Did you see The Dinner Ladies on the Shark Tank a couple of weeks ago? They pitched their idea for business expansion to the panel and walked away with investment from Janine Allis, the Boost Juice entrepreneur.
Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt started The Dinner Ladies in 2007, the idea came up whilst chatting at the school gate. They have seven children between them so they totally understand how to feed a crowd.
I’ve been using the Dinner Ladies home delivery service for at least a year, and my kids very favourite meal from them is this marvellous lasagna, see recipe below. A friend told me about the company when I was confessing to buying takeaway pizza on a regular basis.
Loads of work and cooking well doesn’t go hand-in-hand in our house.
I tend to order from The Dinner Ladies every three to four weeks, mainly their frozen meals like meatballs, burgers, and often their excellent curries too. They do more all sorts of mouth-watering grub, menus change weekly.
I begged them to divulge their recipe for lasagna. Their version is miles better than anything I’ve ever done, and now I read the recipe, I can see why. It’s cooked with lots of time, love, care….. and cheese…
I shall try it, but I bet the kids will still prefer their version.
Dinner Ladies Lasagne
75g onion, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
75g carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic
Half a teaspoon salt
10ml olive oil
375g pork and veal mince
75ml red wine
300g crushed or diced tomato
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
2 bay leaves
6 sheets instant, dried lasagne (Barilla is good)
100g shredded mozzarella
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
350ml full cream milk
50g Parmesan, grated
Half a teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced.
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over a medium-low heat and gently cook the onions, celery, carrots and garlic till very soft and sweet. Don’t rush this step!
Raise the heat to high, add the mince and cook until it has all changed in colour, breaking up clumps as you go. A potato masher works well as a lump-smasher.
Add the red wine and bring to the boil then stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs. Turn the heat down very low and simmer gently for an hour or so or until the sauce is thick and rich and the meat is tender. Taste for seasoning.
While the ragu is cooking, melt the butter very gently over a low heat in another medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until the flour/butter mix is cooked out and no longer raw-tasting. Pour in the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk to stop lumps forming and cook gently until the béchamel has thickened to the consistency of cream. (If there are any lumps, go through it with a stick blender.) Add half the Parmesan, the nutmeg and the second salt amount. Taste for seasoning.
To assemble, spoon 200ml of ragu into the base of a 22cm square baking dish and then place two lasagne sheets side by side over the sauce. Spread 250ml of sauce over the lasagne sheets then sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Add two more lasagne sheets (crossways) then another 250ml of sauce and the second half of mozzarella. Finally, place on two more lasagne sheets and top with the béchamel. Sprinkle with the second half of the grated Parmesan and place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until golden all the way across the lasagne. Any sunken white patches suggest that the lasagne is still uncooked.
Remove from the oven and rest for ten minutes to come together, then serve in wedges with a green salad.
Here’s to home-cooked food that I don’t always have to cook myself.
Do try this lasagna, it’s fantastic.