Sometimes, on long drives, we play games to amuse ourselves and keep the driver alert. One game we played on a long drive with friends DanW and Katie, was “identify five foods you’d take to a deserted island“.
My intention was to simply identify the 5 foods you couldn’t ever live without. The brief sounds simple enough right?
Well, I clearly underestimated how very seriously my friends would take my musings. Very quickly, complex rules were added to my imaginary scenario, with strategic plays and alliances forged. At one point, the rule of 5 foods in total somehow expanded to 5 foods from each food group; DanW and Katie formed an alliance on their separate islands to ensure they had more access to a wider variety of food; and animals like cows were being strategically considered so theoretically meat, dairy and companionship could be gleaned from one food item. We called a halt to the game when DanW argued the brassica family could be added as one food item to his list of vegetables and a passionate argument ensued about the validity of the rules and whether adding one species or an entire genus was permitted. My original intention of identifying the 5 foods you couldn’t ever live without was long forgotten as by that stage we all had thriving, productive superfarms on our deserted islands and complicated criss-crossing alliances, bartering and production agreements.
But, away from my super-competitive, nerdy friends, allow me to re-visit my musing. What are the 5 foods you couldn’t live without?
I know my parents would count white rice amongst theirs since they always emphatically claim you aren’t really full unless you’ve had rice with your meal. They’ll happily prove this to me by hungrily wolfing down a bowl of rice even if I’ve just taken them out for a Western-style meal sans rice. I could easily do without rice again, years of being force-fed rice by my parents took care of that. I could also without hesitation toss bread into that basket as I really don’t eat much of it. But pasta – oh pasta is my carb of choice. This love was undoubtedly influenced by the Co-pilot, his family, his Nonno and the delicious pastas they concoct.
And to sway you on the virtues of pasta, I present you my new favourite, ridiculously tasty lasagne recipe. It’s a recipe adapted from one featured in the June edition of the Australian Good Food magazine, but we’ve doctored the sauce component with ingredients that we normally add to our bolognaise sauce. This includes the use of pork and veal mince (to be authentically Italian of course); milk to give it a bit of richness; red wine to give it more flavour complexity; anchovies for depth of flavour; and for added decadence we used a ball of buffalo mozzarella. It doesn’t have any béchamel sauce, it’s more of a Napoletana version of lasagne – healthier, tastier and if the dubious look on Nonno’s face was anything to go by when we suggested the used of béchamel sauce, much more authentic.
The tastiest lasagne ever
Adapted from the Good food Magazine June 2010 edition.
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 8 lasagne sheets (dry or fresh)
- 500g pork & veal mince
- 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthways
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 anchovies, chopped
- 700g jar tomato passata
- 2 tbsp (about 1/2 inch) hot pancetta, diced
- 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 ball buffalo mozzarella, shredded into chunks by hand
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- 1/4 cup (35g) flour
- olive oil
- 1/3 cup milk
- tomato paste
- splash of red wine
- salt and pepper
- baby basil leaves to garnish
- Preheat oven to 180C and grease a large baking dish
- Place flour in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Toss eggplant in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Coat large frying pan with oil and heat on medium. Cook eggplant in batches for 2 mins each side until golden. Remove from pan.
- Cook mince in the same pan on medium heat, until browned. Stir in garlic, anchovies, parsley and passata.
- Add in milk, red wine, stir in well and season to taste.
- If using dry lasagne sheets, prepare them now, by boiling in salted water for 7 minutes. Remove from water and drain on clean tea towels.
- Layer eggplant slices on the bottom of the pan and spoon the mince mixture on top. Layer lasagne sheets on top. Spread a thin layer of tomato paste on the pasta and dot with buffalo mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat process until all ingredients are used and so that you have 4 equal layers of mince, eggplant and pasta. Ensure the top and last layer is a lasagne sheet.
- Smear the tomato paste on top, dot with remainder of Parmesan and buffalo mozzarella.
- Bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and cheese is golden.
- Garnish with baby basil leaves and serve.
Compiling the lasagne tower with layers of alternating grilled eggplant, saucy bolognaise, tomato and gooey, molten cheese.
Finish off with a healthy dose of cheese on the top layer to melt and meld the layers together and it’s oven-ready.
Garnish with baby basil leaves and serve whilst piping hot.
A cutaway of those tasty layers begging to be eaten…
The lasagne was delicious, saucy, savoury, meaty, incredibly moreish and totally reaffirmed my love for pasta. We wished we made more so there would be more leftovers for another meal. Thankfully though, we have a heavy Silver Spoon Pasta cookbook jam-packed with hundreds of diverse recipes to allow me to further explore the myriad of pasta combinations.
And, as for other staples I couldn’t live without, I’d easily have to add at least pork; crab (or rather controversially crustaceans); raw fish (which should cover both sashimi and ceviche) to my list. I found it difficult to commit to a 5th and final choice. I could easily do without sweets again.. But then there’s caffeine, fruit, cheese – so many choices! After much deliberation, I’ve chosen tomatoes. If an evil tomato virus wiped out every tomato, and I couldn’t never have another tomato dish again, I might just weep and die. And no, that’s not a hyperbole.
So the 5 foods I can’t live without are, in no order:
- raw fish
So, without building a “superfarm“ of your own or over-analysing my imaginary rules – what are the five foods you can’t live without? And we’re not talking the boring foods you “should have” like dairy and fibre-rich foods. I’m just interested in the foods you adore. And, if you need some rules for clarity and boundaries, then assume you have full access to all the oils, herbs and spices that your heart desires.