Okay, so I have a real passion for home cooked food, none of this minimalist fancy stuff but good old fashioned cooking! My Gran owned a restaurant and taught cookery classes, my oldest brother was a head chef and my parents believed in home cooking! What else was going to happen?! So anyway my brother came to stay with me once and cooked me the most amazing meal, when I asked for the recipe he refused, told me that everything had been in my kitchen cupboards and fridge and to look and taste, play about and figure it out for myself; he told me that is how great recipes are found, so I started to play with stuff and I've never looked back!
There is one more thing before you go on browsing through, I don't generally use exact measures when cooking other than batters, cakes and pastries, etc. most of my recipes can be manipulated and played with to suite your own tastes. Have fun. Happy cooking!
(Please bear with me whilst I get this blog established properly, but I hope to cover the basics, all the way up through to some of my favourite recipes for special occasions and eventually upload pictures for them all. They all have one thing in common, they have been tried ans tested in my home kitchen.)

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Spaghetti Bolognese with chunky vegetables

This is a great way to get veg into kids that may not necessarily like it!!! Just cut the veg a bit smaller. Other than that it's full of bright colours which kids love and it tastes great.
It's not necessarily a traditional Bolognese per say, however it was loosely based around a traditional Ragu sauce.

This is a hard one for how many it will serve, you could feed 6-8 easily, I like this for leftovers, also it freezes really well!

Preparation 15-20mins Cooking Time 30-40mins

1 tbsp Olive Oil (sunflower or vegetable oil can be used)
6 Rashers Smoked Streaky Bacon (smoked pancetta can be used instead)
1 lb (500g) Lean Beef Mince
1 Medium sized carrot
1 Stick Celery (2 if using celery heart)
1/2 Small White Onion
4-6 Garlic Cloves (to taste!)
2 Beef Stock Cube (Concentrate Liquid Stock also brilliant)
1 Vegetable Stock Cube
Worcestershire Sauce
Tomato Puree
8 Green and 8 Black Olives
1 Medium Red Onion
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper
1 Medium Courgette
6/8 Medium Closed Cup Mushrooms
500g Sieved Passata (can be found usually with tinned tomatoes and tomato puree)
Medium Glass Red Wine (optional but if you do, make sure it's not vinegary!)
Dried Oregano
Dried Basil
Dried Parsley
Salt and Pepper
Dried Spaghetti (or fresh if you prefer)
Grated Parmesan or Cheddar to sprinkle on top
Serve with Fresh Garlic Bread (recipe separate)

1. Peel and very finely dice 1/2 white onion, carrot and garlic (garlic can be pressed if you prefer). Very finely dice celery and place to one side with the other diced veg, then dice the streaky bacon and in bowl to one side.

2. Now roughly dice red onion, put to one side, de-seed and roughly chop the pepper and place with the red onion. (If you're playing hide the veg! then exchange the chunky slice/dice for fine slice or dice)

3. Top and tail the courgette and the slice through the middle, slice down the middle again, now slice fairly thick slices so you get nice sized chunks, place to one side. Now half the mushrooms and then slice, you should get 4 slices out of each half, then place with the courgette. (If you're playing hide the veg! then exchange the chunky slices for fine slice or dice)

4. Finally for prep! finely dice the olives, even if you don't like to eat olives (my family doesn't), they add a specific flavour which is important.

4. Heat oil on a low heat in a large based pan, (I prefer using a wok!) then add 2 tsp of tomato puree, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and the diced vegetables and bacon. Slowly cook until onion is nearly see through and the carrot is softening, you don't want it to crisp up!

5. Now add the mince, separating it with your hands as you add it, so it covers the base of the pan! Sprinkle over the stock cube (liquid stock) and fold in using 2 wooden spoons rather than stirring with 1. Cook till the mince is browned off nicely.

6. Place a colander in a bowl and then strain the mince mixture off, reserving the juices, and return mixture to the pan.

