The day will come when you’ll say to yourself, “Why haven’t I got a proper thermometer?”
That day will probably be a day like today when the temperature in the shade reaches 40C and it starts raining live spiders on your deck.
If it ever comes to pass that it’s raining live spiders on your deck, you’ll want to know what sort of temperature the deck roof has to reach before 50 over-heated spiders drop from their hidey holes ALL AT THE SAME TIME and dangle in mid-air.
Well, I can tell you now that it’s about 48C (which is 118F, which is bloody hot no matter which way you measure it).
It totally freaked me out, I can tell you.
It was as if Google maps had stuffed up the coordinates and decided to treat southern WA to the 11th plague of Egypt.
Or as if the Mira Mar contingent of the Albany spider population had decided to reenact the airborne invasion of Normandy.
Nanna actually screamed.
Luckily your Grandpa thrives on danger, so he braved the 50 spiders that were dangling at eye level, crawled to the outdoor table and put the oven thermometer on top of it so we could record the temperature.
Then he got the Mortein and sprayed the crap out of everything.
It occurred to me later that if you’ve got to have native wildlife dropping from the roof of your deck, spiders are probably better than brown snakes.
Funnily enough, your Grandpa wasn’t comforted by this observation.
All afternoon he’s been shuddering and brushing imaginary arachnids off his shoulders.
This spider invasion wouldn’t have happened of course if I got off my bum more often and cleaned the deck roof with a long-handled broom.
I’ve never made any bones about my lack of interest in housework, but the raining spiders thing plus this news report I came across on CNN (Woman Loses Breast After Spider Bite – yes, honestly) has got me thinking I need to change.
Here’s a picture of how the deck roof looked when it was first erected.
Suffice to say it doesn’t look like that now (I’m too embarrassed to show you a picture).
Anyway, we were going to have a barbecue out there tonight, but while I’ve been writing this the weather has broken and it’s absolutely pissing down.
I was going to cook another recipe from that excellent cookbook, In the Mood for Entertaining, by Jo Pratt.
It’s supposed to be a breakfast dish (it’s the sort that would be spot-on if you were hungover) but it’s just as good on the barbecue for dinner.
As it stands, what with the spiders, the torrential rain and the general state of my nerves at the moment, we’ll probably have bacon sandwiches.
SWEET POTATO HASH BROWNS WITH SAUSAGES AND SWEET CHILLI TOMATOES
From a recipe by Jo Pratt
Serves 2 (recipe doubles easily)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
4-6 sausages or 8-12 chipolatas
1 small sweet potato (about 160g)
1 lge egg
salt and pepper
200g of whole cherry tomatoes or mini Roma/plum tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of crushed chilli/dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
The original recipe calls for proper long sausages, each one cut on an angle into three or four pieces.
I did this and because they popped out of their skins a bit and curled up as they cooked, they looked like turds from one of your smaller breeds of dog.
So from now on I’m going to use chipolatas, which I prefer anyway.
Whatever you decide on, fry them on the barbecue or in a decent-sized non-stick frying pan in 1 tbsp of oil until they’re cooked and golden brown.
The recipe says this will take 5 minutes but I’ve yet to meet a sausage that cooks all the way through in less than 15, so bear that in mind.
Once the sausages are cooked, put them on a plate and keep them warm.
While they’re cooking, peel the sweet potato and grate it coarsely.
Put it in a bowl with the egg, season with salt and pepper and mix everything together thoroughly.
Divide this mixture into four and dollop it onto the barbecue or into the frying pan that the sausages were cooked in, adding more oil if necessary.
Flatten each dollop with your spatula to make four hash browns and cook them for 3-4 minutes per side until crisp and golden brown.
While that’s happening, heat 1 tbsp of oil in another frying pan and cook the tomatoes until they start to soften.
Add the caster sugar, balsamic vinegar and crushed chilli and stir everything together.
Cook over low heat for a few more minutes until the tomatoes are very soft.
To serve, put two hash browns onto each plate, top with the sausages then spoon the tomatoes over the top.
Sprinkle with the chopped parsley. This not only makes it look pretty, but also contains heaps of Vitamin C, which if you’re cooking this as a morning-after breakfast, apparently speeds up the metabolism of alcohol by your liver.
Serve with salad and some nice bread to mop up the tomato juices.
