Beef, Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti, Meatballs and Song…

This week, I resurrected one of the Teen’s favourite dinners from when she was a tot. Not only did she like the dish for its flavour but because it always involved singing too. How can you have spaghetti without belting out…

On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese
I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed
It rolled in the garden and onto the floor
And then my poor meatball, it rolled out the door
It rolled in the garden and under a bush
And then my poor meatball was nothing but…

I dreaded making this dish as I found the preparation sooooooo tedious. That was then. Originally, I hand-rolled each and every meatball, coated each in flour and pan fried each and every one of them before adding them to the sauce. One day, my pal Jimmy, who’s a chef, guided me towards making this a far easier meal to make. Using a small ice cream scoop cuts out work and makes the meatballs the same size. Baking them in the oven on a tray takes out even more of the work and more importantly, with no added oil, removes the frying aspect of the dish. Once the process got easier, the Teen asked for it even more! Eh…thanks, Jimmy… 🙂

For us, Spaghetti and Meatballs remains a fun dish full of nostalgia and it’s a great dish when cooking for pals. This recipe feeds 4-6 and is well received by young and those who like to remember being young.  It also remains a very tasty dish where spaghetti can be swapped for different shaped pasta or, dare I say it, rice?!?! There is a kick to this recipe as it contains chilli. If you don’t want it spicy, simply ditch the chilli!


Spaghetti and Meatballs

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1 heaped tablespoon of flour
3 fluid ounces of good quality beef stock
1 heaped tablespoon, tomato puree
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped finely
1 tablespoon basil, chopped finely
2 tins chopped tomatoes
Salt and ground pepper to season

2lbs minced beef
1 small onion, chopped as finely as possible
1 heaped cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
Good shake of dried parsley
Salt and Pepper

To serve
Cooked pasta
Grated cheese

1. Preheat the oven at 180C
2. To make the meatballs, blend all the ingredients together
3. With a small ice cream scoop, shape the mince mixture into walnut size pieces and place on a baking tray
4. When the oven is heated, place the baking tray in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes
5. For the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan
6. Add the onion and cover with a lid, allowing the onion to cook until soft (for about 5 minutes)
7. Add the garlic (and chilli) and cook for another two minutes
8. Add the flour and allow to cook for a minute
9. Add the stock in three stages, making sure to blend it with the flour, onion and garlic mix
10. Blend in the tomato puree and then sprinkle in the herbs
11. After adding the tins of tomatoes to the mix, season with salt and black pepper
12. Allow to simmer
13. Place in a blender and blitz for about one minute until smooth
14. Return to the pot and heat through
15. Add the meatballs and cover with the sauce
16. Place the lid on the saucepan and allow to simmer for 10 minutes
17. Serve with spaghetti or pasta shapes of your choice and a big handle of grated cheese
18. And sing…!


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Lamb, Slow Cooked Shanks

Slow cooked lamb shanks  

When the weather is freezing, my need for red meat escalates accordingly. This time I didn’t want anything too heavy so I threw together the following recipe for lamb shanks cooked in the oven. Instead of using red wine, which I felt might overpower the dish, I opted for white wine and it worked very well.

While light in consistency, the sauce was quite intense in flavour. When I tasted it, I longed for some fresh French Bread to dip into it as it was delicious; I’d be completely happy with that on its own! The final dish? It’s rather hearty but perfect winter fare. I ate mine with creamy mashed potato because I am such a creature of habit while the Teen chose whole wheat pasta and both complimented it very nicely indeed. Other alternatives would be to serve it with green beans or flageolet beans instead of potatoes, rice or pasta.

The dish takes time to cook but we think it’s worth it.

Lamb Shanks

(Serves 4)

4 lamb shanks
1 large onion, chopped finely
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
4 large carrots, diced
12 fluid ounces white wine
Tin of chopped tomatoes
4 fluid ounces good quality chicken stock
Bouquet garni
Salt and ground black pepper
Sunflower oil for frying

1. Preheat the oven to 220C
2. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy casserole dish
3. Brown each of the lamb shanks, removing each from the dish when done and setting aside
4. Add another tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the onion
5. Cover with the lid and allow to soften for a couple of minutes
6. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes
7. Mix in the carrots, coating them with the onion and garlic mix
8. After cooking these for a further two minutes, add the wine and bring to a gentle boil
9. Stir in the tomatoes and stock
10. Season with salt and pepper and tuck the bouquet garni into the sauce
11. Place the lamb shanks on top of the sauce and cover with the lid
12. Pop into the oven and after 10 minutes reduce the heat to 165
13. After 40 minutes, check the casserole and cover the meat with sauce
14. Return to the oven
15. After 1 hour and 45 minutes, remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce down for 15 minutes
16. Replace the lid and let it stand for 15 minutes before serving with an accompaniment of your choice.

Ratatouille, Ratatouille, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ratatouille – not exactly traditional but we love it!

