Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to spot a good recipe

I arrived home last night feeling unusually weary. Luckily, I'd already decided what to have for dinner - opening my Edmonds book almost at random before I left work, I immediately found a recipe that didn't require any ingredients other than those I already had at home: spaghetti and meatballs (p102).

Spaghetti and meatballs is a favourite in many households, but it's not something I'm in the habit of making. I always find that the meatballs fall apart when I'm trying to brown them in the frypan. I was pleased to see that this recipe called for the meatballs to be baked in the oven instead, so that was one problem eliminated.

I hadn't anticipated that the recipe would call for all three parts of the dish (meatballs, sauce and pasta) to be prepared pretty much at the same time. I was in no mood for multi-tasking, so instead prepared the meatballs first before embarking on the sauce.

I'd grabbed some mince out of the freezer when I got home, and carefully defrosted it in the microwave before adding the rest of the ingredients: finely chopped onion, tomato sauce, garlic, curry powder and breadcrumbs. Interestingly, there was no egg in the mix. I wondered how well the mixture would hold together without egg to bind.

When I started shaping the meatballs, I realised that I really hadn't chopped the onion finely enough. Oh well: I couldn't do anything about it at that point, other than cook the meatballs for a little longer than instructed in the recipe.

Once the meatballs were in the oven, I made a start on the sauce, sauteing onion and garlic before adding canned chopped tomatoes. The recipe stated that the tomatoes should be pureed first, but I wasn't about to drag out my food processor just for a smooth meatball sauce: a chunky sauce is just fine by me! When the tomato mixture started boiling, I added the tomato paste and set the pan to simmer.

Meanwhile, the meatballs had been cooking for the 8-10 minutes specified in the recipe, so I pulled them out and had a look at the onion: still quite raw. I put them back in for another 10 minutes and put the spaghetti on to cook.

By the time the spaghetti was cooked, the sauce was ready to go and the meatballs just about done too. I stuck some spaghetti on a plate, added the meatballs to the sauce, and bunged the meatballs on top of my spaghetti.

It was only when I went to turn off the oven that I realised it was set to grill, not bake. Oops! Never mind, it seemed to have cooked the meatballs ok!

I was eating my spaghetti and meatballs, musing on the blandness of the sauce, when I realised I'd once again forgotten to put in any seasoning. A little salt and pepper helped the flavour a lot. I'd still be tempted to add some basil or something to the sauce next time - the plain tomato recipe is a bit boring for me, but it'd be a good base for experimentation.

In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to dig out my food processor for this recipe - not only could I have pureed the tomatoes as instructed, but I could also have chopped my onions more finely, and made my breadcrumbs far more easily than doing it by hand. Sometimes I make more work for myself by being lazy.

In making this recipe, I took several shortcuts and made a couple of errors, yet the result was still a perfectly edible meal. And if it comes out tasting good even when you make a mess of it, it's got to be a good recipe, I reckon!

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