The decluttering of home and computer is still grinding on here in Albany, interrupted only by a visit to you last weekend and the inevitable follow-up head cold (damn you, day care).
Luckily, not snot, nor sleet, nor driving rain could keep us from enjoying ourselves while your Mum and Dad went off to your Aunty Justine’s wedding last Saturday.
Give a Nanna and her granddaughter a whole house to themselves and before long they’ll have pretend zoos, pretend shops, pretend parks and pretend “work” coming out of their earholes.
(Not to mention “cake” made with 10 pieces of chalk, a baby wipe, seven sultanas and your mother’s potato masher.)
Anyway, when I got home – sad, lonely and bereft at no longer being with you but strangely relieved to regain a life that didn’t involve jumping or hopping – I found something on my computer that I’d totally forgotten about.
It was like striking gold.
Here’s the story.
Back in my Early Nigella Period, I’d often visit Nigella.com and look at the forum, which was called Your Page.
It was heaven on a stick – dominated by a bunch of Nigella groupies who thought of themselves as forum royalty because they’d been there from the very start, and who maintained such an amazing mix of full-on fawning, saccharine sweetness and cold-blooded bitchiness, it made your eyes water.
Nanna loved the goings on in the forum. It made her snort her cup of tea over the computer screen on more than one occasion.
Sadly, Nigella closed it down. But not before Nanna copied and pasted the following gem, which was only up for a short time before a moderator trashed it.
It was posted by someone called Hiya on September 4, 2007, the day after the first episode of Nigella Express aired in the UK on BBC TV.
This was the episode in which Nigella referred to squid as “squiddies” (I know – gag).
Here’s what Hiya wrote:
“(I) sent (this) to the BBC too. I don’t expect a response, who would after watching that unctuous, toe-curling, self-promoting (paid for by the TV licence) exhibition of pathetic pouting and mealy-mouthed rubbish.
“‘Squiddies’ for God’s sake. This was enough to reach for the flight bag if I had one at home, but the surrounding nauseous nonsense of the programme was insulting as well. I’m not skint but the sight of Lordette Lawson making beds that colour-coordinated with the wallpaper, well!!, busy mobile texting to cares who in the black cab having exited the mews home!!
“I hope we did not pay for the kitchen as well – in fact, don’t tell me, I’d rather not know. Lord and Lordette Lawson and the kids eating chicken and spuds and peas – how dare you give this airtime? In fact I want an explanation for this gibberish because as I write this after a day’s work, I’m getting fed up with the constant promotion of pointless drivel. Bet this won’t be on the forum with all the other gushing.”
Call me shallow but when it comes to memorable writing I reckon you can’t beat a good rant.
Not that it’s got anything to do with today’s recipe, which comes from Aussie TV chef Iain “Huey” Hewitson and is a real corker.
I’ve made Braised East-West Oxtail twice now, the latest being last night because the weather’s still cold enough down here to warrant winter food.
Don’t be tempted to leave out the grated orange rind – it gives the dish a beautiful flavour.
If, like me, you’re not much of an orange eater and you think it’s wasteful to use only the rind, follow these three handy tips:
1. Wrap the de-rinded orange tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge while you spend three hours looking for a recipe that uses the juice of just one orange.
2. Forget the orange is in the fridge until three weeks later.
3. Throw it out.
You’ll notice that a box that once contained a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut champagne is reclining nonchalantly behind the plate of oxtail and couscous in the photo accompanying the recipe.
That’s because we’d knocked off the contents earlier in the evening to celebrate winning a work contract that we’re very pleased about.
Your Grandpa had to ask himself at the bottle shop if we were pleased enough to buy a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque, which we love, love, love and which looks like this.
BRAISED EAST-WEST (VIA ALBANY) OXTAIL
This is my version of a recipe by Iain Hewitson, who in turn was inspired by American-Chinese chef, Ken Hom. You’ll find Huey’s original recipe here.
1.5 kg oxtail pieces
oil for frying
1 medium onion, chopped
3 shallots, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp mirin seasoning (or mirin if you can get it)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
grated rind of 1 orange
750g fresh tomatoes, diced
1 cup water
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
If you don’t want to cook this on top of the stove, preheat the oven to 160C.
Trim the excess fat from the oxtail pieces.
Bring a big heavy-based pot of water to the boil, add the oxtail pieces and simmer them for 15 minutes (a lot of scum will rise to the surface – just ignore it).
