Thursday, 11 November 2010

Needing a knife to eat Bolognese

My partner asked me to cook, this evening. I had no inspiration whatsoever. The diced beef in the refrigerator has a slight greenish tinge and it's out of date (so I left it in the fridge, rather than throwing it away), the turkey rashers and bacon in the fridge looked unappetizing to me, I didn't fancy chicken or lamb.

I had a root through the cupboards, but couldn't face the prospect of stirring a pan of rice for 45 minutes just to make risotto. I spied the pasta ... not pasta bake (I cooked that at the weekend), but there was some minced beef in the freezer (best before: 28 August 2010, so it must have been there for 10+ weeks), so bolognese will have to do.

An aside: I've always thought it strange that pasta is named differently because of its shape. We have some spirals and some bows. "spiral" and "bow" describe the shape, so why does a different shape of foodstuff need a different name? It's not like a square pizza has a different name from a round pizza, a round loaf of bread having a different name from a loaf baked in a tin, or a circular pie having a different name from an oval pie, so why pasta?

I put water on the hob to boil. At the same time, I got the frozen lump of minced beef out of the freezer, and put it in a frying pan to thaw.
It was only then that I thought to myself "doesn't minced beef get sold on a layer of greaseproof paper?", but I couldn't see any, so I kept it frying.
Then I thought "perhaps I should have microwaved the beef first, before frying it?". I decided that this was probably a good idea, so I took the mince back out of the frying pan, put it back into its plastic tub and popped it into the microwave, on full power for 3 minutes.
After 2 minutes, the plastic tub was all melted and deformed, so I quickly rescued the mince. At this point I spotted the layer of greaseproof paper, so I carefully picked it off the mince. The frozen mince had been frying that-side-down, so I'm sure the paper was very tasty, but I didn't fancy trying it.
I threw a couple of handfuls of pasta into the boiling water, and put the mince back in the frying pan.
The mince wasn't separating like I expect. I had to force my wooden spoon into it to split it into strips. No matter how much I tried, I could only split it into strips, not into smaller blocks.
I stirred the mince until brown ... well, until there were parts of it were burnt, because I still couldn't get the bloody stuff to separate correctly. I thought "perhaps it needs liquid?", so I threw a jar of bolognese sauce into it. topping-up with two jars-full of water.
No change, still the mince won't come apart.
The flavour of that mixture was a little bland, so I chopped an onion into it, and added some flakes from a spice jar called "Italian Herbs". Well, you can't expect me to understand how specific herbs will make a difference to a meal, can you?

The saucepan holding the boiling pasta is also the base of a steaming pan, so I got some green beans and some sweetcorn from the freezer, and started steaming them.
Still stirring the mince mixture, now pretending to myself that I'm reducing the liquid rather than desperately attempting to mend the mince, I took a taste and thought "meh" just as my partner called to me "something smells good!". I responded with "reserve judgement until you taste it!", and continued stirring.

The sweetcorn tasted done. The beans tasted done. I took a look at the pasta, and it looked almost bleached, so it was overdone, and still the mince was too watery. I turned the heat up to full under the frying pan, and took the saucepan off the heat, pouring the pasta water away.

Serving-up the bleached pasta, I realised that I had cooked double what was required. I had just the right amount of sweetcorn and beans, though.

I bit the bullet and served-up the mince. There was too much of that, too, but at least the liquid wasn't too noticeable - I'd spent enough time reducing it - phew!

I served a few lumps of mince each. My partner made no comment about the state of the food ... she will usually compliment me if its ok.

You know when you eat spaghetti bolognese, you need to twirl the pasta around your fork? I had to do that with my mince!


  1. You want to thaw the mince before you put it in the fry pan. Seriously. At least half-way thawed. Best thing to do is take it out of the freezer the night before, put it on a plate or in a bowl in the refrigerator.

  2. I find reading your exploits in the kitchen far more amusing than I probably should. It's a wonder that your better half even lets you in the kitchen still.