I felt that it melted a little too much into the dish and that a slightly more robust feta would be a better choice in future.

It’s such a wonderful dish… I hope you give it a go.

Ottolenghi's 'Prawns, Scallops & Clams with Tomato & Feta' | Gather and Graze

  • 250ml White Wine
  • 1 kg Clams (cleaned) – I only used 500g
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic Cloves (thinly sliced)
  • 600g (Fresh or Tinned) Ripe Tomatoes (Peeled and Chopped)
  • 1 Teaspoon Caster Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano (Chopped)
  • 1 Lemon
  • 16 Raw Tiger Prawns (Peeled and Deveined)
  • 12 Large Scallops (Cleaned)
  • 120g Feta Cheese (Broken into 2cm chunks)
  • 3 Spring Onions (thinly sliced)
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Bring the white wine to the boil in a medium saucepan and reduce until only a quarter of the quantity is left.

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Add the clams to the saucepan and cover with a lid. Allow to cook over high heat for about 2 minutes (shaking the pan occasionally). Check that the clams have opened, before transferring to a fine sieve to drain, being sure to retain all of the cooking liquid (in a bowl or jug) for later.

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Remove the clams from their shells, though you may wish to leave a few with shells on for presentation at the end.

Preheat the oven to 240°C.

Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the garlic in the olive oil until just golden. Add the tomatoes, clam liquid, sugar, chopped oregano and a grinding of pepper and salt. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off three strips of lemon and add them to the sauce. Allow to simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes until the sauce thickens nicely. Taste for seasoning and be sure to discard the lemon peel.

Add the prawns and scallops and stir gently to coat them in the sauce. Allow to cook for just a couple of minutes. Fold in the clams and transfer everything to an ovenproof dish. Scatter with the feta cheese and spring onions (and any of the cooked clams in their shells) and place into the oven for about 5 minutes, until the top of the dish colours a little and the seafood is cooked.

Remove from the oven, squeeze some lemon juice over the top and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

Perfect served with couscous, rice or bread.

Gather and Graze

Notes on Cooking

  • If you like a little heat, feel free to add some chilli flakes to the sauce at the same time as you add the tomatoes.

* Recipe from the cookbook ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Layered Chocolate Pavlova

Layered Chocolate Pavlova | Gather and Graze

So it’s Australia Day tomorrow… and Australia Day simply wouldn’t be Australia Day without a pavlova making it’s way onto the table at some point during the day! A couple of weeks ago… in fact it was on New Years Eve, I decided to make a trial pavlova. It was my first ever layered pavlova and what could be better than chocolate meringue to give a lovely contrast in colours with the whipped cream and red berries! I’ll be making a similar version of this tomorrow to have after our dinner… barbeque’d something it will certainly be… though I’m not too sure what. Come to think of it, prawns might be nice!

You may notice that photos of this cake cut into slices, plated with dainty cake forks by their side, are quietly absent. How wonderful it would be to show you a perfectly sliced cross-section of all those beautiful layers of meringue, cream and berries… stacked up so nice and high! Well… a food bloggers photo shoot doesn’t always work out the way she plans it, does it!? It was all good, ’til I went and stuck the knife in! Hmm… to put it politely… what a DELICIOUS MESS! The family didn’t mind at all, but for the sake of keeping this blog on the prettier side, no further photos were taken. Oh and I’ve decided to keep all future layered pavlovas to the double-decker variety only!

Happy Australia Day!

Layered Chocolate Pavlova | Gather and Graze

  • 4 Free-Range Egg Whites
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 220g/1 Cup Caster Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Cornflour (Sifted)
  • 1 Teaspoon White Vinegar (or Verjuice)
  • 30g/4 Tablespoons (Good Quality) Cocoa Powder (Sifted)
  • 350ml Cream
  • Fresh Red Berries (I used a mixture of Raspberries and sliced Strawberries)

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C and prepare 2 baking trays by lining them with baking paper. You may also wish to draw some circle templates on the paper, to better guarantee that your meringue discs will be the same size.

