The Flaky Chef
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
Anyone who has ever known or specifically lived with me knows that I am not a cook. I don't particularly like food, and if I'm not hungry I have no interest in it...until I a, literally starving about to faint and need to eat NOW. "Strong independent" university Emma literally did not cook, or at least tried her hardest to avoid it. Literally, in second year I tried to make a chicken kiev (not even make, just heat up from a packet) and it came out raw because I had no clue what the symbols on the oven meant. Honestly, I still have no clue, and I am 24.
Over the last two years, I've been lucky enough to be in a relationship where the boy loves to cook - he literally applied to Masterchef, and the stuff he makes is so good. I had never had risotto before him, and I will never be the same. It's great, until I find myself sat on the ouch doing nothing because I have no interest in his biggest interest, and I think that needs to change. It's important to learn new skills, and I want to be able to make him something nice that isn't pesto pasta, or tuna pasta... or minute noodles (the House Mistress snack of champions).
I'm also noticing a little something going on with my figure... I've always been kind of blessed: not had to watch what I eat, had body confidence for the most part, but suddenly I'm putting on pounds, and I know exactly why... I live off school dinners, pasta and noodles during the working week, and all sorts over the weekends. I need to make a change so I make it to hot girl summer.
So I have come up with a plan... every week, I will cook 1 meal. A meal of champions, a meal that can be reheated so I am not tempted by school dinners or noodles at midnight. This way, I know what I'm putting in my body, without putting any real pressure on it or noticing. School meals are fine, but I find that when the queue dies down and I eventually get my food, I am so anxious because I have to sit with my students and know I have to get back to my boarding house, that I eat about 3 bites then run away. Now, I can have a working meal, so I am being productive, heat myself up a bowl of something, or make something quick, and jobs a gooden! Plus, hopefully the meals I am making myself will be filling, so I won't need more snacks or meals!
So on Saturday, I am in big Tesco, my least favourite place. Little known fact about me: I can't be alone in a supermarket with a shopping list. Let me run free and I am fine, but if I have a list I get super anxious, I've even had panic attacks in the middle of big supermarkets (I don't think face masks help). And on this particular Saturday, I feel one coming. I can't find the parmesan, and I hate asking staff. I text Kier - he's already out he isn't coming back. I have to do this alone. 20 minutes later, I'm out, Kier asks me how it went. "Well I had to get cheddar, but cheese is cheese."
Big Boy Bolognese
4 tbsp olive oil
6 smoked bacon rashers, chopped
4 onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp dried mixed herbs
200g mushrooms, sliced
1½ kg lean minced beef
3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
6 tbsp tomato purée
large glass red wine
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
parmesan, to serve (I swapped this for cheddar - it's all cheese!)
Get your boyfriend to come over to remind you how to chop onions, and teach you how to treat garlic. Spend half an hour chopping all the onions and garlic cloves. **MISTAKE NUMBER 1: after heating the oil, but the onions and garlic in at the same time. Do not do this! The garlic burnt (I didn't realise this until I told Kier my food was good but a bit bitter and he surmised I had done this and that is wrong).
Gently cook the bacon, onions and carrots in frying pan for 20 mins until golden. I had to use 2 frying pans because I didn't have a big enough one.
Add the garlic, herbs and mushrooms, then cook for 2 mins more. The recipe said to use like 500g of mushrooms but I am not a fan so I only used about 5 mushrooms, chopped. Once onions have reduced in size, put all this into 1 frying pan.
Chop/ tear up the mince in the packet and put it into a frying pan. Move it around so it doesn't burn and when it is all brown it is done yay! By this point, you need to crack out a regular pan, because we're about to get saucy... stick everything you have in a pan.
Pour in the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. Pro tip I got from BBC Good Food - get red wine, and pour it into the tomato tins after you've emptied them, to get the last of the tomatoes out, or water if you're that way inclined. You have no idea how fancy I felt using wine to cook.
Add in your red wine vinegar and sugar. I had to buy red wine vinegar specifically for this, so now have to find recipes that use it. If you have suggestions let me know.
Season that bad boy and simmer it for an hour until it's all thick and saucy. I am unsure what "simmer" is but I think it's small bubbles? I was wracking my brains for all the knowledge I reserved from Year 8 Home Economics.
Put on your pasta to boil.
Serve with your cheese of choice, take photos for instagram, delight in your achievements, write a blog about it.
Find the actual recipe here (I left out some more bits that I was too stressed to find in the supermarket, including Bay Leaf - I accidentally picked up Baby Leaf instead, which is now totally useless yay...)