Saturday, 26 December 2009

Leftover Christmas Turkey Lasagne

I reckon that in our family, turkey lasagne is more awaited than the Christmas turkey itself. It's a great way to use the stock from the bones plus the leg and thigh meat left over from your Christmas feast.

This dish is best prepared a day ahead, leaving the final baking for the day of serving. It can also be frozen before baking. This batch was big enough to make one large and one medium lasagne. The smaller one went in the freezer.

Preparation time: 3 hours
Baking time: 45 mins
Serves: 10-12


For the ragu:

- 1kg cooked turkey meat, roughly chopped
- 8-10 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 glass of white wine
- 1/2 of a 200g tube of tomato puree
- 3 x 680g jars of tomato passata
- 2 teaspoons of salt

For the turkey stock:

- 2 onions halved (skin on)
- 3 medium carrots, halved
- 1 small celery stick
- 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
- Turkey carcase, broken up
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Enough water to cover

For the white sauce:

- 2 tablespoons of plain flour
- 50g butter
- 400ml of turkey stock
- Salt and pepper to taste

For the final assembly and topping:

- 500g lasagne sheets
- 250g grated mozzarella cheese


First remove the meat from the carcass and roughly chop it. Then start off the stock by sauteing the onions, carrots and celery for a few minutes in a large stock pot (mine is 9 litres), add the turkey carcass, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer gently with the lid partly on for 2-3 hours.

Once the stock has been started, begin making the ragu in another large saucepan (6 litres minimum). Add the crushed garlic, olive oil and tomato puree to the pot on a medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly so as not to burn the garlic, then add the white wine and cook gently for a few minutes until the base starts to thicken slightly. At this point, the smell is amazing.

Then add the 3 bottles of passata, bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. The turkey meat is already cooked so it goes into the ragu after the sauce is cooked and only for a further 20 minutes or so.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a small sauce pan, add the flour and mix thoroughly before adding the stock. Cook gently whisking constantly until it reaches a thick but pourable consistency.

For the final assembly in a large shallow pan, poach the lasagne sheets 2 -3 at a time in turkey stock for just a couple of minutes to soften them slightly.

(After all this plus making a turkey pie filling (see photo below), I was left with almost a litre of stock which went in the freezer for another day.)

Get two lasagne dishes and start with a layer of pasta at the bottom. Then a layer of ragu, another layer of pasta, another of ragu and so on until finishing with a layer of pasta topped with a thin coating of the white sauce before the final sprinkling of grated mozzarella.

The lasagne can now either be baked straight away at 180 deg for 45 mins, or stored in the fridge for a couple of days before baking. Alternatively it can be frozen and enjoyed after the turkey mania has subsided a bit.

Friday, 18 December 2009

42 Ghanaian Chillies in a Jar


This is the result of batch #2 following my previous Firefoodie's Christmas Chilli article posted earlier this month. I relented and purchased a tray of 60 very cute 3 oz jars with gold lids to overcome my label removal angst. I asked the green grocer at the market in Witney to get hold of a box of chillies for my second round of little gifts for me to collect the following week.

I collected the box early in the morning (see the gap above the fennel) and psyched myself up for another intense evening. This time, my son Charlie helped with the tailing of the chillies, and we managed the whole batch in just over an hour. 16 x 200g batches in the food processor to be precise. We worked out that we tailed just short of 1600 of the treasures by hand.

Once the garlic was added and the chilli was cooked down with the olive oil, vinegar (about 300ml of each), salt (2 tbsp) and a bit of water (Charlie had retired by now), I filled 38 jars with Batch #2 of my addictive relish. They were then simmered in a large baking tray and topped with extra virgin olive oil before sealing, cooling and labelling.

If you are amongst the privileged few in possession of one of these little jars, it's great with cheddar cheese and cracker biscuits. Add a nice cold beer, and you have found another room in firefoodie heaven.

Remember to add a bit of olive oil to the jar each time you use some, enough to cover the chilli. It will keep it fresh for ages and you will get more out of the jar. Enjoy.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Firefoodie's Christmas Chilli

I've been waiting all year for this. Since discovering that whole fresh chillies last forever in the freezer, I've been collecting them in preparation. This batch was made from about 3kg of chillies from various markets and enthusiastic friends with a few pots in the garden.

Collecting the jars is a year long task. I'm constantly making sure that the jars and lids I sneak into the dishwasher don't end out in the recycling care of our enthusiastic kids. I'm sure I'm short this year and have already started thinking about buying jars in bulk heaven forbid.

Label adhesives. One of my bug bears. There needs to be some international legislation governing what type of glue manufacturers use to stick labels on to jars. I soak my jars in water, and this is ok for about 2/3 of them, but the remaining ones need either oil, white spirit or methanol to remove the adhesive from the glass. I've almost become an expert on the chemical make up of various adhesives, and even worse, have started to select brands in the supermarket based on how easy the labels are to remove! Retailers out there... take heed. Glass is great and needs to be re-used, but don't make it so difficult that no one bothers. Enough ranting.

This method is a good way to preserve chilli for the pantry which literally lasts for years. Once opened keep it in the fridge and it will still last a month or so if it's not all eaten by then. We put ours on toast with cheese, in sandwiches, and generally just on the table to add to anything for a bit of a kick. The unique garlicky taste is quite addictive. It is freshly 'peppery' in the capsicum sense of the word and the bit of olive oil used to finish it helps spread the heat and aroma when used.

It's labour intensive, but totally worth it. It took me about an hour and a half to trim the stalks off each individual chilli before putting them in 15 x 200g batches in our food processor to roughly chop them up. 4 bulbs of garlic were then separated, squashed, peeled and finely chopped (in the same food processor) before adding to the chilli in a large pot.

I added a cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of malt vinegar, 1/4 cup of cider vinegar and a tablespoon of salt. The mix was put on a low heat with a lid and stirred occasionally until the liquid released from the chilli and the mix then steamed in it's own moisture. For this amount it took about about an hour or so before it was ready to distribute into jars.

Then I tasted it. Beware if you have some (you will know who you are because this one is batch no. 1, and it's written on the label). I put a half a teaspoon on a water biscuit to test it and just barely survived. It's hot, so use sparingly and with love. The longer it lasts you the happier you will be. This batch made a mere 11 jars, about 250g net each, which is a lot of happiness. Upping the quantum is my next challenge, I mean 3 hours, 11 jars, 3kg chilli, that's about 20 minutes and 300g of chilli per jar. Commerce this is not.

Once in jars I placed them with the lids loosely on in a large baking dish of simmering water for another hour before sealing them for the long term. Once the lids are sealed, the contents then cool and create a vacuum in the jar with the minimum amount of oxygen and living organisms. Garlic is of course one of natures best preservatives, so you cant go wrong. I've had jars in the pantry for 2 years and they taste as good when opened if not better than when first made. Keep it moist with a bit of olive oil as you use it just to keep the nasties at bay. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas from Firefoodie.
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