(Unpaid Advertising) This book was recommended to my by Tommy Hart, the “Masked Chef” (https://themaskedchef.net). The author, Fergus Henderson, is the founder and chef of St. John restaurant in London. He was awarded a Michelin Start in 2009. He does things his own way. He never had a formal training as a cook and he never worked under another chef, so instead of being influenced by other chefs, he actually influences them. This book “Nose To Tail Eating”, which he published 1999 is a milestone which actually changed cooking. It started the “nose To Tail”-movement which many chefs subscribe to today. Nowadays, over twenty years after the book was first published, Nose To Tail is a well known slogan. In 1999 though, it was revolutionary. Showing respect to the animal by not killing it for just a few part and leaving the rest of the body to rot was unheard of at the time. The book contains recipes for preparing many things that were previously regarded as waste and were thrown away. There are several recipes for Duck’s Legs and Necks, Lamb’s Tongues, Hearts and Brains, Pig’s Tails, Tripe and Trotters as well as many other parts of the animal.
It does contain a lot of traditional recipes as well though. Basically, everything you can imagine is covered. True “Nose To Tail”. The book itself is very matter-of-factly. 233 pages, an introduction absolutely worth reading. Mainly text, few (black and white) photos, one recipe per page, sometimes on two pages, it’s nothing you’d read from start to end but rather an essential book in your library which you consult whenever you want to prepare that special meal. The recipes are written in an easily comprehensible way. Every step is nicely described and easy to follow with a bit of experience. That said, it’s not a book for an absolute beginner but rather for the experienced cook who wants to take his cooking to another level and has respect for the animal he’s preparing. Highly recommended.
This dish is based on a Recipe by Michel Troisgros, one of the true Grand Chefs of France. I had found it some time ago and always wanted to do this but I never had the time. Finally, the opportunity came and I did it.
This article isn’t about exact quantities, etc. You’ll find those in one of Michel Troisgros’s recipe books (I can really recommend checking out his recipes. Haute Cuisine but very down to earth). I rather want to show how much effort can go into a normally very simple dish like a Lasagne if it’s prepared ‘Haute-Cuisine’-style. Seeing it on the plate, you wouldn’t believe how much work goes into this little starter. Once you taste it though, you know the difference to your standard classic cheese-crusted, half burnt Lasagne from the Pizzeria across the street.
Cod-Cream: Cod Coarse Salt Fine Salt Potatoes Creme Fraiche Olive Oil
Tomato-Concassé: Tomatoes Onions Garlic Mediterranean Herbs Salt Olive Oil
Lasagne-Sheets: Flour Eggs Olive Oil Basil
Bechamel Sauce: Butter Flour Milk Pepper
Lemon Butter: Mineral Water Butter Salt Lemon Sage
This list of ingredients alone should already give you an impression on the effort it takes to make this Lasagne. But bear with me, it’s absolutely worth it.
We’ll need to prepare one component after the other, let’s start with the Tomato-Concassé. This brings freshness into the Lasagne so I decided to take some really fresh ingredients and fresh herbs from my herb-garden.
First of all, the tomatoes need to be skinned. To do so, I put them into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds (really just 10 seconds max.).
I then put them into a flat bowl where I skinned them.
I cut them into quarters and strained them.
As I needed to get rid of the seeds, I strained them through a sieve as well. This left me only with pure Tomato-juice.
I then cut the onion into small pieces.
The onion was added to the Olive Oil in a pan and just slightly heated to get it translucent but not fried.
I added the Tomato-juice, garlic and herbs. This was left to simmer for 20 minutes before I turned off the heat.
Preparing the dough is really simple. This is a standard noodle-dough made of flour, eggs and a bit of Olive Oil. What’s special is that half of the dough was mixed with Basil to give it a green colour and also enhance the flavour. First of all the dough was kneaded. Being lazy, I let a machine do the work.
In parallel, I shredded the Basil into tiny bits.
One half of the dough was removed, the other half was kneaded with the Basil.
The dough was then formed into sheets using a noodle-machine.
For the top plate, in order to give the Lasagne that ‘special’ look, I decided to make it striped. This is also how Michel Troisgros serves it. After all, the first contact a guest has with their food, is with the eyes. Making it look special is important for that first impression. I cut one sheet of each colour into Tagliatelle and laid them out on a white sheet, always one white, one green. To make them stick better, it’s advisable to rub just a little bit of water (really only a tiny little bit) onto the bottom sheet.