Fish the oxtail pieces out with tongs, drain them well in a colander and clean the heavy-based pot you’ve just cooked them in.
Put the pot over medium-high heat with a thin layer of oil in the bottom and brown the oxtail pieces all over.
Remove them to a plate covered with kitchen paper so the fat can drain off.
Lower the heat under the pot and gently sauté the onions and shallots until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes.
Add all the remaining ingredients, stirring well, and bring to the boil.
Add the oxtail to the pot (in one layer if possible) then turn the heat down to very low, cover the pot tightly and simmer for 3 to 3½ hours (or put it in the oven for the same amount of time).
It’s ready when the meat pulls easily away from the bone.
Serve with couscous, rice or mashed potatoes.
It’s your second birthday today and, as I write, your Grandpa is cleaning the bathroom.
This is because I’m not allowed to do any housework for another couple of weeks.
It’s the seventh time your Grandpa has cleaned the bathroom in 38 years.
It’s put him in a really vile mood.
In a minute I’m going to pour bleach in his mouth and sit on his head because even though I’ve shut the two doors that are between him and me, I can still hear him carrying on like a pork chop.
I was going to give you a comprehensive history of what’s happened in the world in the two years since you’ve been here, but because of the bathroom scenario (I’ve had to show him how to open the packet of Windex wipes THREE times), I’m going to run with a brief overview.
First up, it’s strange to think that on the day you entered the world, 33 miners in Chile were wondering if they’d ever see it again.
They were into their 27th day of being trapped 700 metres underground and it was going to be another 42 days before they were rescued.
In later awfulness, a tsunami off the coast of Sumatra killed hundreds of people and North Korea started to play serious silly buggers.
Queensland suffered its worst floods in history and Perth had its longest ever heatwave – more than 30C for 26 days in a row.
Mary McKillop was made Australia’s first saint and Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse went to join her in the great beyond after over-indulging for the last time.
Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip all dropped in to see us in 2011 and, just last week, Prince William and a large chunk of the rest of the world got their knickers in a twist because Wills’ wife was photographed topless.
(Princess Kate was in Brisbane a couple of days ago and was on the TV news. When your Grandpa saw her he shouted, “Show us your tits.” In the olden days your Grandpa would’ve had his head chopped off and put on a spike. He thinks the Royal Family is on a par with the Real Housewives of New York City.)
The most important part of the history of the world, of course, is the two years you’ve spent in it.
So here’s a brief history of you in pictures.
Your Mum and Dad are taking you to Perth Zoo for your birthday today and then tomorrow you’re all coming down to Albany to spend the weekend with Nanna and Grandpa.
We’re going out for dinner tonight, your Grandpa and I, but if we were staying home and watching the footy I think I’d cook Spicy Steak Kebabs because they’re really good footy food.
I have to go now because your Grandpa wants me to show him how much water to put in the bucket (I’m not making that up). Happy birthday, sweetheart.
SPICY STEAK KEBABS
2 pieces of steak, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
½ – 1 tsp chilli powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
1½ tsp sea salt flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
Mix all the sugar and spices in a small bowl.
Make sure they’re well combined.
Spoon half the spice mix onto a plate and roll the cubes of steak in it until they’re well coated.
Thread the steak onto satay sticks and sprinkle the remaining spice mix over the top.
Put in the fridge to marinate for an hour.
Pour a little bit of oil into a non-stick frying pan and cook the kebabs over high heat for a couple of minutes each side, or until done to your liking.
The brown sugar makes a hell of a mess of your frying pan if you let them cook for too long.
If you like your meat well done it would be better to cook the kebabs under the grill.
I’ve been thinking today of all the things you’ll learn as you grow up.
One of them will be how to pull your bra out through your sleeve.
You’ll want to do this the minute you get home from work because it will be driving you crazy.
For many years Nanna used to pull hers out through the neck hole of whatever she was wearing.
But the sleeve method is better because it means that if you’re really desperate you can pull it out in the car, or even up the back of the bus, on your way home.
It’s very discreet. Anyone who’s looking will think you’re searching for your hanky.
Another thing you’ll learn about as you grow up is your multi-cultural heritage.
On your Mum’s side of the family there’s a mix of Australian, English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and French.
