Bolognese, wooden spoon

World’s Worst Food Blogger – Bolognese

The World’s Worst Food Blogger series of posts is where I share my love of all things edible in a proudly non-Pinterest-worthy way. This particular post is all about the humble bolognese.

 

Firstly, If you are someone whose authentic Italian Nonna passed down a recipe for the perfect bolognese, then this post is not for you. I can’t compete with what you know and frankly, I’m a little bit jealous! This post isn’t about authentic, traditional food, it’s about quintessential Australian cooking – that is taking the best things from around the world and modifying them to suit your needs.

 

For me, the needs are simple. Something delicious, cheap, healthy, easy to make and able to be made in bulk. Something that can easily be frozen and taste just as good when it is defrosted. If those needs sound familiar to you, read on…

 

Ingredients – Bolognese

7 cloves of garlic

Olive oil

1.5kg lean beef mince

500g quality pork mince

Mixed herbs (to taste)

1 butternut pumpkin – finely grated

4 large zucchinis – finely grated

6 carrots – finely grated

2 jars passata

Salt (to taste)

The ingredients for this bolognese are fairly simple, and as I said before, cheap. After much experimenting, they are the ones that I have found to work best together to create a meaty-tasting bolognese that is actually 2/3rds vegetable. Feel free to experiment and tweak for yourself.

 

Equipment

1 large stock pot. And I mean large. It needs to hold approximately 7kg of ingredients. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount that you are cooking.

Sharp knives

Chopping board

Large wooden spoon

Food processor (optional)

Make sure that stock pot is large. It needs to hold approximately 7kg of ingredients. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount that you are cooking (but you will then have left for freezing into convenient and tasty instant meals). The food processor is optional. I discussed the merits of buying one in a previous post. In my opinion, for this kind of cooking, a food processor is a valuable tool to have. It dealt with close to 2kg or pumpkin in a matter of seconds. Overall it probably saved me about 20 minutes of preparation time.

Sharp knives are a must for any budding home cook. I would highly recommend acquiring one or two quality general-purpose knives (I was lucky enough to pick up a set of WÜSTHOF knives cheaply from a place that went out of business), but it’s also worth having a couple of ultra-cheap knives that you don’t mind abusing. I purchased a cleaver for $2 from a junk store over ten years ago. It’s by no means the best made knife around (Its plastic handle is warped from a dishwasher incident), but I keep it sharp and it’s perfect for peeling and chopping pumpkin.

 

Method

Bung the ingredients into the pot, in order, at the start of the day. Put a lid on it, turn the gas down low and let it do its thing. Stir and taste regularly and adjust seasoning to suit your tastes. Normally I wouldn’t add any salt, but a particularly sweet pumpkin meant that a tiny bit was needed to balance the flavours.

Additional benefits of starting early in the day include making the house smell amazing, and being able to sneak regular mouthfuls to ‘check the flavours’.

If you leave it for long enough, the kids won’t be able to tell just how veg-packed this bolognese is. All of that finely grated vegetable breaks down into a deliciously rich and tasty sauce.

Serve with pasta and a mountain of grated cheese.

After feeding the family until they are ready to explode, portion out the remaining food into freeze-able containers. This particular batch made 17 containers-worth (each container holding enough for 2 adults and one toddler). When you need a quick meal, simply boil some pasta, grate some cheese and microwave one of these bad-boys. Add a salad or some steamed veg for extra variety. The magic of this bolognese is that it somehow tastes even better when reheated.

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Breville Kitchen Wizz 8 plus, food processor

World’s Worst Food Blogger – Shiny New Things (Food…

I like to think that I’m a fairly frugal kind of guy. I take pride in finding a deal and getting things as cheap as possible. Over time, I have learnt that this often means avoiding the very cheapest product available, as poor quality inevitably leads to premature failure and greater overall expense.

These days, I search high and low for the products that sit in that happy place between cost and build quality. I spend time reading reviews and, if I can, looking at the product in store to determine build quality. And if I see a bargain, I jump on it quickly.

Food Processor – a Necessity or Luxury?

