Passing-over your comfort zone
Passover is the spring festival which celebrates the Jewish liberation from slavery all those years ago. Come on you know it… the swarms of flies, the frogs, the parting of the sea, the whole ‘LET MY PEOPLE GO’ thing. It sounds familiar, right? And that perfectly segways into what this week is all about; taking something we know and changing it a little. Perhaps even learning something along the way, God forbid.
“T has, almost quite literally, eaten her words.”
Over the entire week of the Passover (Pesach) period, it is traditional to eat Matzah, the symbol of the holiday. Matzah/matzo is an unleavened flatbread made only from flour and water. Most importantly, it is not allowed to rise. It’s basically a big, square cracker, so big that if this was the standard on the biscuit isle, cheese courses would be taken much more seriously. Matzah represents the Jews leaving Egypt and upon being granted their freedom, they sort of left in a hurry… as you would. Don’t think we’d see you dawdling for too long either. However, in this process, their bread dough was not able to rise. It has therefore been a symbol of the rapid departure from Egypt ever since and is a traditional addition to any Passover feast.
“The matzah behaves just like pasta but has a deeper, creamier, almost earthier taste.”
At the mention of a lasagne with matzah, T initially recoiled in horror. Lasagne is a family staple in the Tighe household and the crux of one of T’s father’s favourite stories which explains why he leaves cooking to the women in his life. But, matzah lasagne is one of G’s family traditions, especially around Passover and it was time for the T to suck up her fears of soggy cracker and give it a go. And man, was she pleasantly surprised. We can’t encourage you enough to step outside your comfort zone and embrace a new ingredient. This is such a great swap (and amazing for those with egg allergies.) The matzah behaves just like pasta but has a deeper, creamier, almost earthier taste. It holds its shape well and just tastes delicious. It isn’t as heavy as a lasagne made with pasta sheets, which in turn, means you can eat more of it. Never a problem with us.
“Nice fresh blue tones and fresh flowers to pay homage to the long-due arrival of spring”
So what have we learnt this week? Matzah is delightful, lasagne is loved by all and having an open mind was never a bad thing. T has, almost quite literally, eaten her words.
As always, your family and friends are your best table decoration, but to pad things out we dressed ours in nice fresh blue tones and fresh flowers to pay homage to the long-due arrival of spring. The table runner and trusty apron worn this week are from Little Rock Studio on Etsy. This store sells hand-dyed, handmade Shibori accessories from deepest, darkest Devon and it’s well worth a look. If you want inspiration for pretty passover scenes, look no further than Pinterest; their photographic catalogue is something of a tardis and we use it often for our photoshoot research. Take a look here.
If you’re doing Pesach properly you have to construct a Passover plate, and if a metaphor was a person it would eat this for dinner. You’ll need; a lamb bone, salt water with an over cooked egg, maror & three different bitter herbs, Matzah (duh!), Haroset & in G’s house a burnt egg also makes an appearance. Why? Who knows. Other iconic symbols that feature across the two sedar (feast) nights of Pesach include: the hunting of the Afikoman, the dipping of your pinky finger into a vessel of Kiddish wine 10 times to represent the 10 plagues of Egypt and the forcing of the youngest member of the family to sing the Ma Nishtana. If you are sensing a little hostility towards the latter you would be correct.
Challenge yourself and make something with a little twist, you never know, you might like it better than the original. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
See you next Thursday.
500g beef mince
1 white onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
800g tinned tomatoes (two standard tins)
1 tbsp. tomato puree
1 tsp. oregano
Handful torn basil
Dash of Worchester sauce
300ml red wine
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes, drained of oil
25g unsalted butter
2 tbsp. flour
2 pints whole milk (boiled for 10 minutes with a bay leaf beforehand)
1 tsp. wholegrain mustard
1 box of Matzo crackers
125g mozzarella cheese
3 beef tomatoes, sliced
Salt, pepper, olive oil
In a heavy based saucepan, start by frying the onions and garlic in a little olive oil over a high heat for two minutes. Add the beef and break up with a wooden spoon. Keep the meat moving in the pan, it should brown off in about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, puree, herbs, Worcester sauce and wine with 500ml of water (or chicken stock if you have it). Blitz the sun-dried tomatoes into a paste and add to the Bolognese. Season with salt and pepper to taste and put the lid back on the pan. Turn the heat down to a low/medium and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
For the béchamel melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan. Once it has melted add the flour and make a paste (this is what a roux is dad). Turn the heat down to low and cook this paste for about a minute, until it goes a lovely blonde colour. Take the pan off the heat and add a splash of milk. Stir it in and place back on the low heat. Keep adding the milk gradually and stirring to combine. It is important to make sure all the liquid is combined before adding more, it is a good idea to leave at least 30 seconds in between just to make sure. If the texture is lumpy, just keep beating it with a wooden spoon, they will eventually come out. Worst case scenario, you can sieve it. You (hopefully) will be left with a beautiful glossy white sauce. Season with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
The next step is to soak the Matzah so it is pliable. The best way to do this is to fill the lasagne dish with tepid water and submerge the matzah crackers one by one for about 10-15 seconds. Leave them to dry on a plate with layers of kitchen paper between. Now you’re ready to start building. Place a layer of matzah on the bottom of a lasagne dish (empty the water and dry it first…obviously) and then layer up. You know how it’s done. Matzah, meat, matzah,meat (with some sneaky dollops of mozzarella for added cheesiness.) Top it off with the béchamel, more mozzarella, parmesan and sliced tomato and pop it in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until its bubbling and crisp.
Serve with nice fresh salad leaves.
*As always with Jewish recipes on G&T, we haven’t gone Kosher. The biggest faux-pas being the copious amounts of cheese and milk alongside the meat. However, you can easily leave out the cheese, and replace the béchamel with a dairy free alternative like this.