Sausage Lasagne

This recipe was invented specially for my grandsons who love what used to be called Jago’s soup and now is just plain Sausage Pasta. It was invented at a time when little Jago wasn’t enjoying vegetables and is rich with fresh tomato and carrot, as well as onion. He used to make it with me and this is a secret of fussy child eaters, get them prepping and cooking and they’ll want it eat it. Anyway, I made a vat of it, thinking it would work well in lasagne, something they could help make when the family was coming for Sunday lunch. Here it is, it was jolly good. I made the sausage sauce and flavoured the milk for the béchamel the day before and had both in the fridge.

Serves 6 generously
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 90 min

For the sauce:
2 onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
300g carrot
250g tomatoes
10 Cumberland sausages, approx 800g
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
½ chicken stock cube

for the béchamel:
1 diced shallot
750ml milk
6 peppercorns
pinch salt
1 bay leaf
40g flour
375g egg lasagne sheets
squeeze lemon
4 tbsp coarse home made breadcrumbs
finely grated Parmesan

To make the sausage sauce, halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Melt half the butter in the olive oil in a spacious lidded sauté/frying pan and stir in the onion. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, add a generous pinch of salt, turn the heat low, cover and leave to cook while you prepare everything else. Stir occasionally. Scrape and chop the carrot into small Dolly Mixture size pieces; quickly done by slicing the length of the carrot in strips then across into pieces. Immerse the tomatoes in boiling water for 40 seconds. Drain, cut out the core in a pointed plug shape, quarter lengthways and swipe away the skin. Scrape seeds etc into a sieve over a bowl and crush to extract juice. Chop the tomatoes in small pieces. Next prepare the milk for the béchamel. Peel and dice the shallot and place in a pan with the milk, peppercorns, pinch salt and bay leaf. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cover the pan and leave to go cold; this is a job to do in advance if it fits in with things. Now back to the sausage sauce. Run a sharp, small knife down the sausages and crumble the meat into the semi-cooked onion. Use a wooden work if you have one or the back of a wooden spoon to encourage the meat to crumble rather than stay in big pieces. This can take a few minutes if the sausages are very meaty. When evenly browned and crumbly, sift 1 tbsp flour over the top and stir to disappear. Add carrots, chopped tomato and seed juice, ketchup and crumbled stock cube. Add 250ml boiling water from the kettle, stir and establish a gentle but steady simmer. Cover the pan and leave to cook, giving the occasional stir, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer until the sauce is cohesive rather than wet. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a suitable pan, stir in 40g flour into the butter continuing until disappeared then add the strained milk, stirring constantly (or whisking with a globe whisk if it goes lumpy), adjusting the heat so the sauce simmer gently rather than boiling water. Cook thus for 5 or 6 minutes to cook out (a cheffy expression) the flour. Begin layering up the lasagne – I chose a gratin-style dish approx 30x40x5cm – starting with a small smear of the béchamel followed by a half the sauce, a scant layer of béchamel, lasagne sheets to cover and then repeat once ending with a very generous layer of sauce. Mix together Parmesan and breadcrumbs and dredge over the top of the lasagne. Place in a shallow roasting tin in case of spillage as it cooks in a hot oven – 180C/gas mark 4 for 30 minutes or until the top is very crusty and golden. Be careful as you tuck in, it will be very hot.