Some things sit in the grey area between ‘necessary’ and ‘luxury’. One such kitchen appliance is the food processor. I had lived 30 years of my life just fine without one, so to call it a necessity is a stretch. However, like the dishwasher, once acquired it has proven to be a valuable tool. It is especially useful now that we have Hannah, as we try hard to provide her with as much home-made, natural food as possible. When our original (and very cheap) food processor died recently, I had to find a quality replacement, and quickly.

The Search for the Right Food Processor

I learnt that food processors come in two forms – Cheap and nasty, and expensive and good. While some of the cheaper versions looked okay, a multitude of bad reviews for each and every one that I looked at quickly turned me off them. I had already owned a cheap food processor, and while 4 years of service may be reasonable for the price that I paid, I now wanted something that could give me a solid decade of use.

As for the top of the range, I just couldn’t justify spending over $400 on a moderately used piece of equipment. To put things in perspective, that is what I recently spent on my new oven!

After much searching I finally stumbled upon a possible unit – The Breville Kitchen Wizz 8. This unit seemed to be based on the highly rated Kitchen Wizz 11 Plus, but with a few corners cut in order to reduce cost. The main differences appeared to be less metal and more plastic components, although on first glance it appears that the quality is still there where it matters most.

I was slightly hesitant to buy this unit, as a thorough search of the internet returned zero user reviews. I still can’t figure out why that is and it concerned me slightly. However, after comparing it side-by-side with its more expensive cousin, I was game enough to give it a go.

Breville, food processor, Kitchen Wizz 8 plus, Kitchen wizz 8
The Breville Kitchen Wizz 8

The Primary Purpose of a Food Processor

The main purpose of a food processor in my kitchen is to shred large amounts of vegetables, and to finely chop ingredients. The Kitchen Wizz 8 appears to be well-equipped to carry out these tasks. The direct-drive motor should be powerful enough for most tasks that I throw at it, while the shredding disk is solidly constructed. A stainless steel “Quad Blade” takes care of the chopping side of things and it seems sharp and robust. I plan to put each of those components through their paces shortly. I will report my findings in an in-depth review shortly.

quad blade, Breville, Kitchen Wizz 8, plus, food processor
Up close with one of the ‘Quad Blades’

The Gimmicks

Every appliance these days comes with secondary purposes. These are usually gimmicks, and I would never recommend buying a product based on these gimmicks. The Kitchen Wizz 8 is no different. It has a couple of attachments that I never would have sought out, and that certainly weren’t a part of the buying decision. But now that I have them, I’m keen to give them a go, if for no other reason than for novelty’s sake.

The first of these attachments is the blade. For many people, this may be a primary piece of equipment. But for me, I’ve always cut by hand. I have a set of high-quality (very sharp) knives and I enjoy using them for food preparation. I never once used the slice blade on our previous food processor. But the blade on the Kitchen Wizz 8 intrigues me. It is adjustable from just 0.3mm thick, to 6mm. If it is able to chop consistently and more finely than I am capable of doing by hand, it may well become a more heavily used component.

adjustable blade, Breville, Kitchen Wizz 8, plus, food processor
The adjustable blade

The other two ‘gimmick’ components are far less likely to find regular use. They are a dough blade and a potato peeler. I can count the number of times that I have made home-made dough on my nose (that’s once, for anyone unsure of how many noses I possess). As for the potato peeler, we will see. It has very specific instructions for how to optimise its use. They include specifying the exact shape and size of the potato. That goes against my newly-found potato-buying morals, so we will see if I’m willing to sell out for the sake of this contraption (my money is on yes). It would only really be useful and worthwhile if one had a significant amount of potatoes that needed peeling, so I believe it will end up rarely used.

potato chart, Breville, food processor, Kitchen Wizz 8, plus
It pays to be precise in your spud selection

A Blender Too?

I purchased the model with the blender attachment. We have never owned a blender, so I’m unsure how to properly utilise that bit, but as I could buy it for just $30 more (the unit was on sale at the time of writing), I decided it was worthwhile. The blender part appears to be similar to the Breville Kinetix Light and Mighty, which retails for $69.95, so I’m happy with the price. It is, however, worth noting that the food processor base only has two speeds (as well as pulse), which gives you less control than a stand-alone blender. The upside is that having two contraptions that use just one base saves room in my compact house. Time will tell if this was a useless upsell or a moment of genius.

base unit, blender, food processor, kitchen wizz 8, plus, Breville
The base unit of the Kitchen Wizz 8 has less functionality than that of a blender

I found the Kitchen Wizz 8 Plus in Myer, with a sale price of $199.20. The regular retail price is $249.

