Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: food
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Sunday, 6 August 2017

EatNorth at North Brewing Co

Recently established by the Leeds Indie Food team, EatNorth is a weekly street food fair held at North Brewing Co, a short walk outside of Leeds city centre. The line up of traders changes every week, always backed up by a beer selection from North Brewing themselves.


We headed over to Leeds on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and spotting that the food traders were pretty much all new to us (whilst Sheffield has a thriving street food scene, it's generally the same names cropping up event after event) we decided to pay EatNorth a visit.

First up, the venue. North Brewing Co is a brilliant set up for events such as this. Having recently added a second unit to their production facility which provides much needed storage, the taproom is spacious without being unwelcomingly cavernous, there's a nice shiny brew kit to drool over and a good amount of outdoor space.


We grabbed a couple of beers to start with - Piñata pale ale (4.5), which with mango and guava was delicately fruity without being overwhelmingly perfumed, and North's recent charity collaboration with Denmark's Dry & Bitter, #NB20, a slightly hazy 7% IPA with a decent whack of tropical flavours and an upfront hop bitterness (read more about North's charity project to celebrate their 20th anniversary here).

Onto the food! We went for the classic halloumi fries from East Midlands based Dukkah, who provide an entirely vegetarian menu. Now I guess halloumi fries are a bit of a trendy concept at the moment but these guys are clearly working for flavour rather than fashion. The fries themselves were nice (it's deep fried cheese at the end of the day, what's not to like?) but it was the toppings that made this dish special - fresh pomegranate seeds, a mint tzatziki sauce and a chilli and pistachio dukkha spice mix coating worked together in fragrant harmony.


We also sampled the crispy king prawns coated in panko breadcrumbs from Tikk's Thai Kitchen, which were served with sriracha fries and a sweet chilli dipping sauce. We've had the satay from these guys before and it's superb, and the prawns did not disappoint given our high expectations. Plump and juicy with just the right amount of crispy coating, and the fries were eye-wateringly spicy in a good way (we had also added extra chilli).


As well as a couple more street food traders, Smak! serving Polish sausages and Oh My Glaze providing chicken wraps and wings, there was a vegan cake stall from Nicely Kitchen and Rabbit Coffee serving hot drinks and espresso martinis, which looked and smelled amazing. So a good selection all round we reckon.

The atmosphere as a whole was brilliant; relaxed, bustling without being packed, and with a DJ playing dub tunes which completely befitted the sunny afternoon. A table outside was stocked with all manner of useful things from suncream to doggy treats, totally indicative of the thought and effort that's clearly gone into arranging this weekly event. Good vibes all round and an event we'd definitely recommend.

Cheers,

Laura & Jim

Monday, 6 February 2017

Street Food Warehouse

We love living in Sheffield... in fact, there's nowhere else in the UK we'd rather be! However, we have often lamented that the city centre pretty much closes down as soon as the clock strikes 5. In step Alive After Five - a new project helping our hometown to find out exactly what there is to offer once work is over, and to encourage more people to get off their sofas and out into town!

The Alive After Five team invited us down to the inaugural Street Food Warehouse event, based on Trafalgar Street in the city centre. We've been a number of times to other street food markets, but although we've enjoyed them, it's definitely the case that they seem to have become victims of their own popularity, with massive queues and a tendency to invite back the same group of traders time after time meaning these events had lost a bit of the "je ne sais quoi" vibe for us, so we were looking forward to trying out an alternative.


First thoughts - Trafalgar Warehouse was WAY nicer than we were expecting, having only really frequented the area to go to our most beloved but highly sticky, depraved and GREAT nightclub Corporation, which shares an outdoor area with the warehouse. There was an excellent mix of food offerings available, from waffles and brownies to hot dogs and pies. An on-site bar was also available serving beers from The Brew Foundation alongside a selection of wines, cider and soft drinks.

Our first stop was Dim Sum Su, a trader who we were already familiar with but whose food never disappoints. We were shown how the steamed buns are made and sampled the belly pork Bao, packed full of succulent and fragrant five spice meat, topped with a sprinkling of spring onion, coriander and peanuts. Super tasty and oh so fresh, a lovely light way to kick off our evening.


HomeBoys was founded by Masterchef 2015 finalist Pete Hewitt, with modern Asian inspired street food served from the side of a 1978 Grumman Olson Stepvan. We chose to share the Kara Age chicken wings and the pork sando bun. Kara Age simply refers to the technique of deep frying in oil - these chicken wings were coated in potato starch, for an incredible crisp finish, and were served with Japanese Kewpie mayo. The sando bun was mouth-wateringly good, with the accompaniments of pickled pineapple and kimchi being flavourful and unique. There was also something on top which I forget the exact name of but was described as a "low calorie pork scratching", what more could you ask for in life?! The two together were mega filling and both absolutely outstanding quality.


Despite being pretty stuffed already, we couldn't resist trying something with was completely unlike anything we've ever seen at this sort of event. And so our final choice was Platzki - a completely new offering to the street food world. We tried the pierogi (traditional mushroom and cabbage dumplings) and the "classic zap" - a Polish style baguette topped with mushrooms, onions and cheese. It was as long as Laura's forearm AND HAND and was bursting with earthy flavour. Worth mentioning as well that Peter, one of the three members of the Platzki team, came for a chat with us and is quite frankly fantastic - the most charismatic man in street food!


The next Street Food Warehouse event is taking place on February 13th, and we can't recommend it enough.

Cheers!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Sheffield Cookbook: Second Helpings

The second release of the Sheffield Cookbook, from Meze Publishing, is out now just in time for Christmas, and a veritable plethora of Sheffield's restaurants, cafe and pubs are showcasing their top recipes within. Now we're big fans of the first book, and have the Nottingham version too, and this second edition is MASSIVE... proof that Sheffield has a thriving and vibrant foodie scene!


Being the beery types that we are, one of the things that we first noticed about this book is that Sheffield breweries and pubs are very well represented. Abbeydale Brewery is represented by their pub, The Rising Sun in Nether Green, who's kitchen team have whipped up a rolled lamb breast dish with crispy lamb neck bon bons, using Abbeydale's Daily Bread (we have since been to the Rising Sun to taste this dish and can absolutely vouch for it's deliciousness!).


Sentinel Brewery have created a pork and black pudding Scotch egg (which has malt in the coating!), served with brown sauce made from brewer's wort - a really interesting way to incorporate beer and the brewing process into food!


If you're more of a dessert person, one of our favourite shops, Beer Central, has submitted a chocolate cake recipe using Thornbridge Brewery's sumptuous Cocoa Wonderland stout. Thornbridge's best bitter, Lord Marples, is also represented by the Stag's Head pub (which forms part of the Thornbridge portfolio) who use it as a braising liquor for their venison shank.

The recipes are mainly targeted towards pretty ambitious home cooking, but generally use ingredients that are easy to get hold of, making the book perfect for those who like a bit of a challenge in the kitchen. For example, the ham hock ballotine with textures of apple from Thyme Cafe is an excellent mix of simple flavour combinations, incorporating a more technical way of cooking. We're also dying to have a go at one of our absolute favourite dishes - Rico from the Rutland Arms has shared his secrets on how to recreate his INCREDIBLE cod dish, which comprises beautiful roasted fish with arroz nigre (a risotto type dish made with squid ink), braised octopus in garlic and smoked paprika XO emulsion. We always make a beeline for the Rutland whenever we spy this on the specials menu, and the recipe is detailed and informative enough that we have confidence we can at least have a go at doing the dish a bit of justice (we will report back in due course!).


So much deliciousness in every single one of it's 318 pages. Bravo, Sheffield Cookbook!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Passionfruit Meringue Pie

When Shannon of Tempest Brewing Co. first approached us about producing a week long beer and food pairing with a whole array of their delicious beers, our minds raced with ideas.

Having visited their tap and brewery in September 2015, we were extremely impressed by the range and quality of their beers and couldn't wait to get experimenting. 