Your Dad told me that there’s also some German in your ancestry but seeing as they didn’t win the war and seeing as I’ve never cooked pork knuckle, we’ll stick with the Brits for the purposes of today’s letter and talk about Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
I’d always assumed that because I was born in Yorkshire, the ability to make its famous pudding would be inbred in much the same way as is the ability to fit 15 marbles in my mouth and move my ears independently of my head.
Sadly, my attempts at Yorkshire Pudding were laughable until I started using a recipe by Clarissa Dickson-Wright from her book, Sunday Roast.
Here is a picture of Clarissa Dickson-Wright when she was one of the Two Fat Ladies with the late Jennifer Paterson. Clarissa is on the right.
My Mum – your Great Grandma – made the best Yorkshire Puddings I’ve ever tasted but she’s nearly 80 and can’t remember how she did them (the recipe was never written down and involved measurements like handfuls, pinches and jugs rather than cups, tablespoons and mls).
My Mum’s Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings were served for lunch every Sunday along with roast potatoes, boiled carrots, cauliflower cheese and brussels sprouts that tasted like they had been cooking since the previous Friday.
Four Yorkshire Puddings were always held back so my Mum, Dad, sister and I could eat them drizzled with golden syrup for dessert (believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried this).
Here is a picture of your Great Grandma when she was on holiday in Gibraltar in August last year.
It was taken four days before her 79th birthday. I doubt she was thinking of Yorkshire Puddings.
And finally, here’s the recipe.
Check out the picture of those fabulous Yorkshire Puds.
When I saw them, I was so excited I almost forgot to breathe.
PS: The picture at the top of this blog post is taken from Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
You can watch it here.
It’s very funny – always makes me think of my Dad.
For the Roast Beef:
1 rib roast of beef
salt and pepper
Take the beef out of the fridge an hour before you’re going to cook it.
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Rub the top of the beef with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put it on a rack in a roasting tin.
For rare beef: roast for 25 minutes per 450g, plus 25 minutes extra.
For medium beef: roast for 30 minutes per 450g, plus 30 minutes extra.
When the beef is cooked, remove it to a warm plate, wrap it in alfoil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.
During this time you can cook the Yorkshire Puddings.
For your Grandpa and I, I get a rib roast that weighs about a kilo and roast it for one hour and 20 minutes.
It always turns out just the way we like it (medium-rare and very tender), which is a good thing because it costs a bloody fortune.
It serves two for dinner, plus sandwiches for the next couple of days.
If you’re doing a big roast, take out a second mortgage and lower the oven temp to 180C.
For the Yorkshire Puddings:
110g plain flour
Make the Yorkshire Pudding batter an hour or so before you cook the beef.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Break in the eggs and beat them well with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour.
Gradually add the milk, still beating as hard and fast as you can with the fork.
You should end up with a runny batter with no lumps.
Let the batter rest on the bench top until the beef is ready.
After you’ve removed the beef from the oven, turn the heat up to 220C.
Put a scant teaspoon of vegetable oil in each hole of a muffin tin.
Put the tin in the oven and heat until the oil is smoking hot.
Put a scant ladleful of batter into each muffin-tin hole.
If the holes are biggies like mine, you should get 8-10 puddings.
Bake for 20-30 minutes in the 220C oven, or until they’re puffed up and golden brown.
Don’t open the oven door during this time, or they’ll collapse.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a picture of me.
But if you look closely at the lady’s sleeve, you’ll spot my name.
This is because I’m writing a column for Sheila magazine, which comes out every two months and (blatant plug) is available at newsagents and Woolworths supermarkets.
Sheila magazine is not only beautiful to look at but also has recipes for pies.
But more of that later.
Seeing as you’re only 20 months old, you won’t be aware that the world’s most famous Nanna is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this weekend.
It’s 60 years since Queen Elizabeth’s Dad died and she had to step in and take over running the country.
Well, not running the country exactly. The British government does that because the Queen heads up a constitutional monarchy, not an absolute one.
She does all sorts of other things but she doesn’t actually have much power.
In order to have real power she would have had to be a Queen in the olden days.
For example, if I had been an olden-days Queen on Friday night when I was watching Richmond beat St Kilda, I wouldn’t have had to sit there screaming, “Christ Almighty, make him stop,” when St Kilda coach Scott Watters castrated the English language at half time.
At the precise moment he said, “It’s all about maximising our opportunities and moving forward,” I would’ve been able to turn to my husband – your Grandpa, King Leith – and say, “Have him taken away and beaten to death with a dictionary.”
