Charlotte Gardner’s Baked Bean Lasagna
I know. Doesn’t it sound vile? And wrong? So, so wrong...Yet trust me when I say that this bubbling orange and yellow culinary crime against all that is sophisticated does in fact taste like the food of the gods - a claim I would never have dreamed of making before I tried it myself, aged 11, courtesy of my first secondary school. This school was a very special and artistically inspiring place which came as close to a specialist music institution as a ‘normal’ one could get, complete with practice periods built into its timetable. So its closure when I was still only twelve was heartbreaking. Still, a couple of years later, it dawned on my best friend and I that, while we couldn’t bring back our beloved school back, its baked bean lasagna was surely well within our powers of recreation. Which of course it was, meaning that three decades later, Baked Bean Lasagna is now a firm Gardner family favourite.
I also think it’s beautifully fitting that, with its reliance on store-cupboard ingredients, my musical school’s signature dish has turned out to be absolutely tailor-made for travelling musicians, because on the (hopefully not too rash) assumption that few people don’t keep a block of supermarket cheddar in their fridge at all times, all you need to grab for this one on your weary way home from the station or airport is a carton of milk.
2 large cans baked beans (good quality ones, such as Branston, preferable)
1 quantity béchamel (white sauce) (I tend to make mine up as I go along, but a rough guide would be to melt 50g butter in a pan, whisk in 50g plain flour, then gradually whisk in around 500ml of milk and stir until it thickens
Lasagna sheets (dried or fresh)
Cheddar cheese (enough to grate generously across 2 layers)
You need a baking dish that is about 20x30cm, to give you thin layers, so don’t go larger than this if you’re sticking to the quantities above, but also feel free to use a smaller dish.
Empty first tin of baked beans into bottom of dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna sheets, half of the béchamel sauce and a generous grating of cheddar. Repeat.
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees until golden and bubbling.