So another week's flown by and we find ourselves stuck for a Monday night treat. Fish and chips? Pizza? Chinese maybe? No.
With the pantry full, nothing hurts more than collapsing under the pressure of hunger and coming home with a variety of un-recyclable boxes of somebody else's food (and usually greasy trousers/shoes from the trip).
So, tonight we decided to use up some of last years frozen tomatoes (cooked down, skins and all, mixed with a few slices of pepper and frozen into 2 person portions for occasion such as this) and create a modern day family staple, Bolognese.
Now we like meat as much as the next carnivore but we have got a problem with minced beef.
Mainly, the problem lies with the possibility of spending a couple of hours tweaking and refining the perfect Bolognese, only to find it spoilt on the first mouthful by a horrible chewy bit.
Sure, you can pay through the nose and buy the leanest, best mince but who can really afford to do that nowadays? Especially as we're talking about a meal that could be served twice a week some months.
So we use Quorn (other vegetarian brands are available) mince as an alternative.
It browns like the real stuff, soaks up flavour better than the real stuff and can be easily 'beefed' up by adding a stock cube at the appropriate time.
TODAYS FREE RECIPE
500g Vegetarian Mince
2 large onions
5 cloves of garlic (seems excessive, but the cooking process evens things out)
1 litre of cooked down tomatoes (we use 1Kg tomatoes and 250g sliced pepper)
2 medium carrots
Handful of frozen peas
2 beef stock cubes (or to keep it veggie, 2 teaspoons of Marmite)
1 Kg pasta of your choice (don't just use spaghetti, experiment a little)
Brown the mince in a medium hot pan with a little olive oil.
Dice the onions somewhere between chunky and fine and fry them seperately until they start to go transparent.
Mix the onions into the mince and crumble in the stock cubes.
Finely chop the garlic and throw straight into the mince and onion mix, we find this lessens the impact and keeps the garlic tasting sweet, not bitter.
Add the tomato and pepper mix to the mince and stir thoroughly.
Finely dice the carrots and add to the mix.
Add the peas to the mix also.
If you like a little heat, why not add a couple of teaspoons of cayenne pepper here? If you don't like spice, leave it out.
Turn down the heat, put a lid on the bolognese and leave to gently bubble and blip in the pan for a good hour.
Many Bolognese recipes are quicker than this and as an easy fix meal we cannot fault these methods. However, by using this method, there is plenty of scope for you to taste and change the recipe as you see fit throughout the cooking process.
Why not try adding some fresh herbs like basil or coriander?
Oh, and our best method for pasta?
Place a small amount of water in an empty pan and put on the cooker.
Boil a full kettle.
Pile the pasta into the pan when the small amount of water begins to boil.
Pour the full kettle over the pasta in the pan.
Leave to boil for 12 minutes (pastas vary, 12-14 minutes is usual).
Test (most important part, if it doesn't feel ready in your mouth, it's not!).
Drain through a colander, then pour cold water over it to stop it cooking further.
Drain again and serve.
This recipe serves 8 hungry diners.
This recipe is really quite healthy, that's why we left out the salt. If you prefer it with salt, put it in yourself.
Also, many people drown their Bolognese with grated cheese, usually a hard, cholesterol filled variety like Cheddar.
We don't. We add a large dollop of creme fraiche to the bolognese sauce on the plate, then hide it with more sauce.
The coldness of the creme fraiche against the warmth of the sauce? Mama Mia!
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Happy cooking adventures everybody.
The Fantastic Team