Category: Cooking

The Great Stock Cube Debate (Spaghetti Bolognese)

Over the weekend, I made spaghetti bolognese for the bloke and I. It’s not the first time I’ve made it for him by any means – but previously, he had mentioned that my recipe wasn’t tomatoey enough. So, I’d dutifully upped the amount of tomato, but kept my recipe relatively unchanged. I’m not so precious about my cooking that I’m unwilling to change it. I’d much rather feed someone something they like, than have them choke down something they don’t out of politeness. I’m also of the opinion that recipes are generally designed to be altered to suit tastes, so I’m not going to rigidly follow one recipe just because. That would be boring.

So, while eating, he asked what I’d done to it, since it still wasn’t as tomatoey as he’d expect. I went through my ingredients, and we stopped at a stock cube.

We then proceeded to have one of the more amusing debates we’ve ever had. I told him to google the recipe, and let me know if any of the top 3 returned in the results did not use a stock cube. 2 of them did. Then, he found a proper Italian recipe, which dutifully did not use a stock cube.

Still. Obviously, the use of a stock cube is not that unusual in this recipe, it seems. Though the bloke is now convinced that it’s a northern thing to use a stock cube, prompting me to ask my facebook friends.

Out of the 19 people who have so far replied to my question, 16 also use a stock cube. Which is highly amusing to me. Granted, most are from the northern/midlands area (ask anyone down the south, and they always call the midlands ‘north’).

I have compromised though. I’ll follow the ‘Italian’ version next time I make it, or have him cook it for me and pinch his recipe if I like it. Sadly, he was against one of my facebook friends suggestion of using Worcestershire Sauce in it, as he much prefers this in a Shepherds or Cottage pie. To me, Worcestershire Sauce in bolognese sounds like a fabulous idea.

To sum up though – I think I am able to claim 1:0 to me on this debate.

For those curious about the recipe I use, here’s a rough approximation of it:

  • 500g beef mince.
  • Bacon (if I have some to use up)
  • 2 tins chopped Tomatoes.
  • 1 Onions, diced.
  • Handful of random veg (carrots, etc, whatever I have to hand) diced.
  • 150g sliced mushroom
  • 1 clove garlic, diced.
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 Beef Stock Cube.
  • 1 tsp rosemary.
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano.

Method is simple. Fry up the onions, mushrooms and random veg. Add the beef (and optional bacon), brown it off with the stock cube. Add everything else, put the lid on and cook over a low heat until you’re happy. Towards the end, remove the lid, increase the heat and reduce it the sauce down.

Nothing complicated, and plenty of room to play around with here. I don’t always do it exactly the same, but the above is the average I use. Looks like I’ll be hunting down a stock cube free version in future though!

When life gives you apples, do lots of baking!

This weekend, I was gifted with rather a lot of apples. The blokes parents have just a few apple trees in their garden, and they know that I cook.

2015-10-11 09.36.57
That would be one large bag of dessert apples, and a larger bag of cooking apples.

As a result, I’ve been on the hunt for what I can do with them to stop them spoiling too soon.

So far, I have apple muffins, German apple cake, apple crumble, apple sauce, and lots of cooking apple that has been chopped, prepped, and frozen. Strangely enough, it’s the cooking apples that I am struggling to think of a variety of things to do with.

Apple muffins. I think I'll be sharing with the office, as this batch only required one apple.
Apple muffins. I think I’ll be sharing with the office, as this batch only required one apple.

Thankfully, I have managed to defrost my freezer (finally!). Now my freezer is mainly full of apple-based food.

There are worse problems to have.

For my sister – how to make custard

Since my sister is apparently allergic to google, or to reading the cook book at Mum’s house, I figured I’d publish the rich custard recipe I use here, so she can stop asking me how to make it. Sis, if you don’t print this out and keep it somewhere, I reserve the right to feed you 10 litres of rich custard through a funnel in your nose.

3 egg yolks
1/2 – 3/4 tea spoon cornflour
2 table spoons caster sugar
150ml milk
150ml double cream *

Combine 3 table spoons milk, the cornflour, sugar and egg yolks. Mix well.

In a seperate pan, heat the milk and cream until simmering. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. At this point, you can add a vanilla pod to infuse (or cheat like I do and use a couple of drops of vanilla essence).

Strain the milk and cream mixture over the egg mixture. Ensure milk and cream has cooled enough at this point, otherwise you will curdle it, and get a strange texture to your custard.

Return everything to the pan, and heat at a low temperature, stirring all the while, until mixture thickens to the consistency you like. This will take somewhere between 6-8 minutes.

Voila! Custard.

* You can just use 300ml milk instead of cream, if you want a slightly healthier alternative.

I got the original recipe for this from The Cooking Book, which is still my kitchen bible even now. I would recommend it for all skill levels in the kitchen.