Secret Ingredients, Signature Dishes and Special Treats Quick Five!

Spaghe-Bolog_793727cSince everyone had fun doing the Reading Fun Quick Five, I thought I’d do another Quick Five today. This time, focusing on food!

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of dishes using ground beef, or mince meat as we call it over here. (Yes, that’s been one of my Friday Facebook posts on Two Nations Divided!), but every country has their stock recipes which are filling and easy to cook. Dishes we learn from our parents, as students or from the first cook book. We all have our own variations on these dishes – that secret ingredient that makes our dish tastier than everyone else’s. In the UK, one such dish is spaghetti bolognese (ground meat and tomato sauce) or ‘spag bol’.

APD coverAs it happens, spaghetti bolognese is one of my signature dishes! The recipe is my own, that I’ve developed over the years from a basic recipe my mum taught me, and always gets rave reviews at the dinner table. In the Lair, I’m going to share my secret ingredients – I have three!

1. Allspice – I learned about this while backpacking in Greece. A pinch or two of ground Allspice brings out the flavour of the meat and sauce perfectly.

2. Turmeric – often used in Middle Eastern and South Asian cooking, turmeric rounds out the flavour of the sauce, whether it’s a curry or a stew. It’s perfect for spag bol – trust me!

A Perfect Trade final3. The final secret ingredient, I picked up from fabulous Italian chef Antonio Carluccio. I loved his series on Italian cooking. He makes everything sound easy to cook and his recipes are delicious. In this caase, he was talking about how spaghetti bolognese isn’t an Italian dish from Bologna at all, but an English invention. The closest dish he could find bears little resemblance to spag bol and uses … milk! Yes, milk! Figuring Carluccio hasn’t led me astray before, I tried his suggestion and added milk to my spaghetti bolognese recipe. And it worked. It made the whole dish richer and tastier. Who’d have thought?

In A Perfect Distraction, Maggie doesn’t like cooking, but her signature dish is Bendy Eggs. In A Perfect Trade, Jenny’s signature dessert is a version of Eton Mess using chocolate-covered strawberries. You can find recipes for both these dishes on my website in the For Readers section.

So tell me:
1.Is there a ground beef/mince meat dish that’s your family’s special dish?

2. Do you have a signature dish that everyone raves about and asks you to make?

3. Will you share one of your secret ingredients?

4. Do you have a favourite ‘go to’ dish you can whip up quickly, if necessary, for unexpected visitors or to take to a party? [mine is cupcakes – made from the Magnolia Bakery recipe]

5. What’s your favourite snack treat or comfort food? [mine is either chips and sour cream dip or hot, buttered popcorn]

Posted in , , , , , , , ,

Comments

28 Comments

  • Amy Conley says:

    He’s mine. Good thing I had chicken tonight.

  • Amy Conley says:

    1&2 are the same dish, my cabbage rolls.
    3, it would be about half a pound of ground lamb, or the bacon, because I just began using the lamb, but I’ve always used the bacon.
    4, whatever I can grab, ready to eat from the grocery store.
    5, kettle corn or anything chocolate.

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Oooh your cabbage rolls sound yummy, Amy. We love ground lamb here and Doc Cambridge grows lots of cabbage – would you be willing to share your recipe?

  • Jane says:

    Hello Anna,
    1. Not really, but the only mince meat dish I can think of is to stir fry the ground beef with peas and serve over rice.
    2. Beef fried noodles
    3. Oyster sauce
    4. I’m not a great cook. The only thing I can whip up quickly and have it still taste good are fried eggs.
    5. Favorite comfort food is pizza and barbecue chips are my favorite snack.

  • flchen1 says:

    How fun, Anna!

    I’m not sure–we have a few we like a lot–tow top ones: chili (based on Rachael Ray’s Indian Summer chili recipe); Ma Po Tofu…

    Nope–I’m not a great cook 😉 Now DH on the other hand… he’s got a lot of great dishes!

    Cumin!

    Banana bread, in a pinch.

    French fries! Or anything sweet. Or chips! I’m easy 😉

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Fedora!

      Glad you mentioned chili – that’s another one of my specialties! We have some friends who insist I make it every time they visit!

      Aren’t we lucky – Doc Cambridge is a fabulous cook too 🙂

  • Helen says:

    Anna

    1. I love Spag Bol LOL and make it often and I use basil parsely and oregano in mine and the kids have alwys raved about it.
    2. My family loves my curried sausages and ask for them often one pot and served with rice very warming in winter
    3. I don’t think I have a secret ingredient I do like to try different herbs and spices and of course garlic
    4. That would have to be spag bol or the curried sausages
    5. Smiths plain chips of Tim Tams LOL

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Anna Sugden says:

      I wondered if Spag Bol was popular Down Under, Helen. I use parsley, basil and oregano in mine too! 🙂

      Ooh curried sausages sound delish! It’s a good job I’ve had dinner – all these fab-sounding dishes would make me hungry!

  • Deanna says:

    What a great post! This makes my little foodie heart glad. My boy and I love a good spag bol and we often make it whenever we feel like something tasty and easy. I’m going to try your three extra ingredients in mine the next time I make it to see how it goes. I love tweaking that recipe. We usually make ours spicy, so I use a home made blend of chili peppers, cayenne pepper and paprika to spice it up. I have to be careful though, cos that mix is pretty hot, so I need to go easy or I overdo it.

    Now on to your questions: (ps. sorry this is going to be a long response)

    1.Is there a ground beef/mince meat dish that’s your family’s special dish? Spag bol would be my go to mince dish. Something else I’ve made recently that has been a hit is sumac beef tarts with tomato, parsley, lemon and Greek yogurt topping.

    2. Do you have a signature dish that everyone raves about and asks you to make? That would be my creme brulee. I get asked to make that for most dinner parties as a dessert and almost ever year, my mother will ask me to make that for Christmas lunch dessert.

    3. Will you share one of your secret ingredients? My secret ingredient isn’t all that secret, but to make my Caesar salads extra tasty, I add a little garlic salt to the salad. I think the garlic really adds to the flavor.

    4. Do you have a favourite ‘go to’ dish you can whip up quickly, if necessary, for unexpected visitors or to take to a party? Mine would be Devonshire tea. If we have people coming over, I will bake the scones, then whip up the strawberry jam fresh and also the whipped cream. If I’m feeling fancy, I even whip up some fresh lemon butter. The whole thing takes me about an hour to get it to the table. Everything is still piping hot. I love the fresh strawberry jam, when it is still warm from cooking.

    5. What’s your favourite snack treat or comfort food? My comfort food is pasta. Any type of pasta. I just love it. There is a particular dish that I make which is a tangy prawn, tomato and spinach tagliatelle which is a real hit and very moreish because of the tanginess from the lemon that I use in the sauce.

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Thanks so much, Deanna – glad it cheered your little foodie heart! 🙂

      Do let me know how your version with my secret ingredients works. Wow – chilis, cayenne and paprika?! That is spicy. I might have to try your version myself!

      Ah this Devonshire lass loves a proper cream tea! I’m impressed that you whip up strawberry jam for your visitors – I’ll be right over!

  • Shannon says:

    1. Like you have have red sauce that began as my mother’s sauce, but with added ingredients is now my own.
    2. Arabian Samboza. Ground beef or lamb in fried skins, Think triangular egg rolls.
    3. Cinammon and a dash of red pepper.
    4. Greek salad. Package lettuce makes it easy.
    5. Comfort food–pasta in some kind of rich cheese sauce. At a favorite restaurant it’s their changing ravioli–pumpkin in the fall, broccolini in the spring

    • Anna Sugden says:

      I love lamb samosas, Shannon. I often can’t be bothered to make the actual samosa, so serve the filling with rice *G*.

      Love the sound of that ravioli!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    One ground beef dish that gets rave reviews is my lasagna. It has very little cheese, which is the way my family likes it. Secret ingredient is chili powder and it has sugar in it. Yummy! My go-to dish has always been chicken and noodles. Every time we had a carry-in at church, my chicken and noodles were requested. I make it for funeral dinners, shut-ins and new moms just home from the hospital. My favorite comfort food is either popcorn or deep, dark chocolate cake. It depends on whether I want salty or sweet.

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Ahh lasagne! One of my favourites, though I often don’t have time to make it. I use my spag bol sauce in my lasagne too.

      Your chicken and noodles sounds delicious. We should get you BBs to share your recipes with us!

  • Mozette says:

    1.Is there a ground beef/mince meat dish that’s your family’s special dish?

    No… I’m vegetarian, so I don’t cook with meat anymore. I used to make a spaghetti bolensagne sauce people would drive miles to have… I started to make it at 2pm and we’d sit down to eat it at 6pm… yep, it was nice, thick, hot, rich and delicious by that time. 😀

    2. Do you have a signature dish that everyone raves about and asks you to make?

    Oooohh… yes! I make pumpkin, cashew and spinach cannelloni… yummo!

