We’re back at our house in Waterford after spending nearly two weeks at our family home in North Tipperary for the holidays (where we have no internet and fewer TV channels but do have more time for friends, family and food). I’ll miss the busy country house with the constant background chatter of my in-laws, but here in Waterford it’s quieter, which means Maeve is sleeping more soundly, and we have an excellent internet connection here, allowing me to Skype with family and friends back home in Canada.
The weather has been up and down in Ireland – though certainly not as bad as the ridiculous snow-stormy weather they’ve been having in Canada – we have had a few blustery, rainy, cold days (especially in Tipperary, where it always seems much colder than Waterford). I missed having a white Christmas just a little bit, but I’m happy to not have to shovel my way to the car every morning.
As for New Year’s, my husband and I relaxed on the couch with a bottle of Beaujolais and watched the second half of Falling for a Dancer, which is an excellent two-part film, and The Graham Norton New Year’s Eve Special, which was hilarious. Flashback a few years ago when we’d be spending New Year’s in Seoul partying in nightclubs until 7 am and you can see how different our lives have become (for the record, I think it’s nicer). We’re looking forward to 2014 – to travel, to making some healthier lifestyle changes, and taking the time to enjoy our family and our surroundings. Happy New Year to you all!
We’re also expecting another addition to our little family. No, not a new baby (before any of you get unnecessarily excited). At least, not a new human baby. On the farm, we’ve been gifted with six gorgeous collie pups, sired by our faithful farm dog, Ben. There are three girls and three boys – they all look like their dad with soft, black and white fur. Hopefully they all inherit their dad’s gentle temperament, as well. We’ll be taking one of the girls and raising her not as a farm dog, but as a pet, and we’ll call her Erin.
We introduced Erin to Maeve briefly this morning and Erin growled. But eventually they’ll like each other; I have faith.
To ring in the new year, here’s a vegetarian lasagna recipe made with béchamel, butternut squash, sage and buffalo mozzarella. It’s not entirely diet-friendly, but we’re thinking of it as one of our final, creamy indulgences before our diet begins on Monday. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I made my own pasta for this recipe, but feel free to use store-bought lasagna sheets. If you do want to make your own pasta but don’t have a pasta roller, just make sure the dough is so thin you can see through it. Like, paper-thin.
Butternut Squash, Sage & Buffalo Mozzarella Lasagna
For the pasta:
2 cups flour
For the béchamel:
1/2 cup butter
1/2-3/4 cup flour
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed
1/2 cup heavy cream (35%)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
For the lasagna:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled & seeded
2 balls fresh buffalo mozzarella
1 cup caramelized onion (store bought or homemade)
1 recipe béchamel sauce
1 recipe pasta dough
- Make the pasta dough: pile the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly. Add the eggs into the well in the flour.
- Using your fingers, gently work the flour into the eggs until you have a sticky dough. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it’s smooth, elastic and bounces back slightly when you make a dent with your finger.
- Shape the dough into a ball. Set the dough aside and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Make the béchamel: in a saucepan, heat the milk and cream with the bay leaf and crushed clove of garlic until almost boiled. In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add enough flour to the butter to make a dry paste, similar in consistency to play doh (also called a roux). Cook the roux for one minute. Strain the hot milk/cream mixture over the roux and stir immediately. Whisk out any lumps. Continue to stir over medium heat until the sauce has thickened. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Prepare the butternut squash: using a potato peeler, peel the entire butternut squash so you have long ribbons of squash. Set aside.
- Slice each buffalo mozzarella in half. Finely chop the fresh sage. Set both aside.
- Prepare the pasta: using a knife, cut the ball of dough into four equal portions. Roll the pasta out using a pasta roller or with a rolling pin on a well floured surface. Roll each portion of dough to fit your lasagna tray.
- Assemble the lasagna: smear a ladle-full of béchamel on the bottom of the tray. Place one sheet of pasta over the top. Evenly spread 1/4 of the butternut squash ribbons over the top of the lasagna sheet, followed by 1/2 of one of the balls of mozzarella (just tear the mozzarella and spread it out over the squash). Sprinkle a bit of sage and some caramelized onion over the top, followed by a ladle of bechamel (try to spread it evenly over everything). Top this with another sheet of pasta and repeat the process. When the last sheet of lasagna is added, spread a bit of béchamel over the top and sprinkle more cheese and sage.
- Bake in a 375 (190 degree Celsius) oven for an hour. Serve with a fresh spinach or rocket salad.