Comfort Food, ch. 1: Bolognese for Days

Comfort eating – my favourite sport. I have a few meals in my rotation for when times get tough, or when I just need that ultimate food hug. Yes, it’s unhealthy to use food as a coping mechanism. But we aren’t here to discuss my unhealthy coping mechanisms – that’s another post all together. We’re here to talk about the food that takes you to a safe space. The meals that give you an island in a sea of bullshit.

My most craved meals are almost all from childhood, and they’re almost all amazingly unhealthy – chicken enchiladas, biscuits ‘n gravy, bbq chicken with yellow rice, brisket sandwiches, french toast, I could go on in a gravy coated, cheese topped dream.

Today, though, I’m all about bolognese. Full disclosure: I love my mom’s spaghetti sauce. It’s pretty damn good and my #1 meal of all time is her baked chilli spaghetti (coming soon!) But this sauce isn’t my mom’s recipe. I happened upon this deliciousness when I was older and living out of state on my own for the first time.

My sister’s God-brother’s wife, Mandy (yes) posted this recipe she got from her friend, and claimed it was life changing. I was an Extra Super Cooking Novice (I have since become a Kinda OK Cooking Novice) and had always thought bolognese was intimidating and too advanced for me. But Mandy made it look easy. I book marked the recipe until the one random night that I was gutsy enough to try it.

Sheeeeeew – it was incredible then, and it’s incredible now. It’s even good when I forget/swapped some ingredients (read: forgot to buy the right ones). It was the first real “adult” or “more than 3 ingredients” meal I attempted, and it was a raving success. And now, it holds a special place in my rapidly clogging arteries. Joel thinks we should have it once a week.

So, here’s the low down, complete with inevitable Audrey Mayhem (see above about forgetting/swapping ingredients) –

The ingredients:

*aud note: I forgot to add 1/2 cup parsley. I have only ever remembered to buy it the first time I made this recipe. (Way to go, Audrey). Don’t worry, it’s not crucial.




cube that shit up – don’t skip the pancetta. It’s next level.
*aud note: once I was out of milk, so I used 1/2 cup of heavy cream with a spoon full of water to thin it out. It was really good
*aud note: I’ve used $30 wine and I’ve used $5 wine to make this – and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to my gutter pallet.
*aud note: this is a picture of pork/veal mince because it was on special for $5 and I was all “SOLD.” But let’s pretend it’s beef mince, because beef is fattier and doesn’t have that same “I killed a baby cow” taste. Also there’s no need for additional pork, because you have pancetta. Do as I say, not as I post.


Step 1: find some good trash TV to cook to. You’ve got some chopping to do.

Judge awaaaay

Step 2: cook the onions in some olive oil for 2 minutes.

*aud note: It’s easiest to make this in a deep sauce pan, like a dutch oven. But I’ve been making this meal for 5 years and I still don’t own a good sauce pot. I most often make it in our wok. Just make sure the pan/pot is deep, because you have a lot of ingredients to add.
For example, you might start browning the onions in your frying pan before you forget that you won’t be able to stir it all up without spilling out the sides so you switch to the wok.

Step 3: Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes


Step 4: Pour yourself a glass of the $5 wine. Hold out hope that this is the one $5 bottle of wine that defies the odds and doesn’t taste like room-temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

*aud note: it will taste like room temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

Step 5. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes

This is the best step. If only this was smell-0-vision.

Step 6: Add the beef and cook until brown


Step 7: Add the remaining ingredients


Joel gets really uncomfortable that there’s milk involved. To be honest, I was too the first time around. But once you go milk, you won’t go… bilk? Yeah.
Yum, slop!
Give it a big, big, stir, and watch the magic happen.

Step 8: THE HARDEST PART – let it simmer for at least 45 mins.

The longest 45 mins ever. I’ve eaten it after 20 mins or so, but it’s better the longer it sits. In fact, it’s even better the next day.
1 hour later… yessssss

Step 9: NOSH



We’ve tried it with a variety of pasta, and anything you want is good. I like fusilli, Joel likes linguini – you can see who won this round. We’ve also served it without pasta, open face on toasted garlic bread – choice.