You can see the variety of dishes we came up with here... and the passionfruit meringue pie we made worked so well with the delicious Mango Berlinner that we thought we'd better share the recipe for those of you fond of a sour beer! Sour beers work really well with something sweet to balance... in this case, passionfruit and mango are a match made in heaven. The sweetness of the meringue cuts through the gentle sourness of the beer, whilst the homemade curd zings along in tune with it.


Any citrus fruit will work here, so feel free to adjust the recipe accordingly depending on what you're pairing it with. Obviously lemons and limes produce more juice than a passionfruit, so you will need fewer.

Curd
Juice of 8 passionfruits, sieved to remove the pips
Juice and zest of 2 limes
4 egg yolks (keep the whites for the meringue)
170g golden caster sugar
1tsp corn flour.

Meringue
4 egg whites
250g golden caster sugar
1tsp cornflour

Topping
2 passionfruits

Method
First, preheat your oven to around 180°C.

Start by preparing the pastry. Now this is boring to both read and write about, and I'm sure you will have your own method (ours is buying shop bought [if it's good enough for Nigella, it's good enough for us]), so we'll leave you to it. But however you choose to do it, you will need a shortcrust pastry case around 25cm across, blind baked and ready to fill.

On to the good bit. CURD! Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl to a paste, making sure to get rid of any big sugar lumps. Into a measuring jug, sieve the passionfruits to remove the seeds leaving the juice behind, and squeeze the limes up to make the juice up to 200ml. Warm the fruit juice up in a pan, leave to cool slightly and then slowly add to the yolk/sugar combo, stirring continually to avoid cooking the eggs - nobody wants a scrambled curd. Once combined, add back to the pan with the corn flour and cook over a low heat, again stirring continually to avoid burning. The curd will thicken after around 4-6 minutes - at this point, remove it from the heat and pour the mixture into your pasty case. Allow this to cool, leaving an orange coloured velvet pool.

Meringue - this can either be easy as pie, or alternatively can get you working up a good sweat. Add all the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl to be hand mixed, and whisk until soft peaks form... in a mixer it should take around 3 minutes, by hand closer to 10 if you're lucky (and determined). As the peaks form, slowly mix in the sugar, trying to keep the air in the meringue, and mix to stiff peaks, then gently stir in the corn flower. Dollop the meringue atop the curd, starting at the edges and pile upwards to a peak in the centre, but ensuring you cover all the curd to protect it from the heat of the oven. Bake for around 20 minutes until lightly golden. Then remove, and rest for at least 30 minutes.

Leave to cool and top with the flesh and seeds of 2 passionfruits. Serve immediately.


Cheers,

Jim

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Food and Beer with Tempest Brewing Co - A Preview!


Something very exciting is coming up at Mashtun Towers. We are teaming up with our pals up at Tempest Brewing Co to bring you a series of foodie delights to match with a range of their excellent beers.

We've been big fans of the brewery for a good few years now, since the establishment of our lovely local beer shops Beer Central and Hop Hideout meant that their beers became suddenly available in Sheffield. We've been consistently impressed with the output from Tempest, with them nailing every style from juicy IPAs to luscious oyster stouts. In September last year, we were able to visitthe brewery in the Scottish Borders after frequenting The Cobbles, their charming tap room in Kelso, on our way to Edinburgh. The brewery itself is squashed into a relatively low ceilinged building designed for fabric production, somehow fitting the brew kit and bottling plant, and is a powerhouse of a space in an area which until recently hasn't been at the forefront of people's minds when you think of top quality, modern beer production.

More recently, we were able to chat with Shannon (a fellow kitty fan) from the brewery over a few drinks at Leeds International Beer Festival, with the Raspberry Radler and Dios Mio Jalapeno IPA being some of the top beers of the day for us. We soon got on to our other favourite topic aside from beer and cats - food - and so the idea to work with Tempest to create some culinary pairings to go with their amazing range of beers was born!

So without further ado, on to the beers. We don't want to give too much away just yet, but suffice to say we can't WAIT to start playing around and experimenting with flavour combinations. We've got quite a few ideas up our sleeves already - expect influences from New Zealand and Mexico, Scottish charm and a little hint of Yorkshire flair!




Watch out for further details coming soon across our, and Tempest's, social media channels!