Place the egg whites and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high until they come to soft peaks. Continue whisking as you slowly pour in the caster sugar and the mixture will soon come to stiff peaks. With the mixer set to low, now fold through the cornflour, vinegar and cocoa powder. Whisk slowly until completely incorporated.

Scoop out the meringue onto the baking paper into 2 (or 3 if you’re going for the tripe tier!) equal portions and shape into flattish discs of equal diameter. My 3 tiers were about 15cm across each… for a 2 tier cake, I would make them approximately 20cm across.

Place into the oven, reduce the temperature to 120°C immediately and bake for 1 hour. When the hour is up, keep the oven door shut and turn off the oven… leaving the meringue discs inside to completely cool.

Assemble the pavlova (not too far in advance from serving it), by placing a meringue disc on your serving plate, slather on a layer of freshly whipped cream and a scattering of fruit, then sit the other meringue disc on top, more cream and then decorate with an abundance of beautiful fresh berries.

Layered Chocolate Pavlova | Gather and Graze

Hoisin Chicken

Hoisin Chicken | Gather and Graze

A quick little post to share a delicious, yet fast and easy chicken dish that we enjoyed a couple of nights ago. So much to love about sticky, finger-licking chicken thigh fillets that take only a few moments to prep and about half an hour to cook! These will be fabulous when the kids go back to school in a couple of week’s time and I’m looking for those fast mid-week meals once again!

Both adults and children alike enjoyed the hit of chilli, though feel free to reduce the amount of chilli sauce if you prefer a little less heat. Recipe inspired by and adapted from a Bill Granger recipe.

Hoisin Chicken | Gather and Graze

  • 80ml/⅓ Cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon (Chinese) Chilli & Garlic Sauce (or feel free to use a plain chilli sauce and add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic)
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Freshly-Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 2 Teaspoons Fresh Ginger (Grated)
  • ½ Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
  • 1kg (Approx 8) Free-Range Chicken Thigh Fillets (trimmed of any excess fat)
  • 1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Seeds

In a large mixing bowl place the hoisin, chilli and soy sauces, the lemon juice, honey, ginger, garlic and Chinese Five Spice. Stir until well combined, then add the chicken and allow to marinate for about half an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and line a large baking tray with foil.

Place the chicken pieces onto the lined tray, spooning any sauce left in the bowl over the top of them and bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes (or until cooked through). Remove to a serving dish and scatter with the toasted sesame seeds. Perfect on a summer’s evening, served with a crisp white, some steamed jasmine rice and a crunchy Asian-style cabbage salad… or some lightly steamed greens.

Hoisin Chicken | Gather and Graze

Galettes au Beurre

Galettes Au Beurre | Gather and Graze

I’ve been craving buttery French biscuits over the past few days.

While perusing the shelves of our local library, I came across a wonderful book of artisanal recipes from the Parisian Chocolatier ‘A La Mere de Famille’. It’s filled with the most mouth-watering treats, ranging from cakes and biscuits to chocolates and confectionary and then continuing on to jams and ice cream. The original shop, situated on the Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre in the 9th Arrondissement was first opened in 1761 and looks like a truly magical place to visit… especially for one with such a sweet tooth.

My other inspiration came from my friend Linda at ‘La Petite Paniere’ who recently posted some beautiful ‘Palets Bretons’ that are along slightly similar lines, though I imagine perhaps richer due to the fact that they use only egg yolks, rather than the whole egg. They will be the biscuits that I make next…

The recipe below has been adapted from one in the French cookbook mentioned above. I found the original recipe created too sticky a dough… and also had I left them in the oven for the specified 20 mins, they would have been burnt to a crisp! I roughly halved the quantity… two trays of galettes seemed more than enough to me… though watching them disappear so quickly, I’m now not so sure.

Galettes au Beurre | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: Approx 25-30 Galettes
  • Print

  • 125g Salted Butter (Softened)
  • 125g Icing (Powdered) Sugar
  • 1 Free-Range Egg
  • 250g Plain Flour (Sifted)
  • Pinch of Salt (optional if using salted butter)
  • Milk (For Brushing)

Beat together the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer. Stir in the egg and then the flour and salt. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Roll out the dough (between 2 sheets of baking paper) to a thickness of about 3-4mm. Refrigerate the sheet of dough for 1 hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line 2 baking trays with baking/parchment paper.

Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut out the biscuits and arrange on the baking trays. Brush each one with a little milk and use a fork (or knife) to lightly score a striped effect on top. Bake for approximately 13-14 minutes, until golden. Be sure to watch them towards the end, to make sure they don’t brown too quickly… or burn!

  • I feel that these Galettes are best made with a good quality Salted Butter, or be sure to add a good pinch of salt if you choose to use Unsalted Butter.

A Little Broadway Lasagne

Lasagne | Gather and Graze It’s not even my type of music, yet I find the soundtrack to the Broadway Musical ‘Jersey Boys’ strangely infectious. It’s one of 3 musicals that I’ve seen ‘live’ in New York and I have incredibly fond memories of it, mostly due to the fact that I saw it on a fabulous girl’s weekend with a dear friend from Australia who was also living in the USA at the time.

Anyway… fast forward a few years and here you’ll find me singing along in my Aussie kitchen to the rather awkwardly high-pitched tones of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as I prepare our dinner. I could have chosen something more traditionally Italian (as is more often the case), but this was really such a fun way to pass an hour or so! No inhibitions… the rest of the family were all out! The kitchen was MINE!

With such upbeat music in the air, there was a lightness of hand, head and heart that evening while cooking and singing in the kitchen… and the lasagne tasted better than ever! My question for you dear people is…  is it possible that there’s a direct correlation between the two? Does music create tastier food? Should the genre of music be tailored to the style of food being prepared? Tell me… do you happen to enjoy singing in the kitchen too?

🎵”Oh What A Night!”🎵

(Beef & Mushroom) Lasagne | Gather and Graze

For the Meat Sauce:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Large French Shallot (or ½ Brown Onion) Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Crushed)
  • ½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 800g Beef Mince
  • 125ml/½ Cup Red Wine
  • 400g Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (depending on strength of paste)
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • 60g Unsalted Butter
  • 60g Plain Flour
  • 600ml Milk (Warmed over gentle heat, or carefully in the microwave)
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper (or White Pepper instead if you have some)

Other Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Medium/Large Mushrooms (I prefer Swiss Brown) Sliced
  • Small Bunch Flat-Leaf Parsley (Chopped)
  • Fresh Pasta/Lasagne Sheets
  • Cheese (Grated) for the topping (I like a mixture of Mozzarella and Parmesan)

To make the meat sauce… In a large frypan, gently sauté the shallot with a pinch of salt in the olive oil until translucent. Add the crushed garlic and oregano and sauté a minute or two more. Raise the heat a little and add the minced beef, cooking until browned. Pour in the wine and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes or so until reduced by about half. Now add the tomatoes, tomato paste and season to taste with some more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to simmer for another 15-20 minutes at least. Then set aside to cool slightly, while you make the béchamel sauce.

To make the béchamel… Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low/medium heat. Add the flour and whisk continuously for a couple of minutes until the mixture begins to bubble gently. Remove from the heat and add the (warmed) milk all at once, whisking as you do to ensure there are no lumps. Place the pan back on the heat and continue to whisk until it comes to a simmer and thickens. Allow to simmer for about a further couple of minutes, then remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and a good grinding of pepper.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Begin to layer the lasagne in a large baking dish. I always start with a little meat sauce spread across the base, then a layer of fresh lasagne sheets, followed by a good layer (about half) of the meat sauce, sliced mushrooms (with a portion left without for our youngest who hasn’t yet realised how wonderful mushrooms really are…) and then a scattering of chopped parsley…

Lasagne | Gather and Graze

Now add a layer of béchamel sauce (about a third)…

Lasagne | Gather and Graze

then back to the lasagne sheets. Repeat this process then top the final lasagne sheets with a further layer of béchamel sauce and finish with some grated cheese.

Lasagne | Gather and Graze

 Place into the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes or so, until heated all the way through… and the cheese has melted and gone golden and bubbly on top. Lasagne | Gather and Graze

Serve with a fresh garden salad and a glass of red… Oh and please pretend you didn’t see those little elbows on the table! ;)