The Positive Meme

Because franky it sounded awesome

Write an entry about something that makes you happy or which you like very much. It can be as long or as short as you like, and about anything other than the following:

  • Roleplay/gaming
  • Your friends/family/partner
  • The City of Lancaster
  • Sex
  • Booze, drugs and other harmful things

Well one of the things that makes me happy is cooking in some situations, mostly when people like whats being made.

Something I’ve been working on is a simple recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese that is both simple and tasty, so here’s a rough version since its more done by feel than recipe. This is mostly for 2 people and will leave leftovers for scoffing the following day.

You will need:
1. Some beef or quorn mince
2. More mushrooms than meat
3. Two tins of tomatoes minimum, and half a tin more for every person over 2, rounding up.
4. 1 onion per person.
5. Some cheese
6. About 100-120g of spaghetti per person.
7. Olive Oil
8. Spices: Black pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, optionally garlic.

Physical things:
1. Large saucepan
2. Large wok
3. Two wooden spoons
4. Chopping board
5. Sharp knife
6. Cheese grater.

1. Chop the onion into chunks.
2. Put the saucepan on, put about 1L of water in it
3. Put the wok on with some oil, but not too much or everything will be greasy.
4. Add meat to wok, poke it with a spoon until it goes non-pink
5. Add the onions and the spices
6. Stir until the meat goes brown, while this is happening chop the mushrooms.
7. Once the meat is brown throw in the onions (and if you’ve got it and want to some carrots or a handful of frozen mixed veg works wonders too) stir everything about for about a minute.
8. Add more herbs and spices.
9. Throw in the tomatoes, keep stirring and keep the heat right up. Non-chopped tomatoes will need to be poked with a wooden spoon until they get mashed up.
10. Optionally add a squirt of Heinz Tomato Ketchup, it adds to the flavour and colour, trust me.
11. Keep the heat up, the tomatoes et al, will release their liquid as they cook, the whole thing will be floating in liquid. Around this time the water will boil for the spaghetti, so put that in.
12. Cook the bolognese until it reduces, during that time you can add a pinch more in the way of herbery or pepper depending on how you like the flavour. The ideal consistency at the end is when it becomes thicker than salsa, with pretty much no free-flowing tomato juice and you start needing to stir it to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
13. Drain spaghetti, put on plates, pile bol on top, grate cheese over the top, serve.
14. Clean the damn wok right away and oil it with olive oil on a bit of kitchen roll to stop rust developing.

Right, that should just about do it. The true secret seems to be basically that you need a bucket of mushrooms to get the meat/mushroom balance right (any other veg you throw in is basically just random stuff), yet whilst being a meat/mushroom dish it has to be totally red and filled with tomatoy goodness.

While simple, it can be a delicate balance, but it can be achieved by long (well about 15-20 minutes all in) hot cooking to make the tomatoes liquefy then the whole thing reduce.

Additional notes:
If your doing it with quorn mince things become a bit different. Put in more oil, as quorn doesn’t release oil as it cooks, throw the quorn and the onions in directly, and optionally with one of the tins of tomatoes to make sure they’ve got enough liquid. The quorn will burn or stick to the pan very easily.

9 thoughts on “The Positive Meme

  1. westslide

    I am a big spag bol fan, so I approve of this post.

    For the mushrooms, if I’m feeling fancy I use the oyster mushrooms sold in packs in Sainsburys. One pack will do for a serving for two, and though they’re a bit more expensive, I find them somewhat more flavoursome and they have an interesting different texture, a little less rubbery. That said, I’m perfectly happy with normal mushrooms myself, but for something different it’s quite interesting.

    I also slap in a pepper, usually green, to the mix. Though if you’re cooking it all in a wok for relatively immediate food, they can be a little bit crunchy. If you’ve got time to cook it all in a pot and let it stew together for an hour, they grow softer. But then that’s just a question of time and preference of texture. I find they add a bit more flavour than, say, carrots, which just sludge things up, without being as alien as I find celery.

    Fresh pasta also makes a considerable difference. Then again, I brought back some dried tagliatelli from Italy last month, and it was absolutely gorgeous. If someone thinks pasta is just pasta, they obviously haven’t tried the good stuff. My usual trick with pasta is to put it back in the pot after draining and add butter to keep it moist, but this also adds flavour (actual butter, not marg). Then I tend to throw in some parmesan in with the pasta itself, stirring it all up. It gives the pasta a bit more body.

    Most of these are my personal preference, but I love a spag bol and reject the idea it’s only a low quality, quick and easy dish for just a casual night (though it definitely has space in my small repertoire for the latter). It’s easy to make it something really tasty and a bit more fancy by picking your ingredients right. So I am always intrigued to see how other people cook it, and compare notes. I see you use more tomato than me, for instance – I usually just use one tin for two people. I shall experiment in the future to add more tomato-y goodness and let that extra liquid reduce.

    And I use beef stock and purée instead of ketchup, but I think that’s me being a snob. ;)

    1. mostlyfoo

      Cool :) Well I’m impressed by your snobbiness, I normally don’t bother with spagbol (I reserve my fresh and beautiful ingredients for other things) but I’m going to have to give a few of those a go, fresh pasta and adding a bit of butter might well make things better. I’ve found if you add cheese to the top then you can use cheep chedder and its good, but occasionally using proper cheese (whose name escapes my mind, the powerdy stuff) can make a difference.

      I’ve used peppers at random as well actually, green is good as its light and tangy so it gives a nice contrast to the rest of the dish, red is less good for some reason, but I find since their a non-european veg they really change the texture/flavour/type of the dish, not in a bad way but it becomes a more interesting tomatoey dish than a traditionaly one if that makes sense.

      I find with the mushrooms that you can very the texture and flavour by changing the slice size. Chunks of mushroom (quartered) for example are nice and often retain some of their firmness, whereas very finely sliced practically dissolves, which adds just an interesting flavour beneth everything else.

      1. mostlyfoo

        Additionally one reason I like spagbol is that it can be either a quick and simple dish or something with a lot more class, either way it can have a lot of flavour. The versatility is I think what I like most.

      2. westslide

        Alas, there’s nothing really ‘proper’ about the dried, powdered parmesan you get in the shops. In my experience, grated cheddar is better than that stuff, but ideally, of course, you buy a slab of parmesan and grate it yourself. That said, I very rarely follow my own advice, and I use a tub of dried parmesan.

        Red peppers get lost in the rest of the dish, I think. I find they add nothing new compared to their green brethren. And you’re probably right about the mushroom slicing, I shall experiment. This will be tasty fun.

        As for the purée, I don’t actually keep ketchup in the house, I’m decidedly a continental mayonnaise fan, so purée does the trick. As for stock, I’ll throw stock in anything that’ll take it just for easy added flavour.

        I get far too excited about spag bol, evidently.

  2. caerwiden

    Loving it.

    I’m gonna try this as a pasta bolognese, will probably use chestnut mushrooms as I really like them and possibly fewer onions (Kari doesn’t like onion much).


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