It is ages since I made lasagne. The way I make it, with a tomato sauce as well as a meat one plus béchamel, it’s quite an operation. This version, though, is a bit different. For a start, I used pork mince – moral: wear glasses when selecting mince from the freezer – and instead of making passata, I roasted tomatoes while I roasted aubergine for another recipe. Scouring the cupboard for lasagne sheets, I discovered my packet had been visited, possibly by a mouse. So, those aubergine slices came in handy. I ended up with lasagne-meets-moussaka but my recipe isn’t either dish. It is though quite wonderful. Since I made it, I’ve been inspired by Jason Atherton’s way of cooking aubergine. He included steamed aubergine amongst the ingredients in our Jason at Home delivery. To be exact, the aubergine slices were then roasted with a miso glaze but they were not oil-heavy. I have tried many ways to avoid aubergine becoming a sponge for oil. I’ve soaked it in salted water, salted it without water, dusted it with flour (a tip from Antonio Carluccio) and roasted it without oil (not recommended). Steaming is my new solution. So, that is a serious tip and I give instructions. If, though, you prefer to oil and then roast them as I actually did when I made this recipe, allow about 25 minutes for roasting the liberally oiled slices. My recipe is for 4 but if you are 2 at the table, leftovers heat up brilliantly; flavours even better.

Serves 4
Prep: 35 min
Cook: 90 min

5 vine tomatoes, approx 600g
olive oil
1 onion
50g butter
1 garlic clove
2 carrots
¼ tsp dried sage
400g minced pork
3 tbsp flour
150ml white or red wine
300ml chicken stock (cube is fine)
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
3 aubergine, approx 250g each
40g butter
300ml milk
3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan

Halve the tomatoes round their middles. Place cut-side up on a foil-lined shallow roasting tin. Smear with olive oil and place in the oven turned to 180C/gas mark 4. Roast for abut an hour while you make and cook the meat sauce. Halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Melt a knob of butter in 1 tbsp olive oil in a spacious frying/sauté pan and stir in the onion. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often as you peel and chop the garlic, scrape and dice the carrot the size of Dolly Mixture. Stir the garlic into the softening onion followed by the sage. When the onion is lightly coloured and almost melting, crumble the meat over the top. Toss as it browns and when all is coloured, sift 1 tbsp flour over the top and stir until disappeared. Add the wine and stir as that thickens the contents of the pan, stirring as you now add the stock, carrot and 1 bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper then carefully tip the mixture into a lidded, heavy bottomed medium-sized pan. Cook, covered, over a low heat for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes until thick and luscious. Check the seasoning, stir in 1 tbsp breadcrumbs and turn off the heat. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the tomatoes; you want them squashy and juicy. Boil the kettle. Slice the aubergine approximately 1cm thick, making 4 long slices. Half fill the steamer pan with boiling water from the kettle, add the aub slices to the tray, cover and boil for about 8 minutes; you may need to re-arrange the layers but ensure all slices are cooked through. Leave to cool on layers of kitchen paper to mop up the steam then smear both sides with olive oil – you will use very little and a pastry brush is perfect for this. The aubergine can be stashed thus in a poly box in the fridge and finished later or do it now and stash. To complete the aubergine cooking, heat a griddle or heavy frying pan and when hot, lay out the slices in batches and cook for a minute a side, lifting off the pan with an egg slice (I layer them up in the poly box while still hot if I am stashing them). The final part of the dish is a thick, béchamel sauce. To make it, melt 40g butter in a medium pan over a medium heat and stir in 2 tbsp flour, add the milk and stir briskly as it comes up to the boil; if necessary, use a globe whisk to eliminate a bumpy texture. Add bay leave, generous pinch salt and few grinds of black pepper. Simmer gently, stirring constantly for 2 or 3 minutes until very thick, smooth and glossy. To complete assembly of the lasagne, smear a spoonful of béchamel on the base of a suitable gratin dish, mine was 26 x 13 x 5cm. Now lay out aubergine slices to fit snuggly, cover with half the mince and scrape the tomatoes off their skins and snuggle them over the top. Add, aubergine as before and finish with the béchamel. Leave to cool and set. Mix together remaining breadcrumbs and Parmesan and spoon over the top, letting some trickle down the sides if there are gaps. To cook, place on a baking tray to catch any spillage and bake at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden, the juices bubbling round the edge of the dish. Serve with a fish slice and take care you don’t burn your mouth!