I suspect there are days Queen Elizabeth would dearly love to kill people – how she avoided it with Sarah Ferguson is anybody’s guess – but unfortunately for ma’am, the monarchy isn’t what it used to be.
This picture shows what Queen Elizabeth looked like when she was little like you.
I’ve always thought she looks best in yellow, but according to Vogue magazine she favours blue.
Vogue looked at all the outfits she’d worn over a year and compiled a frock chart, which was reprinted in the Daily Mail, which is where I found it.
Being a bit of a Liz lover and an admirer of anyone who can put up with 12 Prime Ministers in one lifetime, I’m going to cook a very English dinner tonight and toast Her Maj’s remarkably long reign.
We’re starting with Potted Smoked Trout, followed by Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, followed by Bread and Butter Pudding.
Then we’ll sit down and bounce ping pong balls off each other’s stomachs while we watch Her Maj and Co sail down the Thames on ABC1.
On the subject of great English dishes, there’s a very good recipe for Beef Wellington in the latest edition of Sheila magazine, which (blatant plug) is available at newsagents and Woolworths supermarkets.
It’s been a beautiful day in Albany today so I’ll finish up with the view from our deck.
Those funnels behind Mt Adelaide belong to a ship waiting to get into port.
It occurred to me today that even though I’m 710 months old, I’m not really smart enough to work a smartphone.
I often press send instead of delete so that people get text messages like “How about we p” or “Yes! He cra”.
A lot of this is because I sometimes can’t find my glasses and basically I need to wear them for anything with letters smaller than the Hollywood sign.
(Here’s a picture of the Hollywood sign in case it’s extinct when you grow up.)
You, on the other hand, are a smartphone kinda gal.
At just 19 months old, you managed to send a text message to a Channel 7 news reporter without even looking at the phone.
The fact that he didn’t know what the hell you were on about is neither here nor there.
It’s definitely an achievement worth noting, even though it embarrassed your mother.
Luckily, Nanna is far better at drawing than you are, otherwise her self-esteem would be in the toilet.
Speaking of toilets, mine is very clean at the moment because we had friends over for dinner last night.
Your Grandpa tells people that I only have friends over for dinner so I’m forced to clean the house.
This is very true.
Housework has never been my forte.
My talents definitely lie elsewhere, as did those of the late Nancy Mitford, a member of a very eccentric, upper-crust English family and one of my favourite authors.
She once wrote: “I think housework is far more tiring and frightening than hunting is – no comparison – and yet after hunting we had eggs for tea and were made to rest for hours, but after housework people expect one to go on just as if nothing special had happened.”
Nancy was so useless at matters domestic, she didn’t even know how to thread a needle.
Her maid used to thread several of them before she went on holiday in case a button dropped off one of Nancy’s frocks and Nancy was forced to re-attach it herself.
All I can say is, I wish I had a maid.
But I haven’t and so yesterday I cleaned the house and cooked enough Oxtail Stew to feed Albany and its immediate surrounds.
Don’t be put off by the fact that you are eating the tail of a cow.
Oxtail Stew is one of the most delicious things on Earth and even if you never cook anything else in your life, you must cook this.
It doesn’t photograph well because it’s just sort of glossy and brown.
So, instead, I’ve posted a picture of the way the kitchen bench looked when I cooked it (yes, Nanna is a messy cook). Also, in case you’re wondering, those tomatoes are in a bowl of water because they’re frozen, home-grown ones.
Serves 4 (I made double this amount for 6 people)
1 heaped tbsp plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 sticks celery
1 lge onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
400g tin diced tomatoes or equivalent fresh (fresh are nicer)
1 cup (250ml) red wine
375ml carton Campbell’s reduced-salt chicken or beef stock
2 stalks fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried
1 bay leaf
Preheat oven to 170C.
Chop the onion. Cut the carrots and celery into medium dice. Heat some olive oil in a big frying pan and sauté the veges over medium heat until the onion is soft (about 5 minutes).
Add the garlic and sauté for a minute more.
Tip this mixture into a big casserole dish, preferably cast iron.
Trim the oxtail of excess fat and dust with seasoned flour.
Heat more olive oil in the frying pan and cook the oxtail over medium-high heat, removing them to the casserole dish once they’re browned all over.
Reduce the heat a little, pour the red wine and stock into the frying pan and then stir in the peeled, diced tomatoes.
