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Good ol’ spag bol

In my opinion, Spaghetti Bolognese is right up there as one of the best comfort foods. And, in my opinion, it’s one of the easiest dishes to get right. But so often, in particular in restaurants and cafés, it’s served up as a bit of a tasteless slosh of tasteless mince, token tomatoes and way too much limp pasta. I’ve never quite figured why so many places get it wrong – a touch of laziness maybe? Again, in my opinion, spag bol deserves care and attention…even if it is indeed one of the simplest dishes to make.

For me, there’s a few absolute musts for a good ol’ spag bol. Bacon to kick things off, a good base of chopped veg (onions, garlic, carrots and celery), good quality minced beef, plum(!!) tomatoes, chopped cherry tomatoes, red wine, herbs (I use rosemary, oregano, bay leaves and basil) and parmesan.

All of these deserve a decent amount of cooking time to make sure to infuse the flavours. And I like to simmer mine for at least an hour…or, even better, make ahead to bring out the maximum flavour.

Having looked around for recipes, I quite like BBC Good Food’s ‘The Best Spaghetti Bolognese’ recipe although, despite loving spicy food, I prefer to leave out the red chilli. They too use plum tomatoes…and I really rate the addition of parmesan to the whole dish before serving. Basil added during cooking and then to garnish the dish is also a great touch. Oh…as for the pasta…dried pasta (as good as fresh in my view) popped into boiling water and simmered for 12 minutes is bang on every time.

Below are the recommended ingredients for the best spaghetti Bolgnese and you can find the full recipe here.

1 tbsp olive oil
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 carrots trimmed and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs rosemary leaves picked and finely chopped
500g beef mince
2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
Small pack basil, leaves picked, ¾ finely chopped and the rest left whole for garnish
1 tsp dried oregano
2 fresh bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 beef stock cube
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
125ml red wine
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
75g Parmesan grated, plus extra to serve
400g spaghetti
crusty bread, to serve (optional)

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Greek salad

Greek Salad

With a trip to Athens next week…with a half Greek partner who craves food memories of Greece…I’ve decided to brush up on my Greek cooking skills. So where else to start than a good old Greek Salad.

I love Greek Salad and found myself indulging every morning for breakfast when I spent a week in Crete last year.

Hunting around the internet and a variety of Greek cookery books, I decided to go with the Guardian’s Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect Greek salad recipe. I love their ‘how to make the perfect..‘ recipes as they’ve done their groundwork and share in detail tips from top chefs, all the different ingredient varieties followed by their recommendation on getting it perfect. This is a classic dish, and, as Felicty mentions, it’s actually pretty rare to find a decent one outside Greece. But it should be pretty simple right?

Well after having made this a couple of times now, yes, it’s simple…but to take it to the next level, there are a few brilliant tips that I would never have thought of – mainly around marinading the onions and tomatoes and adding a special splash of Ouzo!

For the onions, it’s simply a case of giving them around 20 minutes in a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar and three tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Although I love raw onion, by marinading it, you lessen what can be an overwhelming hit of onion which can overpower other flavours in the salad.

Similarly, for the tomatoes – which must be as sweet and ripe as possible – sprinkling them with a little sugar and salt helps bring out the best tomato flavour…and the juice that results is a fantastic addition to the final dressing.

Cucumber is obviously a must and definitely best cut into bite-sized chunks rather than thinly sliced or large rounds that make it tough to fit on your fork alongside all the other delicious ingredients.

Other staples include feta of course – the best you can find rather than the bland, mild varieties you find in supermarkets’ economy sections. Crumbled over the top rather than neat slices or a huge hunk make this look a lot more appetising…and with crumbs of feta blended across the salad adds to the delicious flavours on your fork. Olives are obviously a must – the recommendation is of course kalamata but I’m open to other varieties as long as they’re decent quality olives. The addition of capers really helps bring out the sour saltiness of the feta…but gherkins are also recommended which I’m definitely going to try next time.

Oregano is a staple in this household so I wouldn’t dare try using other suggestions of mint or coriander. Not having many fresh herbs growing in the garden at this time of year, I used dried oregano which works perfectly well.

And finally the dressing – a good old classic of red wine vinegar and decent extra virgin olive oil do the trick. But, as I mentioned earlier, the addition of a teaspoon of Ouzo takes this to another level. That hint of aniseed, for me, takes this dish back to Greece and somehow makes this dish taste all the more authentic.

Greek SaladSo below are the recommended ingredients for the perfect Greek Salad and you can find the full recipe here.

½ red onion
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 smallish, sweet tomatoes
½ tsp caster sugar (optional)
1 cucumber, chilled
25 kalamata olives, preferably stone-in
1 tbsp capers, drained (or rinsed if packed in salt)
1 tsp ouzo or pastis (optional)
3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves picked and roughly chopped, or a generous pinch of dried oregano
150g feta

 

 

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Keep an eye out…there’s a new Brighton based supper club coming soon!

With food and cooking being right at the top of my list of things I’m passionate about, I decided it was time to take the plunge and set up some kind of food related business. I love food…I love entertaining…and I love my home…so it was a bit of a no brainer to think about setting up a supperclub.

While I’m investigating all the ins and outs and the best way to approach it, I thought I’d practise as much as possible – my partner’s a perfect guinea pig! And I thought I’d share how I get on with trying new recipes and trying new foodie places I come across out and about on my travels.

Abigail’s Party will be a new supperclub coming to Brighton very soon. But in the meantime, I’d love to share my journey with you…and for you to get involved by giving me feedback, comments and suggestions. Please do get involved as I’d love to build this around what people want.

You can find my latest discoveries and get involved on my blog and my facebook pages.

If you’re interested in hearing more about coming along to one of my first supperclubs, please drop me an email.

Thanks

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