7. Turn up to a medium/high heat. (Remember with the higher heat to keep stirring the mix so it doesn't burn). Now add the red onion and pepper and stir through. Sprinkle over the remaining beef stock cube and the vegetable stock cube, a good splashing of Worcestershire sauce and another tsp of tomato puree. If your adding red wine now is the time to do so. Then Stir through your olives.

8. Now add your courgettes and mushrooms, stir through.

9. Add Passata, bring to boil, then turn down to simmer.

10. Bring a pan of well salted water to the boil then add spaghetti required for number of people eating (refer to packaging for cooking time for spaghetti as they will vary slightly. (Now would be the time to put your garlic bread on to cook if desired)

11. Now return to the Bolognese mix and add good couple palmfuls of oregano, basil and parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper, when I do this it almost entirely covers the top of the mix in herbs! Stir through, allow to bubble for a couple of minutes and then taste using a metal spoon (it will taste different off a wooden spoon) and adjust to taste if required.

12. To test your spaghetti please don't throw it against a painted wall, this is a useless old wives tale! it sticks when undercooked! Instead, fish out a piece, using your nail/fingers pinch into 2 then look into the centre of the spaghetti, if you can see a little tube in the centre it's still undercooked, it should go opaque, if it's dubious then taste it.

13. When cooked drain the spaghetti thoroughly. Separate between bowls and top generously with Bolognese mixture. Finally top with grated cheese. Serve with Garlic Bread.

Allow any leftover to cool thoroughly before putting in air tight container/s then either store in fridge for day or so, or freeze and use within the month.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Tasty Quarter Pounders

(Makes 4) Prep 10 minutes, Cooking 15 minutes

1 lb (900g) Lean Beef Mince or Beef Steak Mince
1/2 tsp Marmite
1/2 tsp English Mustard
1/2 tsp Good Quality Horseradish Sauce
1 tsp Wholegrain Mustard
1 tsp Dried Basil
Splash Worcestershire Sauce
Pinch of Salt
Ground Black Pepper
4 Burger Baps (plain or seeded)
Lettuce, 2 Tomatoes thinly sliced, Cheese slices, Onions, Gherkins(pickles) and sauces if desired.

1. Place into a small bowl the Marmite, Mustard, Horseradish, Wholegrain Mustard, and Worcestershire Sauce, then stir till well mixed. Add basil, salt and pepper then again mix thoroughly.

2. In a larger bowl place the mince, then knead with your hands. Add the seasoning mix and mix thoroughly using your hands until it is mixed through evenly.

3. Split the mix into 4 balls. Then flatten and shape to form 4 burger patties.

4. Brush griddle pan preferably, although a frying pan will do, with sunflower or vegetable oil and heat on a medium/high flame. Sear the burgers on both sides to get those nice ridges of the griddle pan, then turn heat down to a medium heat and cook for 10 - 12 minutes, turning occasionally.

5. Whilst the burgers are finishing off, cut Burger Buns through the centre. Lightly toast insides of buns for best results under grill.

6. To ensure cooked thoroughly stab a metal skewer or small knife into the centre then tap against the back of your hand, it should be piping hot.

7. On top of the base of the bun top with lettuce, and tomatoes if using, now place burger on top, then add cheese, onions, pickle and sauces as desired.

This recipe has been played with over the past 5 -6 years and this is my favourite to date, try some of your own seasoning ideas. I've done tomato and garlic, mustard and chives to name just two, you could try adding some chilli flakes for a spicy burger. It's easy to play around with and they are guaranteed to be the best burgers you'll ever eat! You can use any cheese you like, try varying that as well and come up with your own combos!
(Don't worry if you don't like any of the seasoning items like Marmite, I hate Marmite, but it is great with beef, it really enhances the meat. Give it a go!)

About Me

I live in a busy seaside town nestled in the countryside, I believe in using local produce as much as possible, it's often cheaper and always better quality than the supermarkets. Look round your town, the butchers, greengrocers and local markets and see what gems you can find!