This double sheet was then put through the noodle-machine again. I liked the result even though it didn’t look nearly as good as in the original recipe. To get more contrast, it might be a good idea to add some green food colour. I guess I’ll try that next time.
Next, the sheets had to be boiled. Due to the size of my home-made sheets, this isn’t easy in a normal pot. Luckily, I have enough Gastronorm-bowls plus a gas-stove, so it wasn’t much of an issue. You will need two bowls here. One with boiling water and the other with cold water to stop the cooking-process immediately.
First, the sheets are put into the bowl with slightly salty boiling water, one at a time. They need to be taken out after exactly 30 seconds (not longer, not shorter, otherwise they’ll be either too rubbery or too soft).
Immediately afterwards, the sheet is put into the bowl of cold water where it will rest for a few seconds until it’s cold.
The Lasagne-sheets are then set aside between layers of baking-paper to make sure they won’t stick together.
Next comes the Bechamel Sauce. This is really a standard Bechamel. First, heat the butter, then add the flour.
Stir this for three to four minutes, then add the milk. Stir some more until it thickens. Right at the end, add some pepper.
Now comes the Cod-cream. This is actually quite simple but very, very tasty.
First of all, I prepared the Cod by coating it thickly in coarse salt from all sides.
While the Cod rested in the salt, I peeled two potatoes and boiled them for 20 minutes. I then pressed them through a potato-press to get them nicely mashed.
After 30 minutes, I rinsed off the salt and cut the fish into four pieces.
I then put these four pieces were into slightly salted boiling water. I lowered the temperature and poached the fish for five minutes. This is one thing I will probably do differently next time. I find that fish loses a lot of aroma when poaching in water. I’ll rather use the Sous-Vide for the fish when I do this recipe again. I’m sure it will keep a lot more aroma that way. But anyway, this time I prepared it according to the original recipe and it was very good.
After five minutes, I took it out of the water and placed it on some paper towels to dry it a little.
I pulled it into small pieces simply using two forks.
I added the fish to the mashed potatoes, together with some Creme Fraiche and Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper.
Putting it all together:
Finally, with all components prepared, I could start putting them all together to make the Lasagne. First, I coated a bowl with butter. This must be butter, not oil, because we need it to be very sticky.
Next, I put a piece of baking paper into the bowl. This needs to be pressed tightly so that it sticks to the bowl with the butter. Using baking paper is vital at this point, as the Lasagne will later be served upside-down and mustn’t stick to the bowl so that the top layer isn’t damaged.
Next, the first layer of Lasagne-Sheets is placed in the bowl. Here, I took the striped sheets and placed them upside-down, with the stripes at the bottom. Remember, the Lasagne will be served upside-down, so this will later be the top-layer.
I placed the layers in the following order: Bechamel Tomato-Concassé Cod-cream Bechamel Tomato-Concassé Cod-Cream Six layers altogether, separated by Lasagne-sheets.
Finally, the top layer of sheets was placed. As the sheets were slightly bigger than the bowl, they rose quite high out of the filled bowl.
As the Lasagne will be turned upside-down when it comes out of the oven, there should be as little overhang as possible, I therefore cut off what stuck out.
While the Lasagne was in the oven, I prepared the Lemon Butter. This was really simple and quick to make. I just put a bit of mineral water into a casserole, added butter once the water was hot, as well as some leaves of fresh sage. Stirring it, I then squeezed one lemon into the mixture. And that was it. Lemon Butter made easy.
After 15 minutes, when it came out of the oven, the Lasagne didn’t look very special. But remember, this will be the bottom once it’s turned upside down, so nobody will see it.
Now the moment of truth. I turned the Lasagne upside-down, hoping nothing would break. Thanks to the baking-paper, all went well and it looked as hoped for.
Obviously, it can’t be served that way and just cutting it into squares would be a sin. After all, there is a heck of a lot of work in this dish, so you want to make it look as good as possible. I therefore used a round shape to cut out pieces of Lasagne that could then be placed on a plate.
Finally, I placed them in a contrasting black bowl, slightly off centre, placed a sage-leaf on top, added the lemon butter et voilá. The starter is served.
All in all it took me 4 1/2 hours to prepare this meal. Obviously, this was the first time, so next time it will probably be faster. Will there be a next time? Definitely! I will do some things differently, e.g. preparing the fish in the Sous-Vide, using some green food-colour for more contrast in the lines of the top layer but overall, I’m very pleased with the result.