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lamb roast

World’s Worst Food blogger – Lamb Roast

I have a thing for a good lamb roast. It’s hereditary, my family have same attitude towards a lamb roast as the U.S military have towards their soldiers – none shall be left behind.

I have been cooking lamb for a long time, and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. My arsenal of techniques has developed over time and I am quite comfortable cooking everything from a beautifully pink-in-the-middle quick roast, to an epic 9-hour, falling off the bone affair.

Time constraints can sometimes be the key factor in how I choose to cook the lamb. They certainly were last week when I knocked up this tasty meal. I had wanted to go for my current favourite, the low and slow cooking technique, but my local supermarket had completely run out of roasting joints. I had no option but to pick some up at another supermarket, much later in the day. Because if this I settled on a hybrid of 2 and a half hours on 100 degrees Celsius, and 1 hour on 200.

The end result was surprising good. Beautifully browned outer crust with tender, dark red/brown meat on the inside.

Flavour Country

I opted for a Mediterranean-style flavouring of fresh oregano, rosemary garlic and lemon. I am lucky enough to have access to a plentiful supply of the herbs, so I was able to give the lamb a liberal coating. You can never have too much of that stuff, as far as I’m concerned.

I cooked the lamb on top of a bed of vegetables, onion and cloves of garlic. They all soaked up the lamb flavour and made a delicious side dish to the main event.

I added potatoes an pumpkin to the oven at the same time as I turned up the temperature, then left them in to finish cooking while I rested the lamb at the end. A tzatziki-style sauce provided the finishing touch to a thoroughly enjoyable meal.

lamb roast
I know it’s blurry and that I cast a shadow over the plate. Be thankful I stopped for long enough to take the pic.

I actually took some quick photos of this one before I ate, because I had to brag to my Twitter friends. Not that I’m petty or anything…

A good lamb roast is dead-easy to make and at tasty as food comes. Why not give it a go some time?

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imperfect vegetable, potato

World’s Worst Food Blogger – The Imperfect Vegetable

The Problem With Our Pursuit of Perfection

There’s a growing problem in Australia. I don’t know if it’s exacerbated by the rise of the food blogger, the reality cooking shows on TV, and Instagram, but I would be willing to place money on those things not helping. The problem is the expectation for perfection in food – the refusal to use the imperfect Vegetable.

Yesterday, on my way into work, I listened to a very interesting interview on ABC radio. The main focus of the interview was on food waste. Apparently, most Australians throw out a ridiculously large amount of food that they purchase in the grocery shopping.

This morning I did some further digging. According to the NSW EPA website: Love Food Hate Waste, NSW households throw away more than 800,000 tonnes of edible food every year. That equates to $10 billion dollars, or an average of $3,800 per household – every year.

The problem is further enhanced by our lack of willingness to buy the funny looking fruit and veg at the supermarket. Apparently we have very narrow expectations for what out produce should look like, and if it doesn’t meet that expectation, it just isn’t purchased. The imperfect vegetable stays behind, languishing in the corner, completely unloved and slowly rotting.

I’m guilty of that. I often pick up and look over a few plums before choosing the ones that look the best, the ones with fewest imperfections. But my attitude and, it appears, everyone else’s (surprise!), is having a massive social impact. It means that perfectly edible food is finding its way to landfill. That must mean two things – we end up with less food, and we end up with higher prices.

World’s Worst Food Blogger – The Imperfect Vegetable

Those of you familiar with this section of the blog know that I’m not the ‘Pintrest Worthy’, ‘Instagram Famous’ type of food blogger. As I explained here, I’ve never figured out how they find the time between making a meal and eating it, to find the perfect angle in the perfect lighting, in order to take the photo. I like to cook and I like the way that the food that I cook tastes, that’s all that really matters. Hence the moniker of World’s Worst Food Blogger.

