Monday, March 10, 2008

not-so-slow food

While we're on the subject of food, let me tell you about my friend Susan's beautiful blog. She and her husband are committed to the idea of slow food, taking time and care to prepare the food they eat.

Her delicious-looking blog shows bread dough kneaded on a board, home-baked goodies gorgeously displayed on pretty cake stands at a school fete, cafe latte in a glass accompanied with home-made biscotti.

Like us, they have 6mouths2feed, but they do it in style.

In our house, we're more into not-so-slow food: cereal from a box, home brand crackers, instant coffee, and ice-cream from a tub. We do make our own popcorn and porridge, the kids cook muffins (from a packet) for their lunchboxes, Lizzy loves to make a meal or dessert each week, and I create almost all our meals from scratch - take away is too expensive and unhealthy to be indulged in often. But our menu is more traditional than gourmet.

And I confess that many of our meals come straight out of a well-stocked freezer.

I often cook in bulk and freeze meal-sized portions in those 700 ml freezer containers you can buy cheaply at the supermarket. I developed this habit preparing for morning sickness and early babyhood. I do love a deep chest freezer overflowing with home-cooked frozen meals!! It makes life a lot easier for this mother of 4.

Here's my (non) recipe for bulk bolognaise sauce (like Sus, I prefer to cook without a recipe, although she does it with more panache):

Jean's spag bog
- splash of oil for the pot
- at least 3 kg beef mince (the most I ever cooked in one go was 6 kg)
- about 3 large carrots, 3 celery sticks and 3 onions for every 1 kg of mince, chopped fairly small
- a large can of tomatoes for every 2 kg or so (I roughly chop the tomatoes if they're whole)
- extra tomato paste if the sauce doesn't look tomato-y enough, or if I've run out of cans of tomatoes
- lots of red wine, beef stock, mixed herbs, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper to taste
- lots of chopped garlic (if I get around to it)

1. Brown the mince in a small amount of oil in an extremely large pot.
2. Throw in the other ingredients (sometimes I fry off the veges first; when Lizzy was averse to veges I fried them in a big pot in a little oil until they were soft and pureed them before adding them to the mince. Never puree the meat!! I tried this once and it was a huge mistake. Think sludge.).
3. Bring to the boil and simmer slowly for hours and hours.
4. Cool it in the fridge overnight, then skim off the fat.
5. Put in freezer containers and freeze (I once worked out that 6 kg mince fills at least 18 700 ml containers).
The main secret to bulk cooking is always to add a lot more flavouring - stock powder, sauce, herbs, pepper etc. - than you think you will need. Allow time to bring a huge pot to the boil, and for many hours of long, slow simmering. It's worth it: just think of all those busy, grumpy late afternoons it will saves you cooking from scratch!

And here are the easy speedy meals we make with our spag bog sauce (1 700 ml container per meal):

  1. spaghetti bolognaise (well, duh!)
  2. "giant pasta" - a fun variant on lasagna - cook extra large pasta, mix it with spag bog sauce in a lasagna dish, top with grated cheese, and bake in the oven until it browns.
  3. shepherd's pie - actually, I think it's really cottage pie, but we call it shepherd's pie - put spag bog sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish, top with a large pot of mashed potato, put grated cheese on top, bake until hot and browned.
  4. chili con carne - fry 1 chopped red capsicum in small amount olive oil, add spag bog sauce, 1 can drained, rinsed kidney beans, garlic, chili, cumin and coriander powder; cook until capsicum is soft; serve with pasta, cous cous or rice.
  5. tacos / burritos - in tacos or tortillas with salad and chili sauce
  6. lasagna - layer spag bog sauce with lasagna noodles, cheese or cheese sauce, and top with grated cheese; cook until pasta cooked and top browned.
  7. spaghetti casserole - in a lasagna dish layer 1. spaghetti noodles, 2. spag bog sauce, 3. spaghetti noodles, 4. ricotta / defrosted frozen spinach / grated cheese / egg mixed together, 5. spaghetti noddles, 6. passata (Italian tomato pasta sauce) and 7. grated cheese; bake until browned.

And that's some not-so-slow food from the kitchen of Jean. ;)

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