If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that last weekend I went home to Scotland for a family weekend to see my brother and sister-in-law, niece and nephew, nephew’s wife and great-niece, little Bethany. My 2 daughters flew up from London too and on Sunday, my best friend, Sandra, of 48 years (how did that happen?!) joined us. We don’t see any of each other that often but always meet as if we had only parted a few days ago. We talked about everything and everyone, including those no longer with us and daughter No 1 (in order, only!) reminded us of Granny’s spaghetti Bolognese which she considers second to none. And, so, here it is in all it’s glory with the secret ingredient Jennifer never knew about till much later – chicken livers, giving it a great depth and richness. This recipe is for one – but I will allow you double it if you want to freeze the remainder and make a lasagne at a later date.
Mum’s Best Bolognese
- 30g pancetta or bacon
- 15g (½oz) butter, plus extra for serving
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 small piece of celery, finely chopped
- 75g lean minced beef
- 35g chicken livers, chopped
- 1 tbsp concentrated tomato purée
- 1/2 glass of white wine (pour 1 glass and drink half whilst you are cooking!)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 wine glass of stock or water
- 85 -100g fresh or dried spaghetti
- Parmesan cheese, grated Basil leaves to decorate
Cut the ham into very small pieces and brown them gently in a small saucepan in the butter. Add the onion, carrot and celery. When they have browned, put in the minced beef, and then turn it over and over so that it all browns evenly. Add the chopped chicken livers, and after 2 or 3 minutes the tomato purée, and then the white wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a scraping of nutmeg, and add the stock or water. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce very gently for 30-40 minutes. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente (just soft), then drain and put into a warm dish. When the Bolognese sauce is ready to be served, mix it with the hot pasta. Add a good piece of butter before serving with the grated Parmesan cheese.
Keeping with My Mum theme – to follow, a pudding so wonderful you will keep making again and again. Mum came from the Lake District, in particular, Cartmel, which was the original home of Sticky Toffee Pudding. I’m not going to give a “normal” recipe for this as it’s impossible to scale down – but this is made in a mug and microwaved so it can become your guilty pleasure as often as you like!
First, test your mug! Place your (obviously not metal) mug in the microwave, empty and heat for 1 minute. If it is hot, don’t use. A 350ml would be best, too.
- 2 tablespoons soft butter, plus a little for greasing
- 4 tablespoons toffee sauce (you can buy this in any supermarket under the name Dulce Leche. Once opened, store in the fridge. You can use it on ice cream – even porridge – or until you make this again!)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons dried dates, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons self raising flour
Grease your mug with a little of the butter and spoon in 3 tablespoons of toffee sauce. Melt remaining butter, add egg, remaining sauce, vanilla and dates and beat with a fork. Fold in the sugar and flour and beat again till smooth and spoon into the mug. Cook for 2 minutes 35 seconds (600W) or 2 minutes 15 seconds (800W). Cool slightly and tune out onto a plate.
There is another reason for Mum’s best recipe – it is 23 years today since she died. I think of her every day and know how proud she would be of all the family that has come after her. This blog was started to encourage people on their own to get back into the enjoyment of cooking. Today, I want you to think hard, though. Are you really on your own – or just lost connections? A family doesn’t always mean blood – it can be friends and workmates, too – you don’t even need to agree all the time! If you are truly on your own though, make today the day you smile to the postman, put a coin in a homeless cup and make a step outwards. Call it a friendship, a network, a tribe or a family: whatever you call it, you need one.