Today, however, I have spent a long time photographing a piece of food. DON’T PANIC! It’s not for the purpose of food blogging supremacy. Rather, it’s so that I can bring to you the awesomeness of the Non-Perfect Vegetable!

Non-perfect vegetable, potato
Just look at that majestic knob!

I stumbled across this battered bad-boy in amongst the potatoes at the supermarket today. Normally, I would have walked straight past it, without a second glance. I would have concentrated on picking out the best looking potatoes without thinking for a moment about the impact that such a decision has on the entire food supply.

But today, with my new-found sense of self-righteousness, I picked it straight up and put it in my basket.

Does my purchase of one, slightly funny-looking potato save the world? Of course not, don’t be daft. Really, the difference that it makes is absolute bugger-all. If I’m truly honest, I bought the potato as much to have something to write about, as to secure our nation’s food supply.

What it does do is make me begin to think. How much food are we wasting in this house? Can it be avoided? Am I too precious about seeking perfection at the shops? Am I too quick to throw out food that I deem to be ‘past its best’? Perhaps, if we all began to ask those questions, then things may begin to change.

 

The Good news is that there are those out there who are far more noble than I am, in their mission to change our food habits. OzHarvest have just opened Australia’s first ‘rescued food’ supermarket, while the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority has just begun a new study into kitchen waste. Any NSW residents interested in participating can find out more here. Check out both of these great websites for more information about what you can do to reduce food waste.

Twin Mummy and Daddy
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World's worst food blogger, chili salt, chili, chilli, mortar and pestle

The World’s Worst Food Blogger – Chili Salt

If you are unfamiliar with the concept behind this series of blog posts, head on over here to read the very first one.

What is Chili Salt?

Chili salt is a thing I recently invented. Okay, I probably didn’t invent it. Like all my great ideas, I most likely saw it somewhere a while ago, stored in in my subconscious, then brought it out and claimed it as my own when the time was right (a quick Google search return 50,200,000 results for ‘chili salt’. This confirms my suspicions).

Ownership of the idea aside, the time was certainly right. My Bird’s Eye chili plants are coming towards the end of their most productive season ever (I have had them for seven years). Over the summer they have produced in excess of 600, extremely hot chilies.

chili, bird's eye, chili salt
Chilies on a tray, ready to oven-dry

That’s a lot of chili, when just one of them is enough to add a kick to a meal. I had frozen some, used as many as I could fresh and lost about 50 during some bad weather. I still had an abundance of tiny red chilies left, and no idea what to do with them.

Oven-dried Chilies

My first thought was to dry them. I did this by cutting the chilies in half lengthwise and placing them in an oven on its lowest temperature setting (50 degrees Celsius – fan forced). After about 3 hours, they were dried and ready to be crushed.

chili, bird's eye, chili salt
The chilies after drying in the oven

 

I started with the good old-fashioned mortar and pestle, but soon moved on to the food processor to finish the job. Perhaps I hadn’t quite dried them enough, but the just wouldn’t flake away properly when I tried to grind them.

I reserved some of the chili flakes for cooking. They are ideal for use in a wide range of dishes.

 

mortar and pestle, chili, bird's eye chili, chili salt

 

How to Make Chili Salt

I returned the rest of the chili flakes to the mortar and pestle, and added a good handful of rock salt. I didn’t really know what ratio to go for, but I knew that the chili was pretty potent, so I erred on the side of caution and added twice as much salt.

 

chili salt, chili, salt, bird's eye
The salt and chili before grinding

The salt helped with grinding the chili flakes into a fine powder. The final result was a pinkish salt, with some small red specks dotted throughout. I am fairly happy with the mixture, a small amount sprinkled on top of a dinner gives a good saltiness, followed by a heat kick. I find myself sprinkling the mixture over just about every meal I eat (within reason). I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bit addicted.

chili flakes, chili salt, jar
A jar of chili flakes and a jar of chili salt

Because of my current addiction, expect chili salt to feature heavily throughout my World’s Worst Food Blogger posts.

It’s easy to make and there’s really no right or wrong way. If you are like me and you have an abundance of fresh chilies, stick some in the oven and give it a go. After a bit of experimentation, I’m sure you will end up with the perfect mix for you. Once you do, good luck ever using normal salt again!

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