I was generally quite a good child at school. Well okay if you're asking specifics, I was good in primary school but once high school hit, well I can't make any claims or promises to have been an angel. Still, I attended class and made moderate grades. All except in one subject: Physical Education or P.E. aka sport.
Even the mere word sport conjures up hot days outdoors, being picked last for a team because I simply didn't have any sort of co-ordination and the fear of cannon-like cricket balls hurtling at me like ammunition. Incidentally, Mr NQN's aunt Sisko believes that climbing trees helps children develop coordination and I can really sort of believe that. She explained that trees are better than jungle gyms because you need to size up distances and everything isn't uniform. As a tree climber Mr NQN has excellent co-ordination and as a jungle gym kid I do not. And my friend Nic recently told me that if you failed to crawl properly then that can explain a lack of co-ordination in later life...
I did have one naughty trick to avoid P.E. during my teenage years. My parents would occasionally succumb to writing me a note to get out of sports. I don't think they quite understood the point of it either. I'd show the note to the teacher who would give it a cursory inspection and then place it in my pocket. A few days later when the next P.E. class was on, I'd either snip off the date and write in a new one or change the numbers. It's amazing what you can do to turn a 3 into an 8 or a 1 into a 7.
This trick had it's own limits, after all you could only slice off the top of the date so many times before you ran out of paper. In which case, it was then about time to ask for a new note. And every year or half year when the reports would roll around, my marks in P.E. were "very unsatisfactory" and there would be comments like "Lorraine would do better, if she actually participated in sport."
Anyway, my favourite food around this time was lasagna. If I were to draw any parallels it would be between me and Garfield the lasagna loving cat. And this is my recipe for lasagna that disappears faster than me in a P.E. class. It's so popular that I need to serve it with a side salad or something to fill Mr NQN or friends up with or there may be a situation in which they eat it all.
It is also a slightly healthier version of lasagna, not that you'd know it from the taste. Into the filling I added lots of finely chopped vegetables and extra lean beef mince and there's just 500 grams or 1 pound of lean mince in the whole lasagna. The middle filling is made of reduced fat ricotta and I layer this onto strips of curly and straight lasagna sheets before adding another layer of tomato rich beef filling.
There's just one final layer of cheese on top and did I mention that this all goes into a square springform cake tin? If you're like me and want your lasagna to look good as well as taste good, then the trick to making this a cinch is by baking this in a springform cake tin so that you allow this to cool completely and then simply remove the sides and slice. I've chilled it and then heated it up in the oven but if you can't wait, even an hour is going to help it keep its form.
So tell me Dear Reader, what do you think of the jungle gym vs tree climbing theory or indeed the crawling theory? And are you good at any sports? If you could skip any class at school, what would it have been?
Cake Tin Lasagna
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons oil
500g extra lean beef mince
2 large carrots, diced
1 large zucchini, diced (no need to peel)
690g/24.4 fl oz. bottle tomato passata
140g/5 oz tin tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
1.5 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons salt or more to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
Cheesy Bechamel sauce
75g or 1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup plain all purpose flour
2 cups milk, hot
salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheese
Ricotta filling and pasta
400g/14oz reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 box instant lasagne noodles (the ones that you don't have to boil in water ahead of time)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/2 cup reggiano cheese, grated
non stick oil spray
Step 1 - Make the sauce. Saute the onion and garlic on medium heat in olive oil. Turn the heat to medium high heat and brown the mince, breaking it up.
Step 2 - Add the carrots and zucchini and tomato passata, tomato paste, red wine and bay leaves and simmer for about 15-20 minutes with the lid on until the flavour intensifies and the raw carrot taste has disappeared.
Step 3 - Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in milk.
Step 4 - Make the bechamel sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter and flour and cook while stirring with a flat bottomed wooden spoon or spatula until you get a smooth, golden mixture. Change to a whisk and then add the milk a little at a time, patience is key with bechamel and you just keep adding the milk and stirring until it is all added (I have found that in times of impatience, adding too much milk leads to lumpy bechamel). Add some freshly grated nutmeg and season with salt and pepper and add the cheese in and stir until it is incorporated.
Step 5 - Preheat oven to 190C/374F. Take your square springform cake tin and make sure that it is clipped together securely. Mix the eggs and ricotta together.
Step 6 - Layer the lasagna-I started with a bit of bechamel so that the pasta wouldn't stick to the bottom. Then layer with the pasta and then the meat. I then placed a single layer of the ricotta mixture and then another meat and then bechamel and cheese.
Step 7 - Spray a sheet of foil with non stick spray and cover the lasagne. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and then bake for a further 20-25 minutes until golden. Allow to rest in the cake tin for at least 60 minutes and then carefully remove the sides and slice into portions.