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Mushroom Bolognese

In the kitchen, and looking for something healthy, what with it being January and all. It just so happened that we noticed a recipe in the latest edition of the BBC’s Olive magazine for mushroom bolognese. Well, we like pasta and we like mushrooms, so why not give it a go?

I have form when it comes to bolognaise sauce. For a long time, spaghetti bolognese – ‘spag bol’ – was the only Italian dish I could cook (it took me a while to get carbonara right, often ending up with a sort of scrambled egg with pasta). I learned how to make spag bol in the Scouts, when the sauce only needed three ingredients; an onion, beef mince and the contents of a pasta sauce jar. And spaghetti, of course. When cooking in the comfort of an actual kitchen rather than a mess-tent, I usually used the sauce recipe in Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Collection (listed as Ragu bolognese, “really the all-purpose Italian pasta sauce: it can form the basis of Lasagne or Baked meat and macaroni pie (see the recipes on pages 332 and 334)”) although I sometimes skipped the chicken liver as it wasn’t always the easiest thing to get hold of.

Now I am well aware that any actual Italians would be appalled by spag bol, which is not something that you will find in Italy; in Bologna, where bolognese sauce comes from, they’d use tagliatelle, not spaghetti which is more of a southern Italian pasta. That said, Rick Stein recently came across an actual spaghetti bolognaise recipe during the course of his recent Rick Stein’s Long Weekends TV show (“hey Rick, where’re you going this weekend?”). This actual spaghetti bolognese is a dish “which the locals cook of a Friday fish day, made with tomatoes, tuna and dry pasta”. Not mince. But that’s something for another time.

Anyway – the mushroom one. First of all, there’s no spaghetti, for Olive magazine is being geographically correct by stating that this is a dish that goes with tagliatelle. It was an easy-to-follow recipe involving two types of mushroom – porcini (soaked in water, which also gets used) and chestnut mushrooms, along with plenty of veg – carrots and celery as well as onions. And we still have thyme and rosemary growing in the garden, adding a nice homely touch. The two adaptations we made were to skip the star anise, because that sounded a bit out-of-place, and add more water than the recipe suggested – it was looking dry even before we started on the final “cook for 30 minutes” stage, so I filled the empty tomato-tin with water and added that.

The result – delicious! Provided, of course, that you like mushrooms…

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