    3. Will you share one of your secret ingredients?

    Garlic and paprika… I put two because they’re herbs. 😀

    4. Do you have a favourite ‘go to’ dish you can whip up quickly, if necessary, for unexpected visitors or to take to a party? [mine is cupcakes – made from the Magnolia Bakery recipe]

    Sure! It’s called my Chunky Pasta Cheese Bake… you make a chunky veggie sauce with everything you can get your hands on in the fridge, cook up some spiral pasta. Get out a casserole dish… put the pasta in the bottom, the sauce on top, grate some rich cheese and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on that then pop it into the oven for 20 minutes…. on 180 C… lid off…. believe me, there’ll be no leftovers; especially if you add in some garlic bread at the same time! 😀

    5. What’s your favourite snack treat or comfort food? [mine is either chips and sour cream dip or hot, buttered popcorn]

    Roast veggies with sour cream and avocadoes. 😀

    • Anna Sugden says:

      I think the key to a good spag bol sauce, Mozette, indeed most meat sauces or stews, is the length of time you cook them. Even better if you can make it the day before. There’s something about the length of time that really brings out the flavours!

      Your chunky pasta cheese bake sounds yummy!

  • catslady says:

    I don’t think I have any secret ingredients but I add balsamic vinegar to a lot of dishes such as stews or casseroles and soups. If I need something quick to take I make a crab or shrimp dip that’s fast or a huge salad in the summer when the veggies are fresh. I don’t think I have one particular dish but I enjoy making stews, chili, soups or lasagna lol. My family seems to like my meatloaf but I never make it with a recipe (I do like to add green peppers). My husband and I snack on different nuts or occasionally pop corn.

    • Anna Sugden says:

      We discovered the joys of balsamic vinegar when we were in Tuscany, catslady, and Doc Cambridge has been a convert. It’s delicious on strawberries! Never thought of adding it to stews etc. Hmmm. Might be trying that!

      One of the few things I enjoy about colder weather is stews!

  • My secret ingredient in all recipes is my daughter as she does all the cooking! While I’d love for her to move out in pursuit of her own life/dreams/pursuits, I live in fear of having to actually cook again – and plan meals – and shop! So I’m no good for this quick five. Every meal is quick. Every meal is delicious.

  • Anna, this must be the kind of thing talented cooks spend a lot of time on. It sounds intriguing.

    As you know, I’m not much of a cook, but I’ll have a go at the questions:

    1.Is there a ground beef/mince meat dish that’s your family’s special dish?

    Hamburgers.

    2. Do you have a signature dish that everyone raves about and asks you to make?

    Um, no. I’m not exactly gifted in the kitchen.

    3. Will you share one of your secret ingredients?

    I would if I had any.

    4. Do you have a favourite ‘go to’ dish you can whip up quickly, if necessary, for unexpected visitors or to take to a party? [mine is cupcakes – made from the Magnolia Bakery recipe]

    Fruit salad. Which I actually can make.

    5. What’s your favourite snack treat or comfort food? [mine is either chips and sour cream dip or hot, buttered popcorn]

    Comfort food would be mac and cheese. For snacks, I’m trying to go mostly with fruit these days.

    • Anna Sugden says:

      I think that’s how you can tell a really good chef, Nancy – their mix of flavours is a class apart from everyone else. Mario Battali, Gordon Ramsey, Morimoto and even Bobby Flay are amazing with the flavours they bring together!

      Hey, you can’t beat a great burger! 🙂

  • Jo Robertson says:

    I do have a special chili recipe that everyone loves to pieces! I don’t have it written down, but it’s basically all the veggies you’d expect — onion, garlic, pepper — ground beef, and various spices; I always add powered garlic and powered onion to add a boost of flavor along with Worchestershire sauce and a can of petite chopped tomatoes with green chilis.

    The secret ingredients are (a) clam juice and (b) brown sugar. No one thinks of brown sugar in meat dishes, but it adds a sweetness that we enjoy. The clam juice works best that V-8 or tomato sauce.

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Your chili sounds delicious, Jo! I use Worcestershire sauce in my chili, and my spag bol too. I don’t know that we have clam juice over here – must check it out. Interesting about the brown sugar too.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Oh, and never, never mess around with dried beans. Canned ones work fine and are so non-labor intensive. Just be sure to rinse very well.