Fabulous food

PHOTOGRAPHING FOOD has its perks and its pitfalls. The latter mainly involve the message from the bathroom scales; the former include the chance to discover new dishes and even entire new cuisines.

I have no doubt that having someone else prepare and style the food is the most efficient way of making food photos but – with rare exceptions – I’ve always made everything I photograph. And that has the benefit of developing my cooking skills and that , every now and then, I stumble on  on something stunning.

That happened today, with a recipe for lasagne verde – a pasta dish made with green spinach lasagne. I was hampered by a lack of white wine and played around with one or two other ingredients, such as Chinese five spice, and the result has proved such a hit that I thought I would preserve the recipe for posterity and share it with the world. So here goes:

Paul’s lasagne verde

500g fresh minced beef
One large white onion
Two medium carrots (one chopped to small cubes, one grated)
Two sticks fresh celery finely chopped (these will add a little crunch to the final dish, so don’t leave them too big)
Two Maggi (or other commercial) beef stock cubes
500ml homemade passata (boiled down chopped tomatoes and garlic with the seeds and skins sieved out), commercial passata is available or tins of tomatoes could be used.
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Half a teaspoon oven-baked garlic paste
A very small pinch Chinese five spice
A heaped teaspoon of dried marjoram.
Olive oil
A pack of fast-cooking green lasagne sheets
A generous half cup of freshly grated mature cheddar and parmesan.

Put a good splash of olive oil in a saucepan, chop the onion well and cook slowly, covered until it is mushy, remove cover, add the carrots, celery and garlic, mix well and allow to simmer down uncovered over a low heat. When the carrot cubes are soft, remove from the pan. Add a little more oil, the beef, the crumbled stock cubes and the tomato paste and cook until the meat is done, then add the passata, five spice and cooked vegetables.

120g unsalted butter
110g plain (all purpose) flour
1.25l milk
Salt and pepper

Warm the milk. Melt the butter in a pan, when it is hot add the flour, whisking to make a roux. Add the milk gradually and the salt and pepper as desired, whisking continuously until you have a smooth sauce that is just simmering. Don’t let it burn.
Grease a baking dish, add some of the meat sauce a layer of lasagne a layer of bechamel sauce and a layer of meat sauce and repeat until the ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of bechamel that fully covers the pasta. Sprinkle on the cheese and bake for about 35 min at 180C in the middle of the oven until golden.

My lasagne photos can be bought here:
or here
or here

(not all images are available at the same sites)


About ambientimages

Paul Cowan is a former journalist turned full-time photographer.
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