Well, the bastards may have stolen our World Cup chances, but at least we’ve stolen their bolognese.
This sauce is one of the most popular items on the menu at our new coffee shop, and I constantly wonder why; I thought everyone knew how to make Bolognese? Apparently not. Well, it ain’t rocket science; just make sure you do it one night when there’s a whole night’s worth of good programmes on a commercial TV channel. STOP LAUGHING IMMEDIATELY. Friday night NRL is perfect, seeing they use the programming equivalent of a mediaeval rack to stretch an 80-minute game out to 2 and a half hours; making the bol stops me wanting to make abusive STD calls to Eddie McGuire.
Okay. Here we go.
How much mince do you have? It really doesn’t matter much. Let’s say you’ve got a kilo or so. It doesn’t matter much what sort of mince it is either; a bit of fat will add to the taste as well as your hip measurement, so you do the emotional dithering about that if you want. I just use hamburger. (Hey, you can always have a smaller portion.)
Start about 45 minutes to an hour before your first TV show of the night begins. Chop up two or three large onions, reasonably finely, and three or four rashers of bacon more chunkily. Put a massive heaped tablespoonful of garlic in your cast-iron frypan (you DO have one? No? Go buy one. You can get them cheaply at some 2nd-hand shops) with a good dash of olive oil, then add the onion and bacon, and fry until it all looks pretty cooked and the onion is translucent.
Now add the mince, and squish it until it’s all separated (an old fashioned potato masher is good for this; you can get them at 2nd-hand shops too). Stir and fry, fry and stir, squish some more, until it all starts looking grey-brownish. You’ll probably find that there’s a fair bit of liquid in the pan by now. Turn the heat up a bit and keep stirring until all that liquid is gone and the mince is looking a more appetising shade of brown.
JUST before the mince burns and sticks, splash a healthy dose of any alcohol you’ve got at hand into the pan. I can vouch for red wine (conventional) or brandy (my version) working well, but I’d hesitate at metho. Scrape all the almost-sticking bits off the bottom of the pan as you give it all another thorough stir, then throw the lot into a big stockpot. Add enough crushed tomato to cover the mince mix; you’ll need at least 2 of the big cans of tomato, but too much is better than too little (you’ll get more sauce). It should look a nice red colour when you mix it all up; if it looks greyish still, add more tomato.
Now add a good handful of chopped fresh basil and the same of oregano. You can used dried if you like, but you’ll need less- about a heaped dessertspoon of each. It’s still more herbs than you’d expect to add to anything else, but trust me on this. Then add a heaped teaspoon of sugar, plus a good sprinkle of salt and a healthy teaspoon of black pepper. Stir, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, put the lid on and go turn on the TV.
This is the only trick to Bolognese. STIR IT AT EVERY AD BREAK. Without fail. Adjust the temperature if it’s sticking or not simmering any more. Watch telly all night if you like, but keep stirring thoroughly at EVERY (yes EVERY) ad break.
After a good few hours, when it’s smelling like heaven, you can take it off the heat, let it cool a bit and then put it in the fridge. The longer you leave it simmering on the stove, the better it will taste; the longer you leave it in the fridge, the more amazing it will be when you warm it up. It has a very good shelf life. I’ve eaten it over a week later and it was brilliant (but no, I don’t leave it that long in the cafe!!). You can freeze it, too.
Serve over al dente pasta with fresh shaved parmesan and parsley. Awesome.