Reading the title of this post, you might think I've gone a bit coocoo - lasagne? fish? egg??? - but this is not a lasagne in its true sense. It is a much lighter version, more subtle in taste, little hassle to assemble and the poached egg, well, that's a little extra treat for the more adventurous eaters among you. Feel free to leave the egg out if the idea of an open lasagne and especially one using fish is already pushing the boat out into uncomfortably deep culinary waters so to speak.
I made a similar lasagne, based on a recipe by Gordon Ramsay, five years ago already and the very fact that it's stuck with me for all this time should tell you that there's something undoubtedly attractive and almost addictive about this combination of flavours. The only downside is the assembly - unless you have warming lamps or are lucky enough to live in a hot climate, the chances are that you won't serve this dish piping hot... make sure you warm the plates first to conserve as much heat as possible and just learn to live with the fact that lukewarm is the new hot. It's much healthier for you that way, anyway ;-)
This is the recipe for you if you want something unusual, creamy and scrumptious... you can prepare most ingredients ahead, then reheat at the time of assembly - the only thing that needs attention on the spot is the poached egg. I have made a vow to adapt this recipe even further by assembling and baking in the oven shortly before serving - but the opportunity hasn't presented itself yet! So there you have it, that's my resolution for 2010!
(serves 2 generously)
350 g smoked, undyed haddock
350 ml milk
40 g butter
60 g flour
200 g spinach leaves
250 g green asparagus
6 - 8 sheets lasagne
a dash of vinegar
chives to decorate
Cut the haddock into chunks just small enough to fit your pan. Pour over the milk and gently heat, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Lift the haddock with a slotted spoon, keeping the milk warm for later. Remove the skin, check for any bones as well, break into bite-sized chunks... it's likely to be falling apart in the process anyway. Reserve, keeping warm.
Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and take off the heat, stirring constantly to achieve a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the milk remaining from poaching the haddock - you can now put the pan back on the stove and whisk over medium to low heat until you have a thick bechamel. Season with salt and white pepper to taste, bearing in mind that the bechamel is the main flavour-carrier!
Clean the green asparagus, removing any woddy bits and stingy skin - depending on what type you use, you can use it as it is or peel it... let your intuition guide you here. Steam or blanch the stems for about 5 minutes (again, it'll depend on the thickness of the asparagus, you want it soft, but still retaining a bite). Refresh in icecold water and reserve.
Prepare the spinach by thoroughly cleaning and drying it. Melt 1 tsp butter in a pan, crush in the carlic clove and fry for about a minute. Add the spinach and cover with a lid, leave the spinach to wilt. Drain and squeeze thoroughly to remove excess water. Keep warm thereafter.
Bring some salt water to the boil. Warm the serving plates.
When ready to serve, boil the pasta sheets to package instructions, then lift out with a slotted spoon. I tend to keep them on a clean kitchen cloth.
While you assemble the lasagne, poach the eggs in the remaining water (to which you now add the dash of vinegar) for 3 minutes, then refresh.
Assemble layers of pasta, spinach, asparagus, bechamel and haddock on the plate, top with one egg each and sprinkle with chives before serving.