Monday, 25 July 2011

Frugal Bolognaise

Serves 6-8

1lb (500g) minced beef
50g bacon bits (optional)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 medium courgette (zucchini), grated
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and freshly ground pepper

Quick Prepare Method
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Combine all the raw ingredients in a large bowl.  Get your hand in there and squeeze them all together!
Place in a casserole dish, cover, and put in the oven.  Cook at 180C for half an hour, then turn down to 140C and cook slowly for another couple of hours.  
Remove and serve on rice or pasta.
Alternatively, use the slow cooker and cook on Low for about 4 hours.

Quick Cook Method
1) Using a large frying pan or ovenproof pot, fry off the bacon (if using), the onion, and the courgette until soft.  Use a little oil or bacon fat (the bacon bits might provide enough).  This will take around 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, and fry for another 2 minutes.  Remove from pan.
2) In the same pan, fry the minced beef until browned.
3) Return vegetables to the pan and stir in the tomatoes, the puree, the herbs, and the seasoning.  Simmer for around 20 minutes to reduce and thicken the tomato liquid.  Serve over pasta or rice.

Frugal Notes
The first rule of frugality is track down some cheapish minced beef.  It doesn't have to be top quality Steak Mince.  But at the same time, you don't want to go too cheap. (I have dark memories of the bag of frozen mince I bought once as a young student.  You had to pick the wee tubes out of it.)  But even so, minced beef is one of the cheaper meat options, if you compare it to a pork chop or a chicken breast.  What's more, you can bulk it out to make it go a whole lot further.  Lidl does a good quality Scottish Beef Mince, and other supermarkets and butchers may have their own decent offers. 

The other thing to look out for is some cheap cans of tomatoes.  Supermarket own brands are usually very cheap, if you aren't too fussed about the organic thing.  (I have seen them as low as 9p, though they all seem to be 33p now.)  Oddly enough, the chopped tomatoes are often more expensive.  As a young student, I learned to buy a can of Whole Plum Tomatoes, open it, and then swirl a knife around the can to produce the desired chopped effect!  However, in this case, I didn't use a can, because I had three over-ripe large tomatoes to use up.  I just chopped them roughly and put them all in, skin and seeds too.

A courgette (zucchini) is a marvellous thing for bulking out minced beef, as well as adding nutrition.  It grates easily by hand.  I am not fond of big chunks of courgette, but I can eat this recipe absolutely fine.  I have also served this to courgette-hating children, and they didn't even know they were eating it.  And of course, you can add all sorts of other vegetables.  Red peppers and mushrooms work particularly well.

Another way of making the meat go even further would be to prepare some dried kidney beans (follow the packet instructions precisely, or these can be poisonous), and turn the whole into a chilli with the addition of some dried chilli flakes or tabasco sauce.  This can be done on the second day of serving to ring the changes.

Lastly, a bolognaise can be made to go very far indeed, depending on how you use it.  Serve it like the Italians do: not piled up on top of your spaghetti, but stirred through.  Alternatively, stir some bolognaise sauce through some cooked penne pasta, place in a casserole dish, and top with a little grated cheese and some dried mixed herbs.  This can then be grilled for 3-5 minutes, or put in the oven for about 20 minutes.  This can be done with only a couple of tablespoons of the sauce, so that it goes absolutely miles.  It also freezes well.


Anonymous said...

I always add grated carrot to my bolognese. In the series SuperScrimpers I learned that you can add oats: apparently they soak up the fat, taking on the flavour of the beef, so it appears that you've got more meat than you have. I haven't tried this myself though.

Fran said...

Interesting. I am deeply unfond of carrot in bolognaise, but if you like it, then it would work very well. Thanks for the oats tip. I am a little dubious, but am willing to give it a go in the name of research. Next time I take a portion out of the freezer, I shall add some oats when heating it up, and let it cook for a while. Then only a single portion will be at risk. I will let you know how it goes. :)