Cheers,

L & J

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Botanist Sheffield Launch Night

We're not usually ones to frequent chain establishments, preferring instead to support our local independents, but when we were invited along to the launch night of the newest addition to Sheffield's bar scene, The Botanist, the look of their cocktail menu alone made us decide it was worth making an exception. The Sheffield branch of the Botanist is the 10th of it's kind across the UK, run by the New Trading Company, and is based across three floors in fashionable Leopold Square.


We received a warm welcome from Ellie and the Botanist team and were ushered straight into the downstairs bar area where Laura dithered over the cocktail menu for far too long, eventually picking the signature "The Botanist" cocktail (vodka, rum and elderflower liqueur) upon the recommendation of the bar staff. Jim went for an All Day IPirinha - a clever twist on a beer cocktail with a miniature caiprinha served alongside a full can of Founders All Day IPA, meaning you could tailor the cocktail to your own exacting requirements. A good idea indeed. Both were presented beautifully and tasted wonderful, the Botanist getting more savoury than sweet as you continued to sip which was pleasantly surprising.


We then went upstairs to be seated. Instantly, the decor absolutely blew us away - it is absolutely stunning. Victoriana blends seamlessly with the floral theme and the entrance to the room, which has been made to resemble a woodland glade, made us feel like we were being transported to somewhere almost ethereal. The focal point of the dining room is a little bandstand, where on the night of our visit acoustic musicians added to the relaxed ambience of the room, even making Shaggy sound classy. Who knew this was a thing?! The venue plans to host "Sunday afternoon sessions" with this sort of feel, alongside evening gigs.


Onto the food! While we perused the cocktail menu (again), we welcomed a little nibble platter of pork crackling to the table, slightly Asian-inspired with chilli and spring onion (and we think soy sauce provided much of the saltiness), deliciously crunchy and served with sweet apple sauce which cut perfectly through the chilli... and can we all please take a moment to appreciate the tiny wheelbarrow?!


Starters arrived swiftly after along with our second cocktails of the evening. The homemade Scotch egg had a lovely runny middle, and came with a piccalli puree - initially a tad perturbing, but absolutely couldn't fault the flavour, tangy and piquant against the well-seasoned sausage meat and egg. The basket of wings was a generous portion, and again served in the most twee (in a good way) fashion in a little wicker picnic basket. The cocktails were just as impressive as the first round - the blackberry and mint julep was refreshing with a good kick from the bourbon, and the rosemary negroni was probably the nicest negroni I've ever had in a bar, with savoury bitterness coupling brilliantly with grapefruit and rosemary. It's worth mentioning that the spirit menu (particularly the gin) is extensive and the emphasis is on using quality, carefully selected options in the cocktails too - no sticking to "house" options here.


We both picked the "Hanging Kebabs" for main - Laura the jerk salmon with sweet potato fries, and Jim the salt and pepper belly pork with regular fries. When these arrived they looked spectacular, although it would have been good to have been informed that the vegetable component of the salmon kebab was sweet potato (this wasn't specified on the menu), as I'd then have picked a different side. It ended up being far too sweet potato heavy meaning I couldn't finish everything. The salmon was well cooked, though, and the jerk seasoning was spicy without being too overpowering. Jim's belly pork was melt in the mouth, but pretty heavy on the salt.


Jim couldn't resist his favourite sticky toffee pudding for dessert, accompanied by a Wild Beer Millionaire, a salted caramel stout which made the rich pudding even more of a treat.
Laura decided to refrain, instead choosing a sweeter cocktail to finish off the meal - a pear and cinnamon Sazerac, a well-balanced, slightly festive and imaginative twist on the classic.

We had been informed towards the start of the evening that staff training was still underway, with new members of staff shadowing more experienced members of the team. We really appreciated being informed of this - service was a tad reserved in places but having this explanation meant that in no way did we see this as a negative.


Overall, a hugely enjoyable evening. Although the main courses weren't quite up to the standard of the starters and nibbles, the lavish but welcoming feel of the venue and the outstanding, elegant cocktails more than made up for it and we'll undoubtedly be back to work our way through more of the menu.

