As a kid I always looked forward to Saturdays. It was an early start for me and my brother as we attended music school; I played the trumpet and he the clarinet. We were like the Von Trapp family — we had a drummer, violinist and flutist in the house.
Music school was from 9am to 1pm, so while we brushed up on our scales and music theory my mum would be busy at home preparing my favourite meal, spaghetti bolognese.
I think it was the most cosmopolitan meal she cooked. Blig-blog, as we affectionately called it, was served every weekend without fail, a tradition that carried on for years.
The last session at music school was getting together with my fellow students and playing as a band in the concert hall. Mr Salt was our conductor. Students were very competitive and being asked by Mr Salt to perform solo was a real honour. I remember my first solo and how nervous I was, but I pulled it off.
Watching the clock, I was counting down the minutes until the bell rang, as that meant I was less than 30 minutes away from lunch. Packing away my music sheets and trumpet, we headed home.
Like clockwork there it was; steaming bowls of blig-blog set out on the table. As we grew we would all help with the cooking, and assisting my mum gave me the opportunity to master the blig-blog recipe — one that I still use over 30 years later.
Adding kidney beans and cayenne pepper, I spice it up to make a hot chili or a comforting cheesy beef gratin. Follow the recipe for the beef and top with sliced potato. Here’s how: wash two large potatoes, leave the skin on, and thinly slice using a mandolin. Rinse and dry. Pour the cooked mince into an oven-proof dish, and layer the potato over, starting from the outside in, overlapping each slice. Add 2-3 layers, then top with 250g of grated cheddar, sprinkle over some dried mixed herbs, and bake at 200 degrees for 40-50 minutes until the top is crispy and golden. Delicious, and perfect for freezing,
I like to cook up a big pot of bolognese and freeze it in individual portions, perfect for time-saving mid-week dinners. Try it in a jacket potato topped with grated Parmesan, or cook up some pasta shapes, a perfect meal for the kids.
I still have my trumpet, although I haven’t played it for years. My solo wouldn’t be as tuneful as my music school days, but my blig-blog still hits the right notes.
BEEF BOLOGNESE WITH TAGLIATELLE
Serves 4, prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 45 minutes
■ 2tbsp of olive oil
■ 2 red onions chopped
■ 2 garlic cloves chopped
■ Salt & pepper
■ 500g of minced beef
■ 2 beef stock cubes
■ 1 can of chopped tomatoes
■ 2 tbsp of tomato puree
■ 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
■ 2 tsp of dried oregano
■ 1 tbsp of brown sauce
■ 250g of cooked tagliatelle
■ 1 tbsp of olive oil
■ 5-6 sliced fresh basil leaves
■ Parmesan cheese (optional)
Cook the tagliatelle as per pack instructions. Drain, coat with olive oil, cover and keep warm to one side. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions and garlic. Add the beef to the pan, cook until browned. Add the stock cubes and simmer for five minutes. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, brown sauce and wine. Simmer for a further 30 minutes. To serve, using a carving fork roll the tagliatelli onto the fork and place on the serving plates and top with a drizzle of olive oil and sliced basil. Serve the bolognese in small bowls topped with basil leaves.
— Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix