How to make the most of a kitchen mistake

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Tonight’s planned meal was cottage pie – I was going to make enough for four portions, following my own advice about cooking for the freezer.

But I made a very basic kitchen blunder and failed to check I had all the ingredients before I started cooking.

I’d fried off the onions and mince, and added the carrots and beef stock, before going into the fridge to get out the potatoes – except, oops, no potatoes left.

After staring blankly at the fridge for a couple of minutes, I realised why it was such a good thing to be flexible in the kitchen.  My first instinct wasn’t to go and buy some potatoes (especially since we’re getting some delivered tomorrow), which I could have done, but instead to think “what I can I turn this into that doesn’t use potatoes?

Some tinned tomatoes,  cloves of garlic and oregano later, I had four lovely portions of spag bol.

Obviously this isn’t how I usually make spag bol – I normally grate the carrots, add some finely sliced mushroom and fry off the garlic with the onion.  If I had any, I’d add some red wine (I never buy wine for cooking unless we have guests, but there’s often some sitting around leftover from a party).  But it was still delicious, and by being flexible I saved myself a trip to the shops and a couple of quid.

Easy Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce (serves four generously)

  • 4 small onions, chopped 12p
  • 400g beef mince £2
  • 4 small carrots, chopped (I’d grate normally) 20p
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes 62p
  • Beef stock, to cover 15p
  • 1 tbsp oregano 6p
  • 2 big cloves garlic, crushed 6p
  • Couple of teaspoons vegetable oil 4p

Around 85p per person including value spaghetti

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Gently fry off the onions with a little bit of vegetable oil and once softened, add the garlic and mince.  Cooked until browned, siphoning off some of the fat if you haven’t got lean mince.  Add the carrots, cover with beef stock and add the chopped tomatoes and oregano.  Simmer away until reduced and everything is nice and well cooked.

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Serve with 75-100g spaghetti per person (up to 16p for 4 people if using value spaghetti), a little parmesan or similar, and some salad or garlic bread if you want.  I added some chopped fresh basil on the top as I have a plant growing on my windowsill.  

Variations: add sliced mushrooms, peppers and/or olives in place as or as well as the carrots; add wine in place of or as well as the stock; to make it suitable for vegetarians and vegans, swap the mince for green-brown lentils (I’d guess you’d need 150-200g and obviously don’t brown them!) and the beef stock for veg stock.

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5 thoughts on “How to make the most of a kitchen mistake

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