Spaghetti Bolognaise aka “Sk betty”

So this working mother thing requires a heck of a lot of organisation, especially with 2 children under 4 who are starving & tired when they get home from child care. So Thursday being the day off and market day I decided to make a supply of Spag Bol or Sk betty as it’s become known by Zachie.

You will need: (to make this much and enough for 3 adults & 3 kids)

1.5 kg Minced Beef

2 large brown onions, diced

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

3-4 large mushrooms, diced

4 400gm tins of crushed gourmet tomatoes.

handful of chopped parsley

lug of olive oil

2 tsp smokey paprika

Salt & pepper

3 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup tomato paste

3 tsp powdered beef stock (Massell)

3 tins of water

In your largest pan fry off the garlic & onions until they’re translucent, add the diced mushrooms & fry off. (I dice the mushrooms fairly finely so they’re about the size of the mince meat) then add the meat in batches so that it is all browned & broken up before you add more, you want to fry & brown the meat not stew it. Once it’s all cooked & mixed in you add all the crushed tomatoes & fill the tins with water and add 3 tins worth of water, add tomato paste, paprika, beef stock & salt & pepper to taste.

Don’t add too much salt at this stage as you can always add more towards the end of cooking. Add the chopped parsley & bring to the boil, simmer gently for 1 &1/2 hours stirring regularly until the sauce thickens. Pack into freezer proof containers & freeze, when I am freezing sauce I leave it a little runnier than I would if I am serving it straight away so that when the time comes to use it I can simmer it a little to increase the flavour.

This quantity gave us 2 large 2 litre containers 1 small one for the kids and a bit leftover which I was thinking I could put on nachos or something.

To serve, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook spaghetti until it’s al dente, approx 12-15 mins, serve with lots of grated parmesan.

P.S. The gourmet tomatoes I get from UCG wholesalers in Preston – Bell Street they’re 79c a tin, so unless the supermarkets have them on special, that’s the best buy in my opinion, also love Annalisa tomatoes too.

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Stuffed Eggplants

Yummy hey? Now this is a little fiddly, but oh my goodness they’re delicious and worth it. I am deliriously happy as this was my second attempt at these tasty little morsels, this time with meat & hubby loved them! They’re great because you can make them and then stick it in the fridge and leave it there for a day or so, or even freeze them and then take them out in the morning and stick in the oven when you get home from work etc.

You will need:

8 Lebanese eggplants (they’re the long skinny ones)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

500g lamb mince

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed.

1 Litre of tomato passata or 3 tins of crushed tomatoes

1 heaped tsp smokey paprika + 1/2 tsp extra

1 heaped tsp ground cumin  + 1/2 tsp extra

small handful of finely chopped parsley

200g danish feta

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 brown onion diced.

Cut the eggplants in half & scoop out the flesh leaving the skins intact. Set the flesh aside. Place the skins in a large pot of boiling salted water and ensure that they remain submerged under the water. (a smaller saucepan lid on top of them works)

Dice the remaining eggplant flesh and pan fry in extra virgin olive oil with the garlic & onion until golden and tender, add the mince and ensure that you break up any lumps, continue to saute until golden brown. Add the spices & salt & pepper, then 500ml of the tomato passata and stir to combine.

Drain the eggplant skins and set aside to cool slightly.

In another saucepan add some garlic, olive oil 1/2 tsp paprika & cumin with salt & pepper to taste, and the remaining tomato passata, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 mins, check taste for seasoning.

Take a large oven proof dish and pour the tomato sauce onto the base of the dish, fill the skins with the stuffing and place in the tomato sauce – nestle in close together but don’t over fill them too much. Once they’re all done, sprinkle with any remaining meat sauce, parsley and top with crumbled feta.

Cook in the oven for 30 -40 mins at 180 degrees celsius or 350 farenheit. Serve with crusty bread & a green salad.

You can easily omit the mince meat if you’re vegetarian and add some finely diced celery & or mushrooms at the same time as you pan fry the eggplant.

Lamb & Vegetable Tajine

You can use any vegetables you like for this one from fennel & Peas, Carrots & Cauliflower or Peas & Artichokes, as a guide the recipe below would serve 4 people depending on how hungry everyone is.

2 onions diced
6 forequater lamb chops
4 large potatoes, peeled & cut into rounds
8 carrots, peeled and cut in half length ways if they’re very thick
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley & coriander chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp paprika
Pepper to taste
1 tomato
1 preserved lemon

Take a large cast iron saucepan and saute the onions with spices, herbs, garlic & olive oil for 3 minutes, add the chops and seal, take the chops out, put the carrots on top of the onions, put the chops back in a single layer where possible. Put the slices of potato on top of the chops, season with a little pepper, slice the tomato in half and place in the middle of the stack with the preserved lemon, pour in 150mls of water, cover and allow to gently simmer for at least an hour, longer if possible.
You want to end up with lightly caramillised carrots and a thickish sauce, don’t add salt until the end as the preserved lemons will add salt to the dish, also you can always add more water if required but the tomato will release it’s juices and you therefore shouldn’t need much more. Serve with crusty bread and a salad if required.

Spaghetti Marinara

This is my easy cheats version of Spaghetti Marinara made with just a few simple ingredients, as Hubby always takes last nights dinner to work for lunch the next day this makes for a very easy friday night dinner as left overs aren’t required.

I am usually making this for 2 adults & 2 kids, the kids mostly have just the pasta with tomato sauce and 2 or 3 prawns, so if you’re serving more just increase the quantities accordingly.

You will need:

A handful of Shelled Prawns

8 Mussels, cleaned with the beards removed

large scoop of Pippies, Clams or Vongole depending on what you call them

1 finely diced brown onion

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 400g tin crushed italian tomatoes.

handful of freshly chopped italian parsley

Salt & Pepper.

Olive oil

1/2 a pkt of spaghetti (or more depending on how hungry you are)

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. When it’s boiling add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. (approx 12-15mins) Heat oil in a frying pan and add the garlic & onions and saute until translucent, add the tomatoes, rinsing out the tin with a little water and add that to the pan as well.

Bring to a simmer & allow to cook so the liquid is reduced and the sauce thickens, add the cleaned seafood and stir, cover with a lid (or oven tray as my frying pan doesn’t have a lid) and allow to cook until all the shell fish have opened. Discard any that don’t open as they could be off and therefore make you sick. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Drain the pasta and either toss into the sauce or vice versa & Va bene dinner is served.

Just remember the purists among us will say no parmesan cheese with seafood (I think it’s because it makes the seafood taste sour)

Perhaps serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices