Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cooking with Mary Berry - Review and a Recipe

From the very first time I watched The Great British Bake Off (or The Great British Baking Show as American PBS seems to call it) I adored Mary Berry.   She seems so nice and she says things like "scrummy" and always seems to be delighted when people do well and so sad and sympathetic when they do poorly.  Her creations always look delicious and gorgeous and I'd been dying to try one of her recipes but hadn't had much luck finding any of her cookbooks over here in the US.  That is until Cooking with Mary Berry popped up on my Amazon feed and I knew I just had to own it.

Published in 2016 for an American audience this cookbook is crammed full of delicious looking recipes ranging from Breakfast to Main Dishes to Sides to Breads to Desserts.  Almost every recipe has a gorgeous photo as well as a calorie count per serving and occasional tips for how to prepare specific ingredients.  Since I only know Mary Berry for baking I was curious to see what a standard cookbook from her would contain and I was pleasantly surprised by the enormous variety.  There are a number of dessert and baked good recipes but there are just as many main dish and savory recipes like French Onion Soup, Coq au Vin, Turkey and Lemon Stir-Fry, Teriyaki Beef, Pork Chops with Mixed Peppercorns, Penne with Spinach and Stilton, and Calzones.  The recipes are clear and easy to follow and the ingredient list contain ingredients that you could find at just about any good grocery store. My primary problem is that why she includes oven temperatures she doesn't list stove top temperatures.  I'm a reasonably experienced cook so I know what heat level to brown beef at but if you don't I imagine it would be frustrating. Since Mary Berry is a well known British cook I figured the obvious choice for a recipe test would be her classic lasagna.  Actually what happened is I hadn't made lasagna in awhile and the picture accompanying this recipe was cheesy and gooey and looked absolutely amazing and I just couldn't resist!

Classic Lasagna

Meat Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
2lb ground beef
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups beef stock
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes
6 celery stalks, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
salt and black pepper

For the white sauce
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg

For the lasagna
4oz Cheddar cheese, grated
10 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
6 oz no boil lasagna noodles
chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375.  Make the meat sauce: heat the oil in a saucepan, add the beef, and cook, stirring until browned.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute, then add the stock, tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic tomato paste, and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper adn bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  (I only used 1lb good quality ground chuck and it was really good.  I also left out the celery)

Meanwhile, make the white sauce; melt the butter in a saucepan, sprinkle in the flour, and cook stirring for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and gradually blend in the milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the mixture thicnes.  Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in in the mustard and nutmeg, and season with salt pepper.

Spoon one third of the meat sauce into a large shallow ovenproof dish (I used a basic 9x13 dish) and cover with one third of the white sauce and one third of the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses (I used Mozzarella instead of cheddar because my family is picky but I expect cheddar would be tasty too).  Arange half of the lasagna in a single layer.  Repeat the layers, finishing with the Cheddar and Parmesan (I added some extra mozzarella on top).

Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes until the pasta is tender and the topping is a golden brown color.  Serve at once, sprinkled with parsley.

My Results:  Despite the title this wasn't exactly what I would consider classic lasagna.  Most lasagnas I've made have a heavier ricotta/egg layer and a much saucier meat sauce.  However, I found this absolutely delicious.  The white sauce gave it almost a creamy element and it was hearty and cheesy as well.  I liked that it was super tomato-y but my husband did request more of a tomato flavor next time and I think I will replace the tomato paste with double the amount of tomato sauce.  While it isn't the simplest meal to prepare I found it very logical.  I could make the the meat sauce and while it was simmering make the white sauce and then assemble the whole thing.  While this isn't what I would consider classic I think it will be come a new classic for us!

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. I have never seen the British Bakeoff show, or this cookbook. When we retire I think we are moving to a retirement community in Arkansas where we I'll have TV. Then I can catch some of these cooking shows! That looks like a book I will request from the library. I like you suggestions about substitutions in the recipe for next time.

  2. I love watching Mary Berry on both the British show and even the (much-less-good) American version. She balance the intimidation with the general niceness in a good way. I will have to check out the book--the lasagna does sound delicious. ;-)

  3. I do enjoy the British show, and what a contrast to some of the American ones, which seem mean spirited. I'll have to look for this cookbook.

  4. That sounds interesting, having a white sauce for lasagna and using beef stock. Haven't see a recipe like that before. Usually a jar of marinara sauce or whatever is what's used.

  5. Haven't had lasagna in yonks! There's an idea. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  6. I like the BBBO as well. I thought she only baked :)

  7. I always want to try new lasagna recipes, but Baz has a fit if it doesn't taste exactly like my aunt's recipe. I would experiment for myself, but even a small pan is a lot of trouble. Heh. I haven't seen The Great British Bake-Off yet. Everybody raves about it. I really need to watch it. :)

  8. I love homemade lasagna -- but, yes, every pan in the house gets dirty! I can't really picture Cheddar in my lasagna, so I'd substitute mozzarella too. Sounds like a good cookbook -- I too thought Mary Berry only baked!

  9. Love lasagna! I would have left out the celery as well and can't figure out why it would be in there in the first place. I wonder how my family would react if I changed up my lasagna recipe. Great post!

  10. I like her show a lot. I saw her cookbook and was rather astonished by it. It seemed a little too basic.

  11. Yay for it being yummy even if not totally classic. I laughed when I saw the cover. She does NOT look like she liked what she tasted. lol

  12. Mary Berry is so famous in England that I don't understand how it took Americans so long to find out about her -- only through the GBBS in the last couple of years. I loved the way she assigned contestants on the show to make so many obscurely named British cakes and pastries (Eccles Cake, Madeira Cake, whatever). Wonder if these are in the American version? Thanks for the review.

    best... mae at

  13. Now this is a recipe of hers I think I can manage! I've been catching the show on Saturday mornings then going to find the recipes they've made but most of them call for, at the very least, much more patience than I have!