I cannot make my spaghetti bolognese without flavouring warm oil with a whole, peeled but unchopped clove of garlic. I plucked this sweet little hint in Tessa Kiros' homey, familyful book, Apples for Jam, and have been doing it for years now. It fills the kitchen with a warm, soft, unmistakable aroma, foretelling happy tummies and bringing eager sniffing noses.
I cannot fry the beef mince, without waiting for it to pop and sizzle, caramelising a little. I saw it on Sophie Dahl's cooking series and now love to watch it, listen for it. The smell, one so familiar and comforting, just a waft through the front door, is a glad welcome home.
I cannot miss a hefty dollop of Tomato Ketchup in the sauce. Mr B is the benefactor of this, now habitual flourish and despite my scathing derision at the time, I have since nibbled humble pie! He is quite right! It sweetens the chopped tomatoes a little, as all Italian Mammas would do for their brood (with a teaspoon sugar or bizarrely bicarb...it takes out the acidity), it adds a note of unidentifiable spice, a fullness to the sauce that compliments and 'bigs up' the tomatoeyness! The mini B's devour it as a result...and Mrs B would not be able to tell you it was there in a blind taste test! (what an insufferable snob I am, no?!)
I cannot plop the spaghetti in the bubbling water without twisting the fat bunch of pasta in my hands first and dropping it in in a spiral. My quietly foodie Dad does this and passed on this tip many years ago, with a look of knowing and satisfaction! He is spot on. The pasta cooks evenly, independently, easing into the pot gradually. No prodding, poking, no uncooked ends.
I cannot eat it or serve it, without a spoon, to swirl the pasta in, before popping it into a wide, birdy open mouth; eagerly hungry. My Dad once more, a ten year old me. Its such a trick. Miss B is determined in her pursuit of mastering this skillful cutlery wielding.
I cannot watch the devouring of this dish, without smiling my alter ego Mamma smile, looking on at the little orangey smeered faces! Because to cook for little ones and watch it vanish, rather than be pushed round the plate, satisfies an utterly primal part of all Mummies (and Daddies!)
How do you cook yours?
PS this article from today's Telegraph,(how I am on the same wave length as them?? Bearing in mind I took these photos on Monday?!)made me laugh....the Italians would be appalled!