Bring to a fast simmer then pour this mixture over the oxtail, stirring to combine.
Push the thyme stalks and bay leaf into the stew, then cover the casserole dish and cook in the oven for 3½ hours, or until the oxtail is very tender.
Remove the thyme stalks and bay leaf, skim off any excess fat and serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.
Grandpa is eating leftover Yorkshire Lasagne as I write this.
It smells heavenly but I can’t eat any because I’m having a colonoscopy on Wednesday and today I have to eat what’s called a “low-residue diet”.
So far I’ve had five cups of black tea and a jar of Heinz Smooth Summer Fruits Gel, plucked fresh from the baby food aisle at Woolies this morning.
According to the label on the jar it’s suitable for “ALL ages over 6 months”, so this will be good practice for when my teeth fall out.
For dinner tonight, I’ll have strips of skinless chicken breast poached in Campbell’s Chicken Consomme with some pasta thrown in for good measure.
(And I mean that sincerely – Campbell’s consommés are tops.)
Tomorrow I’ll move on to the serious bit, referred to around here as Hello Sorbent.
No food to be consumed AT ALL (there are lots of capital letters on the instruction sheet) and from 4pm I’ll drink a glassful of ColonLYTELY™ every 15 minutes until all three litres are consumed or until I fall off the toilet and drown in my own vomit, whichever comes first.
ColonLYTELY™ cleans out your insides and tastes vile – like seawater with half a lemon squeezed in.
The person who invented it wanted to call it ColonFUCKINGAWFUL but wasn’t allowed.
Wednesday at 6.30am I will venture into the non-luxurious surrounds of Albany Regional Hospital and shortly thereafter have the old telescope-up-the-bum procedure.
Après colonoscopy (that’s French for “no longer shitting”), I will be given a sandwich by a nurse and it will be one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted in my life.
I know this because I’ve been après colonoscopy twice before.
Moving on: Your Uncle Paul came to stay on the weekend and it was lovely.
Yorkshire Lasagne is his favourite meal, so I cooked it on Saturday night.
I only cook it on special occasions because it takes forever to make, but believe me, it’s worth it.
It’s called Yorkshire Lasagne because I don’t think they cook it like this in Italy.
Whatever. It’s delicious. And rich enough to bring Elvis back from the dead.
1 x 375g packet of instant lasagne
lots of grated cheddar cheese (as in, when you think you’ve got enough, you haven’t really)
lots of grated parmesan cheese
For the bolognese sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
450g lean minced beef
1 big clove of garlic, crushed
1 x 140g tub/tin of tomato paste
1 cup red or white wine (I use leftover Yellow Glen, such is my level of chic-ness)
water to cover
2 tomatoes, chopped up
½ tsp dried oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the white sauce
3 tbsp plain flour
3 cups low-fat milk (to make up for the rest of it)
To make the bolognese, fry the onion in the olive oil in a big saucepan over low-ish heat until the onion’s soft but not brown.
Increase the heat and chuck in the mince and garlic and cook, stirring with a fork, until the mince is brown and no longer lumpy.
Stir in the tomato paste and white wine.
Pour in enough water to cover (you want a runny sauce) and then stir in the tomatoes and oregano.
Season with salt and lots of pepper and simmer, partly covered with the saucepan lid, over low heat for 1-1½ hours.
Let it cool.
While it’s cooling, make the white sauce by bringing the milk to just below the boil in a small saucepan.
Have a balloon whisk handy and melt the butter over low-ish heat in another saucepan.
Off the heat, stir the flour into the butter with a wooden spoon, then increase the heat slightly and let this mixture (called a roux) cook for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the hot milk all at once and whisk like buggery with the metal whisk.
Doing it this way, you never get lumps in your white sauce.
Bring to the boil and let it simmer until slightly thickened.
Turn off the heat and stir in a handful of the grated cheese.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
To assemble the lasagne, put a ladleful of bolognese sauce and half a ladle of water in the bottom of the lasagne dish and mix them together.
Put a single layer of instant lasagne sheets on top.
Cover the lasagne sheets with some bolognese sauce, top this with a layer of white sauce, then sprinkle grated cheeses over the top.
Continue layering in this way until all the sauce is used up, finishing with a layer of bolognese on top.
Sprinkle cheeses on top of the bolognese and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced in the middle with a knife.
Let the lasagne sit on the bench for five minutes before serving.