I must admit that this recipe intrigued me from the first time I flicked through Cook with Jamie. Apparently it is a Venetian dish, a sort of Italian fish pie, with the pasta replacing the usual potatoes. For some reason, the name 'fish lasagne' conjures up - for me, anyway - the sort of thing you might find in a diet ready-meal; meagre pieces of white fish floating in watery tomato sauce with chewy low fat cheese on top. Thankfully Jamie's fish lasagne is in a totally different league. It does, however, take time to make and on reflection, this dish should probably not be attempted after work on a Thursday unless you have a short working day. Needless to say this is precisely what I did.
Firstly, I sweated chopped onion, carrot, celery and fennel in butter, adding a bouquet of parsley stalks and bay leaves tied together with a rasher of pancetta (and a piece of string), as well as the heads of a few prawns. This was gently cooked until the vegetables were soft, when I added wine and let it boil until reduced, before pouring in milk and bringing it slowly to the boil.
The next step was to make a roux with butter and flour, to which I added ladlefuls of the milk and veg mixture (from which I removed the prawn heads and bouquet of herbs); this was then brought to the boil and simmered, before being seasoned.
Finally, the assembly of the lasagne, where I deviated from instructions. I had already halved Jamie's quantities to make this for two people; now I noticed that he uses three layers of lasagne sheets. When I make lasagne, I always use two, just because I don't like too much pasta, so I just did 2 layers of pasta. I spread the dish with sauce, then fish and halved cherry tomatoes, scattered with parsley and Parmesan, then lasagne sheets and repeated this process once. I poured the last of the sauce over the top level of lasagne sheets and added a mixture of parsley, breadcrumbs and lemon zest. Before:
It looks so appetising! This would be a great dinner party dish. My breadcrumbs were less delicate than Jamie's. This is possibly because my bread wasn't that stale (I don't eat plastic bread, as Nigella calls it; we make our own bread courtesy of a bread machine, but I keep a cheap white loaf in for breadcrumb purposes. This one was bought 9 days ago in M and S and was still spookily fresh. What on earth do they put in these white plastic loaves?). And possibly because I didnt really halve the recipe for the breadcrumb part of the dish; I used a bit more than half. I don't think it matters - it was delicious.
I have to say that this dish was delicious - I reckon it would be great to serve to guests. The only downside is that making the sauce takes a while; it isn't prohibitively slow but it is pressured in terms of time if you want to make it after work (the sous-chef had to do a lot more work than usual helping me prep...). If I made it for guests I think I would make the sauce in advance; the actual layering is really quick, and it only takes 45 minutes to cook. One final point though - I still don't like the name. I have tried to think of a nicer-sounding name, but all I can come up with is 'Venetian fish lasagne', which is basically a more pretentious version of the existing name but to my mind does sound better (I must be pretentious myself...). Oh and another thing - I used the fresh lasagne sheets I made a couple of weeks ago and froze; before putting them in the lasagne I plunged them into boiling water, and they worked perfectly. I have always felt a bit of a food fraud because as a kid I was so picky and I hated cookery at school - I was useless at it and I don't think I ever ate what I cooked - but I am starting to feel as though I am getting there.