Saturday, 13 February 2010

Bolognese and birthday

I was thumbing through the Olive magazine earlier this week and came across a spaghetti bolognese recipe by the excellent Lulu Grimes. It struck me as I read it that it would be another opportunity to use up some of my frozen tomatoes. So on Monday I asked Sue to bring a tub of my frozen tomato puree from her freezer with her on the school run and then I picked up the other missing ingredients from the super market later that day. It was Wednesday before I finally had the opportunity to make it for dinner, it requiring 3 hours of cooking. Of course, I couldn't help but tinker with the recipe so here is my version.
Spaghetti Bolognese
450g low-fat minced beef
450g low-fat minced pork
75g cubed pancetta
1 large red onion
1 carrot
1 stick of celery
6 closed cup mushrooms
2 gloves of garlic
500g homegrown tomato puree
250g passata
100g tomato puree
500g beef stock
A good splash of Worcestershire sauce
Fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Soy sauce
Grated cheese

Peel and finely chop all the vegetables. Heat a large frying pan and brown the beef mince. Pour off any water or fat and put the mince into a stock pot. Brown the pork mince in the same way and add to the pot. Fry the pancetta until just beginning to brown and add this to the mince. Add the onions, carrot and celery to the frying pan and fry for about five minutes then add the mushrooms and garlic and fry for two or three minutes more. Add these to the mince then pour in the tomato ingredients, stock and Worcestershire sauce. Add a handful of chopped basil. Bring to the boil then turn down to a low heat, place the lid on the stock pot and simmer gently for 3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Have some hot water handy to top up the liquid if it begins to get too dry. Taste then season with freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoon or two of soy sauce and another handful of fresh basil. Return to the heat for another 10 minutes whilst you boil some spaghetti. This makes enough to serve 8 so serve up as much as required with spaghetti and grated cheese then allow the rest to cool and decant into suitable containers to freeze.
Steve isn't a huge fan of pasta dishes but even he enjoyed this meal. My youngest in contrast loves Italian food, pasta in particular, and ate this with such enthusiasm we had to wipe bolognese out of her eyebrows afterwards!

Having spent slightly more than 3 hours cooking dinner on Wednesday night, Thursday was the total opposite because we went out for dinner for my birthday. I had been to Red Hot World Food Buffet with friends for a Christmas meal and thoroughly enjoyed the food and the company. It had struck me at the time that my daughters would love to eat there because they could choose lots of little bits and pieces for their plates so I booked a table for a birthday treat. I was proved right about them enjoying the different bits and as an extra bonus there was no waiting around between courses for them to get bored. I took my parents with me too and they enjoyed the variety of food, my mum commenting that it would be a good place to bring a large group where everyone's different tastes could be accommodated. My dad just loved being able to go back for seconds... and thirds for that matter!

My birthday was in fact on Friday. In the afternoon my girls helped me make a birthday cake. We chose my good old reliable carrot and orange cake recipe for this. It is a delicious cake with a satisfying texture but more importantly it is a reliable cooker and can be poured into any shape cake tin. Whilst in Lidls on Monday I came across heart shaped cake moulds, it being Valentines Day this weekend. I couldn't decide whether to buy the big single cake mould or the 6 heart shaped muffin mould but as they were only about £2.99 each I splashed out and bought both! My girls asked if they could use the big mould for my birthday cake so I ended up with a heart shaped cake, decorated with pink butter icing and girlie sprinkles. I guess we will use the muffin mould for Valentines day tomorrow.

Carrot and Orange Cake

5 fl oz (140 ml) sunflower oil
41/2 oz (130g) dark brown sugar
2 eggs
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
8 oz (225g) carrots
3 oz (85g) sultanas
10 oz (285g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) wheat germ or bran
11/2 teaspoon mixed spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 160°C (gas 2) and line and/or grease a suitable tin or mould. In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange rind and juice. Peel and grate the carrot and stir it into the mix. Add the sultanas. Sift in the flour, spice, raising agents and add the wheat germ/bran. Stir well then spoon the mix into the cake tin. Bake for 60 minutes and text with a skewer. Cool in the tin then decorate as appropriate.

Having had my birthday meal the evening before and with a special Valentines meal planned for only two days away I didn't feel as if Friday's evening meal had to be anything too elaborate so we just had pork chops with mushrooms and red onion, a salad and some homemade garlic bread. I say homemade, the bread was two home-bake baguettes from the supermarket but I showed my eldest how to convert it into garlic bread using two of our homegrown garlic cloves and some butter. I cut the baguettes part way through in slices just a bit more than a centimeter thick and she patiently wiped garlic butter into each cut... well, at least until she lost interest and went back to playing with her sister. At this time of year with all our homegrown potatoes used up we tend to eat more bread with our dinner and garlic bread is a good way to use up our garlic before it starts sprouting again. Talking of potatoes, the first of our seed potatoes arrived in the post yesterday so I have spread them out in trays and put them in the cold frame to chit. Ooh... it almost feels like the growing season is here again!

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