Remove the crusts from the bread and cut into rough pieces. Place in a bowl and moisten with the milk. Mix with a fork to break up into crumbs.
In a large mixing bowl, mix in the soaked breadcrumbs, onion, lamb, eggs, seasoning and nutmeg until throughly combined.
Shape into 32 meatballs, using wet fingers. Just keep a small bowl of water nearby. (Fingers dipped in flour will just become sticky.) Chill the meatballs for 1 hour to firm up.
Heat half the butter in a frying pan/skillet over a medium heat. When the butter is frothy and hot, add half the meatballs. Shake them in the pan to keep them moving and cook until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Remove, using a slotted spoon, and transfer them to the casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding extra butter if needed.
Add the stock to the pan and scrape off any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to the boil, then stir in the mustard. Pour over the meatballs, cover the dish and cook above the centre of the oven for 45 minutes.
Mix the crème frâiche and cornflour/cornstarch together in a bowl, then stir into the casserole until well blended. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, uncovered, until bubbling. The sauce will become thick.
Looking for a quick and easy supper from cupboard staples? Then here’s a tasty Tuna and Egg Pasta dish. Penne and a couple of cans of tuna are folded into a cheese sauce and topped with egg and crunchy buttered breadcrumbs.
1.14 litre (2 pint) (6 cup capacity) ovenproof dish
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)
Cook penne and onion together in a pan of boiling salted water for as long as directed on the packet of pasta. Drain and set aside.
Melt 55g (2 oz) (¼ cup, or ½ stick) of the butter in a pan, stir in the flour until smooth and cook over a low heat for 1 minute.
While leaving the roux to cook, warm the milk. (The easiest way is to microwave on high power for one minute.) Then gradually blend into the roux, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth. Bring to the boil, stirring, until thickened.
Next add the cheese and seasoning, and stir until the cheese has melted.
Stir through the penne and onion, then gently mix in the tuna, breaking up any large clumps. Spoon into the ovenproof dish.
Next, shell the eggs and cut into quarters. Arrange over the top of the pasta and gently press down.
Finally, melt the remaining butter in a pan and fry the breadcrumbs until crisp. Scatter over the pasta.
Bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes until bubbling around the edges and browning on the top.
110g/4 oz streaky bacon/side bacon (about 4 rashers)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp tomato purée
110ml/4 fl oz red wine
225ml/8 fl oz hot beef stock
2 x 400g tins cherry tomatoes*
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 bay leaf
a little grated nutmeg
2 tbsp curly parsley, chopped
*In Canada, cans of cherry tomatoes imported from Italy can be found in the regular canned tomato aisle of supermarkets
grated Parmesan cheese
Heat half a tablespoon of the oil in a large pan over a medium to high heat and brown the beef. Do this in two batches or the beef will steam rather than fry. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Cut the bacon rashers into cubes and add to the pan to brown, then remove and set aside with the beef.
Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato purée and cook for 1 minute.
Return the meat to the pan. Pour in the red wine and let it bubble until it has reduced by half. Stir in the beef stock, half the oregano, nutmeg and bay leaf and add the tomatoes.
Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to very low and simmer very gently for 45 minutes.
Stir in the remaining oregano and most of the parsley, reserving some to scatter over when serving.
Serve the spaghetti sauce over the pasta and scatter with the reserved parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute less than recommended on the packet of the brand you are using. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, pour the milk into a pan and add the bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat.
In a separate pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until there is a smooth paste (a roux).
Remove the bay leaves from the milk, then gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring constantly, until blended and smooth. Simmer to thicken to a double/whipping cream consistency. Remove from the heat.
Grill the bacon until just crispy. Let it cool a little then cut into small pieces.
Stir the pasta, bacon, cheddar and mustard into the sauce and add the pepper.
Spoon into the ovenproof dish. No need to smooth the top.
Toss the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together. Scatter over the top, completely covering the macaroni cheese mixture. Bake for 40 minutes until the top starts to brown.
This is a lasagna recipe that I stumbled across many years ago and that has always been a great family favourite. The dish has three layers of pasta, a meaty tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese, topped with Parmesan.
9 lasagne sheets (De Cecco, is my favourite brand)
450g/1 lb mince beef/ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 × 400g cans/1 × 28 fl oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
156ml/5½ fl oz can tomato paste
½ tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
450g/1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated*
25g/1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
* In the U.K. the prepackaged grated mozzarella cheese contains only cheese and anti-caking ingredients. In Canada it has a lot more additives, so I buy the block mozzarella and grate it myself. Just pop it in the freezer for ten minutes before grating to firm it up.