Ingredients (for two persons, multiply accordingly if you want to prepare this dish for more guests):
Lobster and Sauce: 1 Lobster 2 Onions 2 Carrots 1 Leek Rosemary Tomato puree Dry White Wine Martini
Tagliatelle: 200g white flour (Italian 00-flour or, if not availabe, some other very finely ground wheat-flour) 2 eggs 1 package of squid ink 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 teaspoon of salt
When I got a nice lobster at my favourite fish-dealer the other day, I decided to make something nice of this. As I got only one lobster, this wasn’t enough for a full meal so I decided to do it with noodles.
Every part of the lobster is used for this recipe, there is no waste. First of all, the meat is removed from the tail and from the claws. The tail-meat is cut into slices, i.e. medallions. All meat is placed on a dish and put aside to be fried later.
The shells carry a lot of flavour. Dumping these in the garbage would be a real waste. They are broken up and are placed in the hot oven for approx. 7 minutes, depending on the number of shells you have.
Once they have reached a nice brown colour, remove them from the oven. Roasting them in the oven has given them a great aroma which will give the lobster-sauce a stunning taste.
Dice the onions with a sharp knife.
Now melt some butter in a medium-sized pot and add the onions as well as the rosemary and slowly glaze them.
Cut the leek and the carrots.
Now add the leek, the onions and everything that was left from the lobster and slightly fry them.
Add some dry white wine and bring to the boil. Please don’t use the cheapest wine you can get. Using a good quality wine has quite some effect on the flavour. As Tagliatelle are an Italian dish, I decided to use an Italian wine here. The wine should cover the ingredients completely, so you can be generous with this.
When it starts boiling, add approx. 2cl of dry Martini.
Then add approx. two tablespoons of Tomato puree.
Bring to the boil, then slowly let it simmer at a very low temperature for approx. two hours. It mustn’t boil anymore, just slighty simmer.
Now use a blender to turn this into a nice creamy paste. Don’t remove the shells! As they got quite brittle in the oven, they will crack up easily under the blender. This will release all the aroma left in the shells.
Now strain this sauce with a strainer.
Pour the strained sauce into a clean pot and let simmer while you prepare the noodles.
To prepare the noodles, put the flour, the eggs, the olive oil and the squid ink into a bowl.
Now work them until you get a nice, black dough.
I use a machine for this. Keep it running for at least 30 minutes at low speed. I actually keep it running for approx. an hour to make sure the dough is really well worked through. If it’s too dry, add a little bit of water. But really only a little bit. Half a teaspoon is the measure I normally take here. If you use more, it will be too wet and will get sticky, meaning that your noodles will stick together when you cook them, turning them into one big blob instead of nice al-dente-noodles.
The dough should be quite hard and mustn’t be sticky when you stop working it. Then place the dough into a bowl and cut it into eight equally sized chunks. This is for two persons, i.e. 200g of flour and 2 eggs. If you used more, you should also have more chunks. This is because each chunk will form one batch of noodles. If the chunks are too big, the noodles will become too long and you can’t handle them in the noodle-machine. Also, another important hint. Don’t cover them with flour to prevent them from sticking. When boiling the noodles, the flower will turn into a sticky, slimy mass. Rather, make sure that the dough is as dry as possible without falling apart, then the noodles won’t stick even without being covered in flour.
Now roll them in the noodle-maker, starting from 0 (thick) to 6 (thin). Forst of all, flatten the chunks as much as possible, as otherwise they won’t go through the roller properly- You roll them step by step. Start rolling at 0, continue with 1, 2, 3… until 6.
Finally, run them through the Tagliatelle-cutter.
Store the noodles while you continue with the sauce.
Now add some cream to the sauce and stir thoroughly.
Use a milk-frother to get the sauce nice and frothy.
Put the meat into a frying pan and fry until it’s got a nicely fried surface. (sorry, I don’t have a photo here).
Now bring the water to the boil. Add the salt and wait a minute or two for the salt do dissolve. Add the noodles to the boiling water. Leave them in the water for exactly 50 seconds. Use a stopwatch. This is crucial if you want your noodles to be al dente. If you leave them in the water a few seconds longer, they become soft and slimy. If you take them out too early, they will be very hard and difficult to chew.
Pour the water through a sieve.
To serve, first put the sauce onto a deep noodle-plate. Then add the noodles and finally place the fried lobster-meat on top of them.