This recipe makes between 5-8 servings, depending on how big your servings are. It’s wonderful, complex, creamy and savoury, and I suggest you try it tonight. Because I’m off the store for more pancetta…

Best Bolognese Ever
From M Cubed

Makes 5-8 servings

– olive oil
– 1 large yellow onion, diced
– 3 stalks celery, diced
– 1 carrot, diced
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
– 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 1 cup whole milk
– 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
– 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
– ¼ teaspoon red pepper
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried
– ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
– 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
– ¼ teaspoon black pepper
– ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– ¼ cup grated Parmesan (plus more for sprinklage)

1. In a Dutch oven (sigh. Or deep sauce pan, or wok, or something stove-top oriented that’s deep), over medium heat, heat the oil.
2. Cook the onion in heated oil for 2 minutes.
3. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes
5. Add the beef and cook until brown
6. Add the wine and the remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes or until sauce is thick.
7. Serve with fave type of pasta and top with shredded parmesan cheese.
8. For garlic bread with an extra kick – melt butter with some garlic powder and a pinch of paprika. Dip the surface of the bread in the melted butter mix, lay on a pan and toast until the edges are brown. Delish.
*I’ve been told that this sauce freezes and re-heats very well, for all you make a head types.






So, on Friday, Joel and I celebrated our Thanksgiving, ThanksFriday, Thankschicken. As noted earlier, I was determined to make this year’s dinner a good one, and as close to how we do it back in the States, and we succeeded – grandly! I had the planning under control – menu set and recipes bookmarked on Tuesday; shopping done on Wednesday; pie made on Thursday; on Friday, chicken cooked first, then potatoes when there’s 40 mins left, casserole and pumpkin when there’s 20 mins left. But when I got home on Friday I was hit with a wave of cramps and a PMS cloud (hooray) and everything felt out of control and I honestly felt like throwing in the towel and getting Pizza Hut. Thankfully Joel stepped in got the ball moving.

There was an overestimated guess of oven space which resulted in menu items being scrapped (so long, hasselback potatoes and take n bake bread); OMG CHICKEN WILL BE DONE IN 20 MINUTES AND I HAVEN’T MADE THE SIDES panic; panic when the chicken took an hour and a half longer than planned; a bit too much wine and a bit too much panic led to over-salting my famous green bean casserole and accidentally swapping the cheese and onion layer; a destroyed kitchen; feeling a food and wine coma so hard it felt like death was near. It definitely felt like Thanksgiving. The only things missing were a huge family fight and that one relative who gets drunk and says awkward things before he passes out in front of the football game.

And here’s what it looked like!

Thursday night pie prepping: I was going to make crust from scratch, but I decided to tone down the ambition and just use frozen. My grocery store doesn’t carry pre-made shells, but they do carry “short cut” pastry, which is square. So I just used two shells and melded them together in the corners. I didn’t get that fancy lattice look, but I had crust, so that counts. And Joel suggested we use the leftover crust and pie filling to make pumpkin pie rolls, which was basically the best idea Joel’s ever had.

I did have to run to the store at 9 PM in my pajamas and flip flops to grab eggs… sometimes planning doesn’t go exactly as planned. And sometimes the Woolies employees will look at you like you’re homeless.

working the crust, basically am Julia Child
Have you ever wanted to swim in something and just eat your way out?
Pumpkin Pie rolls: Joel gets the gold star for Thanksgiving
knife came out clean on the first try – a first

First up on Friday: lemon herb roasted chicken. I’d never roasted a chicken before, so I was incredibly nervous about getting it right, as there’s nothing worse than dry chicken. So I was messaging my parents all morning for tips, when Joel mentioned that he’d basically roasted hundreds of chickens in his time, and is a roast master. So I let him take the chicken helm. #problemsolved

chicken bum plugs
It’s kinda pretty, if you don’t think of it as shit stuffed inside a dead bird
seasoning treatment
Then we went Paula Deen on that beast #butterbath
We thanked the chicken and honored it for being our dinner as we massaged the butter into it – anything to prevent it from drying out
I mostly love this image because I look like a GIANT WO-MAN in a dwarf’s kitchen
At this point I had to shove the roasting pan in – as I forgot that our roasting pan is just a wee bit bigger than our oven

We set the oven for 90 minutes and went on to other prep! Including whipped cream – last time I tried to make it here, I used thickened cream and icing sugar and whisked it for 15 minutes with nothing happening – except me eating the mixture with a spoon.

Make sure the extra thickened cream is ice cold, add icing sugar and beat with mixer. #yayaya



Then it was time to drink wine and have some hang times!


