LET’S TALK ABOUT FOOD, BABY
I LOVE FOOD. Cooking and eating are two of my life’s greatest pleasures. I grew up in Australia, where gourmet culture is alive and well and there are more food-lovers hopping about than there are wallabies. I currently live in France, where food is revered, and people truly take time to savour their meals. That rush of delight that comes as you take the first bite of something truly delectable – or even better, watch people you love enjoying something delicious you made – that is something I live for.
But I also have lots of questions about food. There are a lot of opinions and arguments out there about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. There are fascinating (and quite frankly, terrifying) documentaries, books and articles about Big Sugar, the meat and dairy industries, food additives, processed food, fast food, paleo food, genetically modified food… it goes on. I want to learn and explore a lot more about these ideas and issues – but from a food-loving perspective, never forgetting the importance of a great meal shared with great people.
Food is nourishment for our bodies. But it can be so much more than that – I truly believe it can be nourishment for our souls. I want to share with you here recipes that warm the very cockles of my heart, recipes I’ve learned from family and friends and friendly strangers and wonderful accidents/experiments in my own kitchen. My recipes are very approachable – cooking good food really is not difficult! (So many people I meet are scared of it. What’s the worst that can happen? You burn your house down? Actually, that’s quite bad. That was a bad example. Pretend I didn’t say that.) The point is: cooking is for everyone.
I’d also like to share with you my best stories about food – food brings us together, and a meal is often a backdrop for a brilliant anecdote. Kitchen disasters can also be hilarious with enough hindsight (for example, when I attempted Nigella’s pea and pesto soup at the age of 12. White walls, green soup, a blender with a badly-fitted lid… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination).
I’m not a professional cook, or dietician, or spokesperson/activist. I am someone who loves to cook and eat, and spreading the joy of good food makes me happier than just about anything in this world. If you have any questions, ideas, requests – please get in touch! I’m going to try to add new recipes to this collection every week – only tried and tested of course.
To kick us off – my dad’s famous spaghetti bolognese. I have never had bolognese as good, not even in Italy. I think it’s because he puts a LOT of wine in it. I also have a vegan alternative that I created for a film shoot I catered once – it’s almost the same and equally delicious!
Happy reading, cooking and eating!
ps. I was a bit worried when I decided to start this blog about where I would find my photo content for my first few posts. Turns out I have taken an embarrassing amount of photos of food in my lifetime. All photos taken by me unless stated otherwise! Gilly
Crosby-style Spaghetti Bolognese (and easy vegan alternative)
The first thing you should know about Crosby-style cooking is this: there will always, always be leftovers. I have inherited from my dad an inability to cook the right amount of food for the people present, and a gripping fear of there not being enough food for everyone. A regular joke heard in our house was “so… when are the other ten people getting here?”. I don’t mind this at all – leftovers are not wasteful as long as you eat them later! And I know it’s weird, but personally I’m quite a big fan of spaghetti bolognese for breakfast.
2 x large brown onions
2-3 x celery stalks
3 x medium carrots
3 x cloves garlic
500g beef mince (OR if cooking vegan alternative, 700g brown mushrooms)
300g white mushrooms
2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes
4 x tbsp tomato paste
3 x tbsp dried italian herbs
a bottle of red wine (what doesn’t go into the sauce, you can drink!)
SECRET INGREDIENT (read to find out, I can’t put it in this list. It’s too shameful).
handful of fresh basil
grated cheese (for afterwards!)
1. Dice the onions, carrots and celery. Add a generous splash of olive oil to a large pan, then add the diced vegetables and cook gently on a low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and it’s smelling fragrant. In Italian cooking this is called a soffritto, in French cooking this is called a mirepoix, and neither of these facts are necessary to be able to make this recipe but trivia like that just really turns me on. Sorry.
2. Add the crushed garlic (if you don’t own a garlic press, just crush with the flat of a knife. Also, get a garlic press. They stop your fingers from smelling like garlic for the rest of your life. WORTH IT.)
3. Add the meat if that’s what you’re doing, if not, chop the brown mushrooms pretty finely and add those instead.
4. When the meat/mushroom mince is cooked, add the sliced white mushrooms, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs and a very healthy slug of wine. Like, two glasses full. Turn the heat to a gentle simmer (i.e. bubbling in a contented way, not an angry way). Stick a lid on, but leave a gap for steam to escape.
5. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Do an online quiz to find out what Disney song represents your personality, or read a serious news article breaking down the potential destabilisation of Europe post-Brexit. Your call.
6. Put water on for the spaghetti. A big pot! Salt it well – pasta water should be “salty as the mediterranean” according to the Italians. Stir your spaghetti sauce and taste it. It probably needs some more salt and pepper.
7. At this point, you might like to add my dad’s SECRET INGREDIENT. It’s bad. It’s a dirty, dirty secret. But the secret ingredient is… a big ol’ squirt of tomato ketchup. I know, I know. But the sugar and vinegar really lift the flavours. You could also add a small splash of caramelised balsamic vinegar, but I know which one of the two is always in my cupboard. Turn the heat down even more, it should be just letting off the occasional bubble now.
8. Cook the pasta for one minute less than it says on the packet. This is the trick to getting it al dente.
9. Drain the pasta, heap onto a dish, pour the sauce over and serve! I like fresh basil and grated cheese on top of mine. Pretty and delicious.
There you have it! This should serve 6 people, but if you have any teenage boys present, possibly less (then again, maybe more – you know what I’m like). The sauce can actually cook for ages, but the quickest it will be ready is 30-40 minutes. Taste it lots and season lots! Buon appetito!
CHEEKY DISCLAIMER: this is actually a picture of spaghetti and meatballs, slightly different. Didn’t have one of spag bol to hand!