Many thanks to the team for having us down!

Cheers,

Laura and Jim

Monday, 12 September 2016

Pizza School at Craft & Dough

Part of Sheffield's well-respected The Milestone group, Craft & Dough has got tasty pizza nailed. Add to that an improving beer selection and a cracking brunch menu and you're onto a winner. There are three sites across the city, and we were invited along to the Ecclesall Road venue (sure to be massively popular with the incoming student population) for the launch of their Pizza School events.

On a balmy Wednesday evening we strolled down and were greeted with a welcome drink, both going for Abbeydale Brewery's Rango Mango, a refreshing mango Berliner Weisse. The event was held in the upstairs space, with 8 of us in attendance - the perfect number, we all agreed, to allow everyone to get fully stuck in and have a good chat with the chef as well as each other. Our tutor for the evening was Jack, who as well as being a top notch pizza master is also a passionate pastry chef, creating all manner of delicious desserts too (which we'll definitely be going back to sample!).


After a welcome nibble platter featuring an array of cured meats, fresh bread, and chargrilled artichokes, it was onto the work. After being supplied with a very fetching disposable apron each, we combined our flour, oil, water and yeast (all pre-measured separately for us) and got our hands sticky diving in to create the dough. As soon as the mixture was kneaded enough to form a rough ball, it was time to add the salt, followed by a further ten minutes of kneading, provoking a little competition within the group of who could get the springiest dough! It was then revealed that our dough needed 6 hours to rest, which meant we were able to take our homemade version back with us to use another time (ours is happily sat in the freezer ready for a nice night in!) to be replaced by some that Jack had prepared earlier - to the relief of some of the group! After stretching the dough out into something that vaguely resembled a circle, it was time to add the toppings.


We were definitely spoilt for choice - a problem Jim overcame by chucking a bit of everything on. Laura was a tad more selective, going for beef brisket, balsamic onion, and honey roast parsnips with rosemary. Each ingredient had clearly had time and care taken over preparing it, and all meats are sourced locally. As it was such a lovely evening, we were able to cook our pizzas on the terrace (in bad weather, the larger oven in the main kitchen would be used). The only downside to this was that the outdoor oven could only cook one pizza at a time, but with a small group we didn't see this as a major problem, particularly as we were all chatting away throughout, thanks to the relaxed atmosphere created to Jack and the team. And the pizzas were definitely worth the wait!


The Introduction to Pizza courses will be run monthly and cost £20 per person which includes all your ingredients, the tuition of one of Craft and Dough's friendly chefs, and a drink. A lot of fun, a good value event, and one we'd definitely recommend. Just dress prepared to get covered in flour...


Big thanks to Jack and the Craft & Dough team!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura

Monday, 29 August 2016

BBQ and Brewers Night


North Union showcase at the BBQ Collective


Beer and food pairing events are more often than not top of our must-do list, and the BBQ Collective are definitely hosting some of the best in Sheffield. Each month, a different local brewery joins up with BBQ Collective head honchos Jeff and Mat to carefully and collaboratively consider and create a mouthwatering feast where the beer and food work perfectly together. Last month was the turn of one of the newest additions to Sheffield’s beer scene, North Union, based in a railway arch close to the Wicker in the city centre. Head brewer Iain Kenny presided over the proceedings with panache!


We kicked off the evening with a starter of rare beef tenderloin on homemade black pepper crispbread, with burrata and smoked tomato relish. The drink to accompany was a wonderful Oatmeal Stout at 4.8%, with a twist of being nitrogenated rather than being fused with Co2. The smaller NO2 bubbles meant the drink was smoother and creamier and slipped down an absolute treat. A very good example of the style.

The second course was a green chilli, smoked chicken and sweetcorn chowder served with a chicken skin cracker (we could have eaten a dish of these alone!). Alongside we were given a glass of North Union's core release, the Pale Ale, at 5.5% ABV. The crisp freshness of the beer paired really well and cut through the creamy chowder. Little hot link meatballs were a spicy, tasty treat in this one too!

