We got back from Paris on the weekend. Now there’s a city that knows what to do with pastry. Crumbling and flaky lemon tarts, strawberries glazed and nestling in creme patissiere held in a rich, sweet shell, buttery croissants that melt in your mouth…
Each afternoon we would return to the apartment via our local patisserie, loading up on cakes for the afternoon slump. The children loved choosing from the jewel-case like counter. The owner, however, had no truck with our indecision. As I added another item to the list she threw her arms in the air and almost spat the words “Oh, it’s all change now isn’t it?” with a huge Gallic shrug, as if the the very act of me wanting to buy more than one pastry was testament to my complete imbecility.
So I wonder what she would make of today’s recipe. This is what we do with pastry in England, madame… It’s a little different. Well, it’s a lot different actually. It’s National pie week and I find myself creating a hybrid, what could possibly be my ‘cronut’ moment. Yes, it’s a lasagne pie. Thanks to the invitation from Christian O’Connell, and Richie Firth’s culinary vision on the Absolute Radio breakfast show, I present you with the ‘pie-agne’. In my humble opinion, it’s genius. And while there is no photo to accompany this post of the actual pie, here is the footage of the tasting. Make of the reaction what you will. If that doesn’t encourage you to make it, I don’t know what will.
This isn’t really a quick midweek meal, but if you also make the individual ones (which I highly recommend), you will have in your hand a portable lasagne to take with you for that snack on the tube, a sneaky elevenses at work or just something to flaunt at strangers.
Serves: 6 plus 3 individual ones
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours (most of this is the sauce slowly simmering in the background)
For the ragù
900g beef mince, 15% fat
60g diced pancetta
3 small chicken livers, finely sliced
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely sliced
1 glass of white wine
A few sage leaves
1 rosemary sprig
1 thyme sprig
A splash of milk
700ml Tomato passata
2tbsp tomato purée
Salt and pepper to season
For the béchamel
1 fresh bay leaf
2tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
For the pastry case
3 packs of ready-rolled all butter puff pastry
Gently heat a large saucepan with some olive oil and add the chopped onion, carrot and celery, season a little then cook gently until soft. Add the herbs and cook for a further minute before adding the pancetta.
Turn the heat up a little and cook the pancetta for five minutes before adding the minced beef. Season again, stir well and cook until browned and there is almost no liquid remaining in the pan.
Add the chicken livers, stir well then pour in the wine and reduce until there’s almost no liquid.
Add a splash of milk and a grating of nutmeg, stir well then pour in the passata.
Bring to the boil, reduce to a very gentle simmer and cook with a lid on for at least an hour, two is better.
Make the béchamel by melting the butter then stirring in the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Add a large splash of milk and whisk well. Keep gently adding milk and whisking all the time until it becomes smooth and glossy. Add the bay leaf and simmer for ten minutes until thick.
heat the oven to 180c/gas 6.
Line a lasagne dish with sheets of dried lasagne then a spread a layer of béchamel sauce over and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Add a layer of the ragù then another layer of pasta. Repeat until the dish is full, finishing with a layer of béchamel and Parmesan.
Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until golden on top. Remove and leave to cool a little.
Line a greased loose bottomed cake tin with the pastry, making sure there are no gaps and the sides are well joined to the bottom. Fill with the lasagne, top with a circle of pastry, sprinkle over some more Parmesan and a few teaspoons of butter then a twist of pepper. Bake again in the oven for forty minutes until the pastry is golden and puffed up evenly.
Leave to cool a little before carefully removing from the tin.
To make the mini ones, line some pie ramekins with pastry and fill with the lasagne. You may find it easier to cut sheets of cooked pasta to fit before layering. Build in the same way as the large pie, finishing with a pastry crust. Cook these for about 25-30 minutes, being careful they don’t burn on top.
Leave to cool before removing and serve warm.