When the timer for the chicken went off, we jumped up to hurriedly get the sides items made. And of course, in the time it took to get them made, put in the oven, and baked, the chicken still wasn’t done. OF COURSE NOT. And that’s when I learned a valuable lesson: roast chicken recipes tell you to tie the legs together not because it looks cool, but because it makes the chicken cook faster.

I’m used to making double or triple batches of GB casserole – not 1/2. It was scary. And much too salty.
Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 5.22.59 PM
Frying up the macademia nuts before throwing them in with the pumpkin to roast
Prepping the pumpkin – more #butterbath


When the chicken was done – almost 3 hours after we put it in – the onions at the base were incinerated, every inch of our apartment smelled of delicious roast chicken, and it was almost 10 PM (no, I didn’t want to have dinner on Saturday when we had more time to cook. I wanted it to be as close to the actual holiday as possible… even if it meant eating super late. haha)

Master Chicken Carver – also, incinerated onions.
Effing delicious, basically


We ate so much between the time I got home and the time we finished dinner that there was no room for pie – something I didn’t think was actually possible.

This morning, I woke up at 4 feeling like I drank the Dead Sea, a blistering red wine headache, and the smell of roast chicken STILL hanging in every room, now making me queasy. It took a fair bit of time to clean up the kitchen (no way in hellll that it was getting done last night), but then it was time for tea and the best part of Thanksgiving: Pie for breakfast.

Breakfast of champions

and later, the second best part of Thanksgiving: leftovers for days.


I always spent my Thanksgivings outside of the kitchen, wine glass in hand, hanging around with relatives and snacking. So I’ve always loved it and I never understood why people hate it and get so stressed out – but now I know. If you’re in charge of the cooking, it’s pretty stressful, as I had a couple of moments when I thought “fuck, it’s all ruined” and I had Joel helping me and it was just the two of us so there was no (obvious, company oriented) pressure. I imagine it’s easier if you have two ovens and a dishwasher, but yeah. I have a new found respect for people who host. And I kinda  want to go back in time and help my mom more in the kitchen on the big day.

Maybe next year we’ll just have tacos.

I remain thankful for my supportive and loving family and friends, my new job, the roof over our heads, wi-fi, modern science, tooth brushes, the fact that I have yet to be slaughtered or kidnapped, and Joel, my biggest cheer leader and roast chicken master. I have more blessings than I can count (one being my parents sent me two boxes full of Thanksgiving food prep and two being Joel picked up both boxes from the post office).

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving! And that everyone survived Black Friday (and didn’t steal anything out of the hands of children)

A tale of two porks

The pork tenderloin variety, not of the paid adult programming variety.

When it comes to cooking, I have a tendency to run before I can crawl, which is probably a response to years and years of being too scared to make anything more challenging than a grilled cheese. But, I’ve been pushing myself in the kitchen this year, and more often than not, the results are delicious, and my kitchen hasn’t been lit on fire. Even if I did leave the oven on all night that one time*.

So one day at work, I found a recipe for Crispy Roast Pork amidst some content work for one of our websites. And I remembered how delicious pork crackling was that time Joel’s dad made it.

Salt roasted pork is basically a heart attack. The fatty top slab of the pork is rubbed with coarse salt, and then blasted with high heat to crisp the fatty skin, and then roasted for about an hour to make the bottom juicy while the top gets crispier. The desired effect is a top fatty crust that sounds like it “crackles” and shatters as you bite into it. Hence, pork “crackle.” It’s typically served with a pork belly, but I can’t handle the squishy texture of the belly meat. But, the salty crackle combined with juicy pork meat is to die for. What I researched told me that a pork shoulder is better to use if you can’t use belly, but I’ve never cooked a pork shoulder without a slow-cooker. But I’ve made roast tenderloin before and it was amazing. So I went with what I knew.

I rushed to Google, who confirmed kinda weakly that tenderloin skin can crisp up with the best of them, if that’s all you’ve got. And all it took to make the dish was salt, a roasting pan, and an oven capable of reaching 240*C.


So, riding this wave of kitchen successes, I Googled some more until I found a credible recipe that didn’t involve bean curd marinade, and I set off to the butcher. One of the great things about living here is that I’m never too far away from an independent butcher or an self-stocked local farmer fruit stand. In face, I pass by both when I’m going by either the grocery store near work, or the grocery store near home. The reason I don’t stop there is pure laziness. Neither place takes debit cards, and most days I’ll be damned if I have to make one more stop than I have to, so I’ll go where I can get everything all at once. It’s a shitty habit, I know, especially considering the food quality is so much better at the independent stands.