A Caesar salad can be served as an accompaniment.
Deep sided frying pan/skillet or sauté pan
A 4 litre (32.5 x 22.5 x 5 cm/13 x 9 x 2 inch) ovenproof dish
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Over a medium heat, brown the meat in the pan, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and season. Fill the tomato paste can with water and stir into the mixture. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Many brands of lasagne pasta require no pre-cooking but I have found they benefit from cooking for a short time anyway. A baked lasagne using uncooked pasta isn’t as moist. De Cecco needs to be pre-cooked.
So bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a glug of olive oil. Drop 5 of the lasagne sheets into the water one at a time (they need to be cooked in two batches or they will stick together while cooking) and boil for 4 minutes. Remove the sheets with a pair of tongs and rinse under a cold tap. Lay the individual sheets on a clean tea-towel. Repeat with the remaining four sheets.
Spread a thin layer of the meat sauce in the bottom of the lasagne pan. Layer 3 lasagne noodles, a third of the remaining meat sauce and a third of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat twice more. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake, covered with foil, in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes. Then let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
1 organic stock cube/1 tsp chicken bouillon mixed in 300ml/10 fl oz hot water
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
200g/7 oz spaghetti (my favourite is the De Cecco range)
Half a small Savoy cabbage or other green leafed vegetable, finely shredded. (Savoy cabbage in Canada can be very pale and so I prefer to use something like kale. The dark green colour works well with the spaghetti although it does sound an unusual combination.)
In a large bowl mix together the pork, breadcrumbs, beaten egg, lemon zest, finely chopped onion, half the garlic and half the sage, a pinch of the crushed chillies and plenty of seasoning. Once everything has been well combined, shape into 30 meatballs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add the meatballs in batches to brown. Remove.
Add a little more oil to the pan and add the chopped onion and cook gently for 5 minutes until softened. Add the remaining garlic and sage, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, stock, sugar, a pinch of crushed chillies, and season. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes to reduce the sauce a little. Return the meatballs to the pan and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water with a splash of olive oil, adding the cabbage or other green vegetable for the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain.
Serve the spaghetti alongside the meatballs and sauce.
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra to serve
A green salad or caesar salad
A deep ovenproof dish measuring 22 × 30.5cm/8½ × 12 in, and 6.5cm/2½ in deep
Heat oil in a large pan and cook the onion over a low heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Turn up the heat to moderate and add the meat. Brown, stirring often to break up any lumps, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the oregano, thyme, bay leaf, wine and plenty of seasoning. When the wine has been absorbed, stir in the passata and 250ml/9fl oz water. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. At the end of cooking time the consistency should be that of a loose ragù. Add a little water if it is getting too thick.
Add peas and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes less than the cooking time recommended on the packet. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan assisted/375°F/gas mark 5.
Put a shallow layer of the ragù in the ovenproof dish. Add half the pasta then spoon over half the remaining ragù. Top with all the ham. Scatter over half the mozzarella plus 2 tbsp of the Parmesan. Add the rest of the pasta then spoon over the rest of the ragù. Scatter over the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
Cook in the oven for 20–30 minutes until piping hot and golden.
Serve with extra Parmesan sprinkled on the top and a salad.
1 × 400g/½ × 28 fl oz can chopped tomatoes/diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
140ml/5 fl oz beef stock
10g/½ oz butter
10g/½ oz plain flour/all purpose flour
300ml/10 fl oz milk
1 egg, medium (U.K.)/large (N.A.), beaten
225g/8 oz macaroni
50g/2 oz Cheddar cheese, grated
A 2 litre/3 pint ovenproof dish.
Accompany with a green salad
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°F)/350°F/gas mark 4.
Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until softened. Add the lamb and stir-fry over a high heat for 3–4 minutes until browned all over. Lower the heat and stir in the tomato purée and cook for 1–2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves and stock, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 35–40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a small pan, then stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Cook over a low heat for 1–2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring continuously until smooth. Then cook for 4–5 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Beat in the egg. Set the sauce to one side.
Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain well and spoon half into the dish. Spoon the meat sauce over, then top with the remaining macaroni. Pour the white sauce evenly over the top and scatter with cheese. Cook in the oven for 25–30 minutes.
A foolproof way to make a smooth white sauce:
Once the butter has melted, tilt the pan so all the melted butter rests in one corner. Tip the flour onto the pool of butter. It will then be easier to stir to a smooth paste. Also preheat the milk in a microwave, on high, for 1 minute, then gradually whisk it into the roux. Adding warm milk gradually makes a smooth sauce without any lumps.