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Getting out of the fast food rut - Home cooked Pasta bolognese
Fast Food versus healthy eating
Cholesterol, BMI, heart problems, obesity have all been linked in some way or another to eating fast food.
But do we really need to eat it - all the time?
We live a good few miles from our nearest Chinese take away, further from a decent burger bar and don't even start on pizzas, so for us, the idea of skipping dinner and going for a take away instead has not been an option - although that may well change after we move house soon.
Now don't get me wrong, I like the occasional pizza - hmmm, pepperoni, jalapenos, cheese... or a burger, especially a cheeseburger with a hot chilli sauce, even fish and chips, Indian or Chinese, but we all should be aware by now of how they are not good for us.
Well, not in such quantities anyway.
I suppose financial constraints have made us more diligent about what we eat, plus our expanding waistlines due to age and a lack of exercise, but I really enjoy cooking.
Unless you have the misfortune of living somewhere where cooking is not an option, there is little reason for you not to cook.
Let's face it, I have waited twenty minutes for a take away Chinese before now and can cook a perfectly acceptable pasta bolognese in the same time, saving me the petrol and the time it would take to go to the local take away.
There are other recipes too that are just as easy to prepare and make in not much time, that not only give you the sense of knowing that you're eating healthy, but give you the sense of accomplishment too, knowing that that tasty plate of food before you is something you made.
I would normally serve this with spaghetti, but any pasta is fine.
It's a simple recipe and there is little that can go wrong.
Preparation time is about fifteen minutes and it can be ready in as little as half an hour, but would benefit from being cooked longer.
Anyway, on with the recipe...
This is what you do...
This recipe will give you enough to feed about four people or you can do what we do and cook it the day before, leave it to stand and then divide it into two, cooking one half for that meal and the other half can be frozen.
You will need:
- 250 grams (1/2 lb) mince (ground beef). Try to go for the lean stuff as the ordinary can be very greasy and that's not nice.
- A large onion - chopped
- One or two garlic cloves (not bulbs) - crushed
- About four medium-sized mushrooms (closed cup) or eight to ten button mushrooms. If the mushrooms are large, slice them, but if they are just the button variety, just cut them in half.
- Half each of a red and green pepper (capsicum) - chopped
- 1 400gm tin of tomatoes - chopped are best, but it doesn't really matter, but if they're not, chop them up when you put them in the pan. We'll get to that.
- 2 desert spoons of tomato purée
- half teaspoon of dried oregano
- Desert spoon of dried basil
- Half teaspoon of chilli powder
- Glass or two of red wine - reasonable quality. Remember, if you won't drink it, don't cook with it.
- A glug of olive oil.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- 75 grammes of pasta per person. That's about 3 ounces - before it's been boiled, silly.
Heat a fairly large frying pan on a fairly high heat, but not full whack. The pan should be one that you have a lid for. Should you not have one of those, use a medium sized saucepan, that does have a lid.
Add a glug of olive oil and then the ground black pepper.
Add the onions and garlic and fry until they're beginning to brown.
Add the ground beef and brown. Fry until the liquid (some will come from the beef and onions) had all but gone.
Add a small amount of red wine and fry until all but gone, then add the mushrooms and peppers and continue to fry for two or three minutes.
Add the tinned tomatoes and purée add salt and the rest of the red wine, cover and simmer on the lowest heat possible. Now if you didn't get the chopped tomatoes, chop them now with the spatula or spoon you've been using.
I usually cook mine for about four hours, checking occasionally to ensure it hasn't cooked dry and that gives the flavours the chance to blend. It also means that even with a good, tight lid, the liquid will reduce somewhat, but not disappear completely.
You can cook this for about fifteen minutes and end up with a flavoursome dish, but it's best in my opinion if left overnight.
In this case, don't keep the lid on, but turn down to a medium heat and stir occasionally, making sure that all the liquid doesn't evaporate. The sauce should be fairly thick when ready.
If you are making and serving immediately, the average time for dried pasta is about fifteen minutes, but check with the product you're using.
It wants ideally to be 'al dente' which literally translated is 'to the tooth', but really means it wants to be slightly resistant to chewing and not a soggy mass, but not so hard as to break your teeth when being chewed.
I prefer mine in a bowl, but a plate is fine.
Drain the pasta when ready, add a pinch of black pepper, a pinch of salt and a slug of olive oil. Toss in the colander for a few seconds to ensure the seasoning has been evenly distributed and then spoon on the plate or into the bowl.
Add the sauce and serve with grated parmesan cheese, maybe some garlic bread and a nice glass of red.
Better for you...
Okay, this has red wine in, but you could easily leave it out and replace it with beef or vegetable stock instead and you could also forego the parmesan, but this is much better for you even with those other ingredients than something from a fast food outlet.
I would suggest that if you're hoping to use this recipe as part of a diet, then use extra lean mince and reduce the pasta to about 50 grammes per person. I'd also suggest going easy on the Parmesan cheese if you can't bear to leave it out altogether.
For those on a weightwatchers diet, this recipe scores about 8 per serving if you use veg or beef stock instead of the wine, leave out the Parmesan and reduce the pasta to 50 grammes, but even then, it's a good portion and still very tasty