A little surprise for the third course, as we were all ushered outside with a red cup each, into the sunshine where Iain was waiting with a party keg of his 7% imperial lager, “Shy Bairns Get Nowt”.  To go with the American house party feel, the food pairing was a corn dog, served with a dollop of homemade smoked ketchup and Alabama mustard sauce. Our first ever corn dogs and they were a veritable revelation. Crispy outer, doughy and indulgent corn bread inside, all wrapping up the BBQ Collective's signature spicy Texas hot link sausage. The beer was a little sweet for the tastes of some of the group, but we both loved it and we reckon it's damn near impossible to find any other beer with a more "Sheffield" name!


Smoked pork ribs with a tender delicious pull from the bone were up next, accompanied with Indonesian spices and noodles. While this combination might not be initially the most obvious, the outcome was incredible, and the fresh chilli heat from the noodles seemed to bring more flavour out in the sweet wood smoked meat. To pair, Craft Amber - a refreshing lager at 4.6% with a clean balanced palate and a light floral nose, which worked well to cleanse the palate in between bites and ensured that even though we were four courses in none of the flavours became too heavy.


The final course was shots! Dark chocolate and chilli ice cream with cherries, dark Guatemalan rum and the final beer of Dubbel at 6.5%. All rich and bold, the flavours of the three glasses complemented each other well, with rich malted roastiness from the beer echoing the chocolate notes in the ice cream, with a great boozy hit from the glass of rum. We'd have liked the ice cream to have been a little firmer (it was served almost as a milkshake) but this is a very minor criticism in what was frankly an ace meal all round.

There was one final surprise to come. Beer pong! Laura proved the victor and came home with a case of North Union Pale Ale and a red cup (of course) full of Jeff’s smoked tomatoes, which we had tons of fun experimenting with! We used them in a Korean influenced BBQ sauce, a slow cooked ox ragu, and a triple tomato bruschetta topping.

This was the third BBQ and Brewers Night we’ve attended, and it’s great to see that what could have potentially turned into a restrictive theme has just continued to grow, expand, and push the boundaries. Here’s to many more!

Cheers,

Jim & Laura

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Man Behind the Curtain

It was our fourth wedding anniversary last weekend, and to celebrate we went to our first ever Michelin starred restaurant. We both fell a bit in love with Michael O'Hare and his shiny silver apron on last year's Great British Menu, and his eclectic, immersive style of cooking was something which intrigued us immensely. And so on a grey April afternoon, we found ourselves in the centre of Leeds at The Man Behind The Curtain for a dining experience like we'd never had before...


It feels a bit like stepping into another world to get there, as you walk in through Flannels clothing shop before heading up to the third floor in an eerily quiet lift. The venue itself was calm, relaxed and modern, and we instantly felt comfortable being there, unlike other "posh" restaurants we've eaten in before. The staff added to this environment, being elegant and just the right amount of formal.


We selected the 9 course tasting menu which came accompanied by 7 wines. The menu itself is simply "Carte Blanche", meaning that every dish is a total surprise. The effect of this is an absolutely mindblowing experience... neither of us have ever felt so amazed, delighted, and often baffled by food. Laura cried twice. We'll let the pictures do the talking...

Octopus with caper and lemon butter - served with champagne
15 year old Galician beef with olives - served with spiced vermouth
Sea urchin bolognese with rice noodles which melted into the sauce as you stirred!
Spider crab lasagne with a quail's egg, bilberry, and potato crisps
Fish and chips (No, really...) - black cod with potato and ink. Served with Riesling.
Iberico pork, with smoked egg yolk served inside an edible shell and anchovies
Veal sweetbread with hot and sour consomme, brought out alongside a sous vide prawn.

Onto dessert...

Violet ice cream, dark chocolate, potato custard and beetroot puffed rice, served with plum wine
Passion fruit and praline mini "cupcake"
A touch we particularly loved was that for three of the courses, the chefs brought out the dishes themselves and talked us through what we were about to eat. The passion coming from them was palpable, and it's this sort of attention to detail which gets a place such deserved renown.

Quite honestly, this was far and away the most outstanding food we've ever eaten, and an experience we never wanted to end. Simply stunning.

