I had a wonderful few days exploring the Peak District – one of Britain’s most beautiful areas. After long bracing walks, I felt I’d deserved a warming hearty meal at The Bull’s Head pub in Monyash. The lasagne there was real comfort food, the nearest that a lasagne can ever come to emulate a cottage pie, and I discovered (reading The Derbyshire Cookbook) that it is also a favourite of East Enders’ star, Des Coleman.
Des was set on his road to stardom (so the cookbook tells us) following a brush with the law and a cathartic night in prison where he discussed the future with two fellow inmates. The stark vision of what might be caused him to change tack and pursue an acting career.
This is my quick and simple version of this hearty, very English, and nothing like an Italian lasagne.
Recipe for a quick and simple, Very English Lasagne
- 12 ready-cooked lasagne sheets
- Olive oil
- 3 medium onions
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
- 1400g/3 lbs 2 oz good quality beef mince
- A few leaves of basil
- 1½ tbsps. of dried oregano
- 2 x 140g/5 oz tins tomato purée
- 1 x 400g/14 oz tin and 1 x 227g/8 oz tin of chopped tomatoes
- 300g/10 oz mushrooms (if you’ve bought a packet of 250g you could supplement with a few rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms)
- 120 ml/½ cup beef stock made with boiling water and a stock cube
- 80 ml/⅓ cup red vermouth
- Freshly ground pepper or a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes (follow this link for more on this magical ingredient)
- 6 x 350g/12 oz ready-made fresh cheese sauce
- 100g/4 oz/1 cup grated cheddar
- Peel and chop the onions, and get them gently frying in a large saucepan, with a little olive oil.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- When they are nearly translucent at the garlic.
- A minute or so later add the mince and brown.
- Add the tomato purée, the basil, oregano and pepper. Stir well.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, vermouth, and the stock, bring to a simmer.
- Peel (if necessary) and chop the mushrooms. Add to the simmering mince. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for about twenty minutes.
- Then line an oven-proof dish with a layer of half the pasta, then one of half the tomato-mince sauce, then a cheese sauce layer, using half the cheese sauce. Repeat. Top with the grated cheese.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes – until it’s golden and bubbling hot.