But, I digress.

The butcher, near my office is an older guy named Bill, dressed in a white chef’s shirt and who talks like butchers from the b&w era. He was incredibly friendly and informative, and told me to come back after work because he was waiting for a “pork delivery.” When I came back, he had cut and scored a piece of tenderloin specifically for my needs. He even gave me tips on how to cook it, and threw in some scrap pieces on the house. As I was paying for it, he insisted I come back on Monday to tell him how it went. I was a little overwhelmed by his friendliness, and for a moment he made me think I was living down south in the mountains again, where friendliness with strangers is a daily occurrence. But I walked away thinking, if that’s how nice grocery shopping can be, then I’ll definitely be coming back. Maybe he can make me some American-style cuts of bacon…

Oh my god. I’m going back tomorrow.


So I bring the pork home, and it’s beautiful. And there’s no weird pork smell that I’ve noticed with grocery store pork. I rubbed it dry, massaged it with a bit of olive oil and salt, sang to it, had a photo shoot with it, rubbed it some more, and then put it to bed in the fridge so the fat rind could soak up all the salt.

hello, lovely!
hello, lovely!
I wore my good sweats for this shoot. #fridaynight
I wore my good sweats for this shoot. #fridaynight

The next night, I took it out of the fridge and rubbed it again, coaxed it again, and salted it again. Joel cut up onions and apples, and we layered them in the bottom of the pan before putting the roasting rack with ol’Salty on top.

Let's talk about salt, baby
Let’s talk about salt, baby

Then we shoved the roasting pan in the oven–literally, it almost didn’t fit and I would have cried–and proceeded to wait over an hour while it roasted.


Here’s where we didn’t plan. We were slugging about all day, and we had a big breakfast so we weren’t  particularly hungry for lunch, and therefore, lunch was skipped. And we weren’t hungry until the roast had 30 mins to go. And without knowing, we got hangry. And there were no snacks, at all. Except for a bag of candy that Joel found, which we inhaled. And then we inhaled the rest of the peanut better cookie bits. And then there was only 12 minutes left on the roast, and I wasn’t nearly as hungry. And I was all daaaaamn.


By the time we sat down to eat, I wasn’t hungry. I had filled up on last minute sugar impulse. I wasted $35 of pork for Starburst Jellies and week old peanut butter cookies.

et voila. Maybe next time I'll be hungry :(
et voila. Maybe next time I’ll be hungry 😦

That kinda coloured the rest of the meal. The pork was tender and tasted like a tenderloin, but the crackle was too much on chewy and too short on crackle. But, I blame myself. It probably would have been mind blowing if I had had an appetite.

you vile temptresses. Also, I ate 97% of these cookies over the week because Joel doesn't like peanut butter desserts. Sucks to be him!
you vile temptresses. Also, I ate 97% of these cookies over the week because Joel doesn’t like peanut butter desserts. Sucks to be him!

I felt really guilty and shitty about it, like I ruined the meal. Because I did. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve done it. One day. One day I’ll learn the valuable lesson of “no sweets before dinner.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.00.45 PM

The next day, I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of the pork. Mom suggested simmering it in BBQ sauce and shredding it, and I was all “why didn’t I think of that!” I simmered it in a combo of BBQ suave and yellow mustard until the meat became tender. Because it was tenderloin, it didn’t shred very well, but I was able to cut it up pretty small, and I served it over mashed potatoes, and topped it all with roasted corn and tomato relish.

That corn reminds me of loose teeth. Or lotus pod skin. I can't stop staring at it. But it was good!
That corn reminds me of loose teeth. Or lotus pod skin. I can’t stop staring at it. But it was good!

It was BBQ mash just slopped into a bowl, it looked like hot sick, and honestly, it was so much better than the meal I was excited for a whole week to make. And it made Patton Oswalt proud. Go figure.

My take aways from my weekend in pork?

  • Always eat lunch or snack through out the day when you know dinner will take 1.5 hours to cook.
  • Don’t turn Hoover on sugar and chemicals when you’ve spent heaps on dinner.
  • Pork tastes better with a marinade. Or when roasted over a bed of onion, apple, and some chicken broth.
  • Aluminium foil lining the roasting tray didn’t make clean up a snap.
  • Butcher meat is the best meat.

Onward to the next meat adventure!

*jokes. One of us knocked the dial by accident and noticed a few minutes later. The oven wasn’t even warm.