The Jeffries Academy of Cooking
Microwave meals, 9p noodles and Dominos. These are just some of the words which will, in time, lead to me developing a premature aneurysm. The only excuse for eating such abominations is in times of complete intoxication or the ensuing hangover. This new weekly column will celebrate the cooking of simple but delicious food whilst at the same time tackling kitchen incompetence. For those of you who are gastronomically challenged, I shall show you a few tips which will turn mundane, tasteless food into a masterpiece, without needing to use Daddy's credit card.
This Week's Opponent: the Watery Spaghetti Bolognese
The complete disappearance of minced meat in Exeter's supermarkets on Valentines Day, revealed the humble Spaghetti Bolognese to be the dish of choice for the discerning gentleman wishing to be satisfied by his woman. Those who have encountered the nightmare of a sub-par Bolognese however will realise that for some, getting this simple dish right, can prove difficult.
The following recipe should cost no more than around £1.50-£2.00 per person, especially when cooked in bulk.
Firstly, I shall insult your intelligence by stating the obvious. Dice your onions and garlic with the largest, sharpest knife you can find. If you cannot do this, God help you. Tip: Crush the garlic cloves with the flat of the knife or destroy them with a weighty sauce pan to loosen the skin, then peel.
Then, commandeer a sizeable frying pan and put on medium-high heat. Drizzle some olive oil, then put garlic and onions and fry until onion is translucent (add mushrooms or/and spring onions if being used). Be careful as sugars within the garlic mean that it will burn more quickly than the onion. Unpack the beef and place in the frying pan. Tip: I find that chopping the minced beef further before placing in pan leads to a smoother more even texture.
Continue by adding the entire contents of a jar of passata (sieved tomatoes) to the pan. A jar of passata is much cheaper and more voluminous than the Grossman/Dolmio alternatives. Tip: put a dash of water in the jar, close lid and shake to get remainder of passata out.
Now if you are smiling and nodding, thinking to yourself that you have finished, you are sadly mistaken. The previous steps lead to what can be described with justifiable contempt. as the “watery” Bolognese. Whilst edible, this will not impress the missus and you cannot expect, nor do you deserve, any special favours after dark.
Next, add carrots, stock cube, a cup of water, salt, SUGAR and a few drops of soy sauce, (wine), (carrots). Tip: The spoon of sugar helps to bring back the sweetness of the tomatoes lost during production. Stir and then REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE!
Reducing is a good way to thicken the sauce, binding and tendering the ingredients. After around 30-40 minutes of reduction and stirring (or 2 hours if you have time, adding water every so often to keep moist), add some fresh basil and cream. Tip: Instead of cream, I like to sometimes melt in some Camembert, Brie, Stilton or pretty much any soft cheese as an alternative to add a rich flavour.
Now put some pasta in a pan of boiling water and cook for approx 10 minutes whilst simmering the bolognese. Tip: If pasta is drained early, run cold water over to stop sticking. Serve up, add some grated cheese and black pepper. Dinner is ready!
Remember, there is no excuse for eating badly. Get your backside in gear!
Ingredients for 3 hungry people approx:
– 4-6 cloves of garlic (depending on size), 10-15p
– One medium onion, 20-30p
– Minced Beef 500g, £2.50 to £3.50 depending on quality.
– 1 large jar of passata, £0.80 to £1.00
– A beef stock cube.
– A drizzle of olive oil.
– 1 tsp of sugar.
– 1/2tsp of salt.
– A few drops of soy sauce.
– Quarter of a cup of cream, Philadelphia or indeed any soft cheese, 30p
– Basil- preferably fresh, plant can be purchased for around 90p.
– Pasta- 500g spaghetti or try tagliatelle or linguine for variety, £0.80-1.00
– Spring onions, 30p
– 3 Carrots, cubed, 20-30p
– Mushrooms, 80-90p
– Why not Half a cup of red (for depth) or white (for sweetness) wine, especially if left over from a big night. Remember, wine will be fine for cooking even if it has oxidized and is no longer good for drinking.
– Grated Parmesan to serve.