you are what you eat

Spaghetti Bolognese

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This meal was one of the highlights of last week. The time it took to slow cook the mince until perfection was well worth it! Even though there is a fair amount of preparation that goes into this dish, use your food processor to speed things up. Bolognese also known in Italian as ragù alla bolognese, is a dish that combines simple ingredients to make a delicious family meal. I have accompanied my bolognese with a simple buffalo mozzarella salad. Here is my recipe:

500g Steak Mince, Rinsed and Drained

2 brown onions, chopped

3 Tablespoons good olive oil

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 large carrots, grated

1 small sachet tomato paste

8 garlic cloves, halved

2 green chillies, chopped into big chunks (the reason for this is so that you can pull them out once the ragù is cooked)

2 tins Italian chopped Tomatoes (If you have whole tinned tomatoes, just crush the tomatoes roughly with your hands)

1 can water

Black pepper and salt to taste


– Braise the onions in the olive oil, once soft add the mince. Stir to combine well. Once the mince starts to change colour, add carrots and celery stiring well after each ingredient is added.

– Lower the heat and add the garlic cloves, chillies and tomato paste. Stir well. When the garlic becomes aromatic add in the crushed or chopped tomatoes.

– Fil each tin halfway up with water. Swirl around to pick up any tomato left on the inside of the tin. (You can blend the tomatoes until smooth but i like the chunky pieces of tomato between the mince which just melts in the mouth!) Pour into the mince. Stir well.

– Lower the heat and close the pot leaving the lid slightly ajar. Let the ragù cook for approximately 3 hours.

– You will know the ragù is ready once a reddish layer of oil forms on the top. Switch off the stove and let it cool.

– Once cooled skim off any oil from the top. Stir through the ragù and remove the chili pieces and garlic.

– I reheat just the right amount of ragu while waiting for my spaghetti to boil. Like the marinara, I throw the basil in whole to get maximum flavour.

– This recipe makes 3 meals for a family of four (2 adults and 2 kids under 10years). I freeze the extra for when i need a day off.

Nutrition tip:

Adding grated or chopped vegetables to meat dishes helps to bulk meals. It not only adds extra vitamins and minerals to your meal but it also helps the meal to go much further. Aromatic vegetables like onion and celery, herbs and spices help to add flavour to food while helping you to cut down on salt intake.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, South Africa has one of the highest rates of hypertension worldwide. This makes South Africans more susceptible to life-threatening diseases like stroke and heart disease. Statistics show that about 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes occur daily in South Africa. This means that 10 people will suffer a stroke and five people will have a heart attack every hour. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, a staggering 80% of these  cardiovascular diseases  could be prevented through modified behaviour – like reducing salt.

Salty science:

What is salt? MSG? Nacl? Sodium Chloride (Nacl) also known as table salt is an ionic compound made up of sodium and chloride. Although sodium is volatile and chlorine is toxic, together as sodium chloride they’re integral to life (amazing!!!). Sodium chloride molecules are cubical. The large chloride ions are closely packed together, with smaller sodium ions filling in the spaces between them.

The sodium and chlorine in salt are electrolytes, important minerals that conduct electricity in our fluids and tissues.  Our kidneys maintain the balance of electrolytes and water by regulating the fluids that we take in and pass out of our bodies. If this balance is disturbed, nerves, muscles and organs won’t function correctly because the cells can’t generate muscle contractions and nerve impulses. There are many different varieties of salt available for cooking, but all of them fall into four basic types: table saltsea saltkosher salt and rock salt. The first three types are food-grade salt and are required by the FDA to contain at least 97.5 percent sodium chloride. The other 2.5 percent is trace minerals, chemicals from processing or anti-caking agents.

Table salt is the most commonly used salt. It is processed to remove impurities and contains nonclumping agents like calcium phosphate. Because it has a fine texture, table salt is easy to measure and mixes evenly. Sea salt is generally more expensive than table salt because of how it’s harvested (often has to scraped off rocks by hand then refined).

Salts harvested from the Himalayas (Pink salt) are often pink in colour. The colour is derived from calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron. Others contain carotene from salt-tolerant algae and are more peach-colored. Reddish-pink salts, such as Hawaiian alaea salt, have iron oxide added in the form of volcanic clay. Black salt is often a dark dark pinkish-gray color. One Indian variety contains sulfurous compounds, iron and other trace minerals and has a strong, sulfuric taste. Hawaiian black lava salt is darker and contains traces of charcoal and lava. The color of gray salt comes from trace minerals or from the clay where it is harvested, such as the damp, unrefined “sel gris” harvested on the coast of France. Smoked salt is a new gourmet variety of salt where the salt is smoked over a wood fire to give it its characteristic ‘Smokey’ flavour. Are these expensive varieties worth it? Some gourmands argue that the higher amounts of trace minerals can give sea salts a unique, earthy flavor. They are rather expensive so rather use your pink or grey salt to ‘finish’ a dish rather than during the cooking process. Kosher salt is used to make meats kosher by quickly drawing out the blood. Many chefs prefer to use kosher salt. Its coarse texture makes it easy to pick up and sprinkle on food during or after cooking. Rock salt is a large-grained, unrefined salt that usually contains inedible impurities. It does have one use in cooking: Homemade ice cream recipes often instruct you to sprinkle rock salt on the ice surrounding the cylinder filled with the ice cream mixture. This makes the ice cream freeze faster. Rock salt is also sprinkled on icy roadways and sidewalks to melt the ice.

If you thought salt was only for cooking think again… salt also has cultural and religious significance. It has long been used in Shintoism to purify, and Buddhists use salt to repel evil. There are lots of sayings related to the use of salt. It was often traded for slaves, which is the origin of the expression “not worth his salt.” Someone who is the “salt of the earth” is a dependable, unpretentious person. “Salting the earth,” on the other hand, refers to an ancient military practice of plowing fields with salt so that no crops could be grown.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats.  MSG is derived from an amino acid called glutamic acid, which occurs naturally in foods such as mushrooms, aged parmesan cheese and fermented soybean products like soy sauce. Glutamic acid belongs to a broad category of compounds called glutamates, which are the source of a flavour called umami.

Tips to reduce salt intake:

– Try using less salt in cooking and ban the salt shake from the table.  Taste your food before adding salt. It does take getting use to but using herbs and spices will help to flavour the food without adding salt.If a recipe calls for salt, cut the amount called for in half and taste it before adding more.

– Cut down on processed foods. Processed foods are high in salt and salt additives. Salt helps to preserve foods and gives it a longer shelf life. Keep away from the canned and processed isles and fill your trolley with fresh ingredients.IF you do use canned foods like beans or vegetables, rinse these before use.

– Cut down on salty snacks. If it tastes salty it is salty!

– Cut down on fast foods. Swop your fries for a baked potato or salad. If you are having a burger night, cut out the chips or ask for unsalted chips!

– Read labels. Label reading is an important tool. Compare products and watch out for foods labelled ‘diet’ or low fat as these can often be higher in sodium as manufacturers hope that the added sodium, a flavor-enhancer, will bring back the flavor that is missing since fat and other energy yielding ingredients are removed. Also note that not all packaged foods containing MSG will explicitly say so on the label. Ingredients like hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, and sodium caseinate are all pseudonyms for MSG.



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This entry was posted on March 4, 2014 by in Pastas and tagged , , , .
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