Saturday, July 14, 2007


My mum is/was a lawyer and worked very hard when my sis and I were growing up. My Popo looked after us, did all the cooking and she was proper oldskool - she's the whole reason for my cooking = love philosophy.

When mum did cook on the rare weekend, she usually made spagbol and Shaz and I would go mad! It would be a whole day affair, starting with supermarket shopping in the morning and prep after lunch, followed by an entire afternoon of simmering which would fill the apartment with stomach-gurgling smells. Shaz and I would sneak tastes of meat sauce all afternoon, burning our tongues and always taking care to smooth over the telltale gouges our teaspoons would make.

When dinnertime came, mum would lift the lid and our thievery would be so obvious. There would be a crusty red line on the side of the pot, and the meat sauce would be sitting about 2 inches below it.

My bolognese is such a bastardisation of the classic ragu alla bolognese because it's based on memories from those times. I have also been influenced by those mafia movies like Godfather where there's always an Italian mother hovering in the background cooking up pots of big RED pasta sauce. I have never been to Bologna. I don't like spaghetti because I prefer a thinner pasta that holds more sauce. I like alot of meat sauce. My mum has never liked too much acidity so I use milk to balance out the tomatoes (consistent with an authentic ragu in this case). I like alot of tomatoes, it's gotta be red red RED. And there are mushrooms in it because mum always put them in her sauce.

These days it's the Dolphin sneaking spoonfuls from the pot, and mum doesn't need to make spaghetti bolognese anymore because I make it for her.

Ingredients for 4 hungry people
1 hr prep to table
Olive oil
1 medium white onion
4 cloves garlic
500g beef mince
Splash of milk
3 bay leaves
1 pinch of dried basil, oregano and parsey
1 can Hunt's Tomato Puree
1 can Napolina chopped tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
200g mushrooms
2 bunches fresh basil leaves

1/2 pkt dried vermicelli pasta

- Chop the onions and garlic up really fine and fry in olive oil until soft and translucent
- Add a bit more oil, enough to see a very thin puddle on the base, and add the beef mince
- Using a wooden fork, stir it around, breaking up the big bits until it's brown and crumbly
- Add a glug of milk. Enough to throughly moisten the meat but not enough to create a pool
- Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and dried herbs (bay, oregano, dried basil, parsley)
- Put a little hot water into the can of tomato puree and add the beef stock cube. Dissolve it, stirring up all the sticky bits of puree left in the can and add it to your beef.
- Add the sliced mushrooms.
- Give everything a good stir and add freshly ground black pepper.
- Turn the heat down low (to 1 or 2, so it's juts making little bubbles) and put the lid on, leaving a crack and simmer for 30mins*.

- Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the vermicelli according to instructions on the packet.
- While the pasta's cooking, chop your fresh basil up. I usually pluck the leaves into a small glass and then use kitchen scissors to snip it in the glass.

- When the pasta is done, switch heat off, drain and put back into the pot on the hob to steam the water away.
- Take the lid off the meat sauce and sprinkle the fresh basil into the bolognese, leaving a little for garnish.
- Taste the sauce and salt/pepper if needed.

- Scoop a big ladle of bolognese into the pot of vermicelli and tong it around until all the pasta is covered in a little sauce.
- Plate the pasta, add more sauce over the top and lots of fresh Parmesan.

Good, honest grub.

*Simmering 30 mins is good, an hour or so even better. But if you're hungry, just simmer till the pasta is cooked - it'll be good enough to eat!

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