L&J

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Beer and Food Pairing: Spontanbasil and Lasagne

First up, let's talk about THE BEER. Spontanbasil, crafted by the legendary combination of Mikkeller and Lindemans, is a spontaneously fermented wild beer that just completely sings of basil all the way through the drink, not just at the initial tasting (which is so often the case with this ilk of almost novelty additions into beers). The tartness of the wild yeast works incredibly well with the freshness of the herb and adds layers and layers of depth. It's the sort of beer that isn't just a flavour on the palate, it's an entire sensory experience, with a heady aroma that floods through the mind and makes it the type of drink that you won't forget in a hurry.

A beer this phenomenal needed a meal worthy of it to pair with. Having sampled a small amount before, we felt that a herb-ridden pasta sauce would be a winning flavour combination. So we decided to set ourselves a bit of a challenge and make a lasagne entirely from scratch. 


The key component to a cracking lasagne is surely a top quality tomato sauce. We cooked down 8 cans of plum tomatoes with two onions, a chilli and six cloves of garlic for a total of around 12 hours at 120°C... this made far too much for a family-sized lasagne, but we've got a bit of a sauce solera system situation going on in the freezer, which the remnants topped up perfectly. Whilst this might seem a ridiculously long amount of time, caring for a sauce in this way allows all of the sugars in the tomatoes and onions to break down and start to caramelise, leaving a wonderfully indulgent, almost "meaty" rich sauce. To give the sauce a fresher nature too, we added another tin of tomatoes just before assembling the lasagne.

We decided on ox cheek for the meat, but really anything that can be slow cooked will do, such as brisket or pork shoulder, something cheap and cheerful. The meat was browned a piece at a time (we used three cheeks in total) on all sides. To this a quartered onion and a stick or two of celery were added, along with a bottle of beer (Poacher's Choice in this instance, but really you could use whatever you have lying around in the cupboard). This was cooked on the hob at the lowest setting to blip away for 4-6 hours, meaning the meat was super tender and just pulled apart once cooked. Just before assembling the lasagne, the cheeks were pulled and added to the tomatoes to warm through and let the flavours mingle. We found we also needed a little extra water to keep the sauce easily workable when layering up.


Admittedly, making pasta from scratch is a bit of a faff, but totally worth it. For a large lasagne, we made about 500g of pasta, which is 450g of '00 flour' and the equivalent of 6 free range eggs. This can come in the form of 12 yolks or 6 full eggs - the yolks give the pasta a great texture and a more "full" flavour of pasta that you simply can't get in dried. If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a quick little tutorial:
Bring the eggs and flour together in a bowl. Once they have roughly conglomerated, tip out onto a clean worktop (you can do the whole mixing process on the work top, but it makes a tremendous mess unless you have a decent space to do it on, which we do not). Knead into a dough and really work it hard to allow the gluten to become stretchy. At this point you can set aside in the fridge for at least half an hour until its ready to roll and assemble. It also freezes perfectly well, should you want to double the quantities – just be sure to defrost thoroughly overnight in the fridge.

Back to our meal. The final thing to prepare was the white sauce. A roux of 80g of melted butter and 65g of flour formed the base, combined with a litre of hot/almost boiling milk gradually incorporated in a ladle full at a time, with the aromatic additions of parsley, basil and a grating of nutmeg. Finally a good handful of parmesan was added before removing from the heat.


Assembly time! The pasta was rolled out into thin sheets and blanched for a couple of minutes (we’d recommend doing this in more water than looks necessary, one or two sheets at a time). To layer up the dish, we started with pasta, then meaty tomatoes, then white sauce and topped with a layer of fresh basil leaves. We repeated this three times, then topped the final layer of pasta with the last of the white sauce and a good sprinkling of parmesan and mozzarella. 

45 minutes in the oven later... ta-dah!


The meal as a whole worked superbly together. The richness of the dish brought out the tartness in the beer, which in turn cut through the lasagne and freshened up the palate beautifully. Adding plenty of basil to the lasagne provided a bonus complement to the beer and allowed all the flavours to absolutely sing. A triumph!