10 July 2011

Bolognese Pasta Bake & Ras-Al-Hanout Chicken - two days, two dinners

I've decided to lump these two dinners in one blog post because neither of them had us hanging out the flags with delight.  As a consequence, I won't be detailing a recipe for either of them, but they're very worth talking about.

Firstly, the Bolognese Pasta Bake.

Well, it sounds nice enough - Bolognese with pasta, baked with Mozzarella cheese on top.  Mmmmn, sounds promising!  However, and I suspect this may well just be a "Jenny's Taste" thing, as opposed to a general point of view, but I really like my pasta bolognese to stay separate from one another.  That is, the pasta is on the base, with the bolognese sauce in a neat heap on top, sprinkled liberally with parmesan.  Not all mixed into one.

You see, the thing I enjoy most about bolognese, is eating the sauce on its own and choosing to eat some pasta at intervals throughout.  I know, call me picky.  It's one of the rare times when I am picky, to be honest!

I just didn't think about that aspect of it when we agreed to use up the mozzarella in this way.  Of course, the mozzarella melted on top of the saucy pasta was completely divine - but then mozzarella always is!  Unfortunately, it doesn't soak through the pasta and once you've eaten the cheese, all you're left with is saucy pasta.  But hey ho, even if I wasn't impressed - the chaps ate theirs and Son & heir would have eaten the leftovers today, if we hadn't have gone to Cafe Rouge for breakfast!

So, moving on - the next dinner was Ras-al-hanout chicken, with new potatoes and salad.

I suspect there must have been a male:female imbalance thing going on here, because the chaps both declared the chicken to be bland, whereas I was musing approvingly to myself how Ras-al-hanout has a stealth heat which sneaks up on you.  Granted, it isn't ever the sort of heat that you would find too much, but it was very definitely there!

The chicken was simply butterflied, then put into a bowl with olive oil, salt & pepper and the Ras-al-hanout mix where it sat for the next 30 minutes, before going into the oven for 25 minutes, thence onto the plate.  So, simple enough - but obviously lacking in flavour for the chaps.

The salad was just that - salad - however the new potatoes are worth a word.  After much sampling, we have discovered that Jersey Royal new potatoes are far tastier (even to the point where hubby enjoys them - and he hates potatoes with a deadly loathing) when you buy them as "muddy spuds" (i.e. with the dirt still attached) than when you buy them all beautifully washed and ready for the pot, sealed up in a plastic bag.  Now this interesting point is one which I have been sure was true, for as long as pre-packed bags of spuds have been available.  I'm just glad that places like Asda see fit to cater for both types of consumer - the muddy and the clean!

It is hard to consider that mud has any great taste benefits, but I suspect that it may well be the cleaning process that eradicates subtle flavour trails within the potatoes.  Of course, I have no scientific backup for this opinion.  It is just that - my opinion.



  1. Mmmm, pasta bake is an absolute favourite of mine - I think it reminds me of childhood where we all used to fight over the gooey cheese layer!

    I've used ras-al-hanout as a spice rub for quail before and it worked very well - the only addition to your method above being a drizzle of honey - the sweetness interacted nicely with the subtle heat.


  2. Gooey cheese! ~makes Homer Simpson noise~ There's very little that is finer than a gooey cheese layer on something, unless it's a Summer Pudding or suchlike. LOL Take, for instance, my ham & cheese panini I had for lunch at work today. The kitchen had overloaded it with cheese, which had escaped and baked hard while it was cooking. So it had the gooey cheese we're talking about, plus crunchy, baked hard bits. Oh, it was yummy in the extreme!

    Ah! A drizzle of honey may well have added a little something to the chicken, but I'm sure the chaps would still have found it bland, even so. I don't think that Ras-al-hanout really suits my boys' tastebuds. It seems to offer a chilli experience, but then doesn't deliver. I'll have to try the same thing again, but with the added extra of some chilli and see what they say then! lol

  3. Hi Jenny.
    My suggestion if you want the mozzarella amalgamate with the pasta, chop the mozzarella small bit and mix with bolognese and after with the pasta and finish with parmigiano on top at last bake.

  4. That's a very good suggestion, Andrea! Thanks. :)


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