Spaghetti Western

Baked Bean Lasagne: a student classic.

I’m a new post grad. In the early 1990s, when I was a student the first time round, news that the local supermarket was selling baked beans for six pence per can spread through the student fraternity like wild fire, along with this recipe for baked bean lasagne. It so happened that I attempted the dish when my housemate’s boyfriend was visiting and it became his favourite food. This man was of Asian descent and was brought up on a diet of home cooked curry. I can only assume that variety really is the spice of life. Twenty years later, he’s married to my old housemate, baked bean lasagne is still his favourite food and I wrote this receipt down to keep the peace in their marriage.

When it is your turn to cook, act boldly on waking and attract the attention of your housemates even if this means interrupting them watching Countdown. Ascertain how many of your housemates will be in for supper (breakfast).

Once you know how many people you are cooking for, check the household food stocks. You need to get to the supermarket before it closes if you don’t have:

  • An onion
  • Four cloves of garlic
  • Two cans of baked beans
  • Two pints of fresh milk (and extra milk for coffee) – apply the sniff test to open cartons
  • A whole packet of lasagne sheets
  • Enough margarine to spread on about six slices of toast (and extra for toast after supper)
  • Enough flour to fill two egg cups
  • Enough mustard powder to fill half an egg cup
  • A whole block of cheddar which isn’t mouldy
  • Salt and pepper pots which are not empty

When deciding whether or not it’s worth going to the supermarket take a look at your sink.

To make this recipe you will need:

  • A washing up sponge
  • Washing up liquid
  • A tea-towel
  • A sharp knife
  • A chopping board
  • A saucepan
  • An oven proof dish
  • A can opener
  • A cheese grater
  • A stove – this dish cannot be made in a microwave
  • Oven gloves
  • A big spoon
  • Plates, knives and forks to serve

It is vital to take a stand against those housemates who do not take their turn washing up. Leave the washing up in the sink. Being careful not to cut yourself on the required sharp knife, feel in the washing up bowl to see if you have the necessary equipment. Retrieve each item you will need from the rest of the washing up being careful not to spill the dishwater as you remove items from the bottom of the bowl. Clean the equipment you will need. Hold each item in turn under a tap of running warm water while wiping the item with a washing up sponge. Take care not to spray water on your clothes while holding the item you are cleaning above the rest of the washing up in the bowl. When your equipment is clean check that the dish you have found fits inside the stove. If it does not fit repeat the previous step. At some point you will find a clean mug and decide you need a coffee as you have, after all, only just woken up. You will find that while you have milk you have no coffee. Go to the supermarket.

On your return, when you are making coffee, your housemates will request that you make them coffee too. They will then ask why there are no biscuits. Return to the supermarket. Preheat the stove to a medium heat. Look inside the stove. See if there is any spilt food on the shelves or the bottom of the stove. If there is, then when you smell burning later, it is most likely to be the spilt food that is burning and not your meal. The smell need not therefore cause you alarm.

Grate the cheese. Place the saucepan on the hob on a gentle heat. Add the margarine to the pan, and once the margarine has melted, add the flour and stir until the mixture looks like the inside of a Crunchie bar. Add half the milk to the saucepan and stir. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens. You may need to turn the heat up a little to encourage thickening. When the mixture thickens, add two thirds of the cheese and stir. Add the rest of the milk slurp by slurp. When the mixture won’t thicken anymore, stop adding milk. The mixture should be as runny as gravy. If the mixture is more like porridge, add more milk. If it is more like milk, stop adding things. Add the mustard, and a generous shake of salt and pepper. Stir. Turn off the hob.

Put a little of the water you used for making coffee into the oven proof dish – just enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Jigsaw a layer of lasagne (usually rectangular) over the bottom of the dish. Extra jigsawing is needed if your dish is oval.

Open one of the cans of baked beans and pour the beans over the lasagne. Chop the onion and garlic and sprinkle half of the onion and garlic into the beans. Pour some of the cheese mixture on top of the beans, onion and garlic. Jigsaw another layer of lasagne on top of the cheese mixture. Add another layer of beans, onion and garlic and another layer of cheese mixture. Sprinkle your remaining cheese over the top layer of cheese mixture. Put the dish into the oven. Go into the bedroom where your housemates are watching television and finish your coffee – you may need to re-heat your coffee. A microwave helps at this point. Relax, and assure your housemates that the burning smell is nothing to worry about. Once East Enders has finished, settle your housemates so that each person has a pillow on their knee on which they can balance a dinner plate.

The used saucepan will now be cool enough to place near to the sink, ready to be washed when the washing up bowl becomes free. Remove the dish from the stove using the oven gloves and place on the clear cooker hob. Turn off the stove. Make room on the work top to accommodate a plate for each housemate. Take each plate in turn to the stove and, using the big spoon, scoop a portion of lasagne onto each plate. Take care to hold the plate parallel to the floor. This lasagne is often quite runny and can easily slide off the plates. Walking slowly, take the plates into the bedroom one at a time, taking care not to spill food onto the floor or your housemate’s bed. Assure your housemates that the layers are supposed to merge together ‘pre-digestion’. Tuck in.

You have just taken the first step to building an enduring culinary reputation.

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