Once every few weeks, I make Ratatouille. The choice can be for any or all of three reasons – we really like it, what’s in the fridge and its versatility. This rustic mix of vegetables is a firm favourite in this house where it is eaten alone, with roast chicken and steamed new potatoes, with steak and roast potatoes, with fish, with pasta, with rice…

There’s a fierce amount of chopping involved but it is so worth it. While I generally stick to the traditional ingredients, I have changed my cooking method. Instead of using the stove, I now prepare and cook it in a heavy casserole dish (lid on). I think the flavour is a tad deeper while the Teen thinks the cooking method has no effect on the flavour; she believes they taste the exact same. What I particularly like is the fact that I can pop it in the oven and not have to watch it!

French traditionalists will probably baulk at my approach and recipe. I invite them to my home any time if they want to cook the dish for me! 🙂



3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large aubergines, cubed
2 large courgettes, cubed
2 red peppers (or yellow peppers), chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)
1 tablespoon tomato puree (a second can be added mid cooking if a more intense flavour is preferred)
2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
A heaped teaspoon of sugar (optional)

1. Slice the aubergines lengthways, score and sprinkle generously with salt. Leave aside for about 30 minutes. Wash and then pat try. Chop into chunks
2. Preheat oven to 180C degrees
3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy casserole dish. Add the onion, cover and sweat for about 5 minutes
4. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes
5. Add the aubergines, peppers and courgettes. Cover and sweat for about 5 minutes
6. Stir in the tomato puree followed by the fresh or tinned tomatoes
7. Add the herbs
8. Season with salt and pepper
9. Cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes
10. Take out of the oven, stir and return for another 20 minutes. At this point, a second tablespoon of tomato puree can be added. Sugar may also be added if the tomatoes seem to make the mix a little bitter
11. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.



Beef, Curry

Beef Curry with no substitutions!

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Curry? While a firm favourite with many, it doesn’t seem ‘cultured’ enough for a dinner party. That’s what I thought but this recipe I tweaked from Hardeep Singh Kohli’s ‘Oxtail Curry’ is always well received. From the cook’s point of view, it’s perfect. Yes, there’s a bit of preparation and cooking at the start but once it’s in the oven, there’s about two hours free until serving. The dish is so rich, all that’s needed is Naan Bread or plain Basmati Rice.

What’s so good about this recipe? For me, it’s the spicing. When I read the recipe first, I found the measures a bit daunting. Everything else is a teaspoon of this and a half teaspoon of that where as this recipe calls for more robust flavouring. It all makes for a deliciously, deep-flavoured sauce. And there’s something about the spices chosen too – they all tend to be larder essentials so there’s no sourcing anything unusual in far away Asian Markets.

Meat? I made the original recipe with oxtail and it was totally sublime. Getting good quality, meaty and affordable, oxtail, however, is not always possible so I tried this with rib steak and it worked perfectly. This cut of steak is great for slow cooking and absorbs the flavour more effectively than other cuts.

The recipe is great as it is. I couldn’t resist experimenting but when I did, it never turned out as nice as the original. The sauce is very rich so I thought maybe I would use tinned tomatoes instead of passata to make it lighter. What a mistake! It was nice but it was not half as nice as when passata is used. I learnt my recipe.

This is Beef Curry with no substitutions!

Other praise for this recipe? Apart from the fact that it is all cooked in the same heavy casserole dish, it is gluten free, nut free and dairy free. Oh, and it’s even better the next day!


Beef Curry

2lbs rib steak, cut in equal chunks
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 star anise
4 cardamon pods, lightly bruised with the back of a knife
5 peppercorns
4 large red onions, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped (preferably a Scotch Bonnet)
1.5 inch piece ginger, grated
½ orange, 3 strips of pared zest and the juice
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground coriander
11 fluid ounces passata
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Serve with plain boiled Basmati rice

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Chop the onions, garlic and chilli as finely as possible
3. Grate the ginger
4. Heat the oil to a medium heat in a heavy casserole dish. Add the cumin seeds and allow to sizzle for a minute (be careful not to let them burn)
5. Add the star anise, cardamon pods and peppercorns, cooking for one minute
6. Reducing the heat, add the onion, ginger, chilli and garlic and cook until the onions start to become soft (about ten minutes)
7. Add the orange zest and continue to cook the onions for another ten minutes (or until they look carmelised)
8. Add the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes
9. Add in the turmeric, garam masala and ground coriander and stir through the mix. At this point, add salt and ground black pepper (more can be added at the end)
10. Increasing the heat, add the meat chunks. Cook for about 3 minutes to brown the pieces
11. Add the passata and bring to a simmer. Include the bay leaves too
12. Place the lid on the casserole dish and ransfer to the oven, reducing the heat to 150C after about 10 minutes. Cook for one hour
13. Stir in the orange juice and allow to cook for another 30 minutes
14. Take the dish out and leave covered for another 20-30 minutes while the plain Basmati rice is cooking