This Valentine's Day has been a bit of a higgledy-piggledy mess of successes and failures. Success in that we both (hubby and I) managed to find gifts for one another (see "Cherry Shortbread Hearts" post, up next) and thus clawed a tiny bit of romance out of a remarkably unsuccessful day. The problems with the day all began when I hurt my back and couldn't cook and couldn't sit at the computer for very long. This meant a bit of a re-hash of the menu listing for the week and hubby had to stand in for me in the kitchen (along with everything else he does) - and all my planned blog postings for Valentines Day have wound up appearing after the event.
Add to that the fact that it is son & heir's half term holiday, so we had one friend of his staying for a sleepover that took us through to Valentines Day morning. We took that friend home, and had to go shopping - not terribly romantic. The lovely Asda then let me down severely with their selection (which was, in fact, a non-selection of white fish) so instead of a lovely Valentines' Dinner, we wound up eating pizza. Not just pizza, but disgusting pizza too. To add insult to injury, son & heir went swimming and then unexpectedly stayed at his friend's house for tea. I doubt we'd have gone out if we'd have known, but it would have given us the chance at least!
*sigh* Oh well, I suppose there's always next year.
To get back to the recipe, the lovely folks at Barefoot Wine had sent us some menu suggestions to play with - and I particularly liked the look of their Drunken Spaghetti.
Hubby sprang into the breach and got busy in the kitchen making the spaghetti, which turned out to be quite deceptively scrumptious!
From looking at the recipe, it appeared to be a standard Bolognese except with the addition of carrot, celery and of course, the Merlot.
Now the "drunken" bit refers to the fact that you cook the spaghetti in a combination of wine and water (you can imagine the tears involved in losing a percentage of the lovely wine to this cause - so perhaps I might advocate the use of a rather lesser denomination of red, if you're going to have a go at this) which brings it up an interesting shade of pink. I was pleasantly surprised to note that you can actually taste the wine in the spaghetti (so don't use a particularly sour vintage!), as I was anticipating that the flavour would be washed out by the water. Not so.
The ragu mixture that topped the spaghetti was deliciously flavoursome. No doubt the quality of the Merlot helped a lot here, as once you'd given the whole ensemble a liberal dusting with Parmesan, the flavours were complete.
In fact, just writing about it is making my tummy rumble - or is that just because it's lunchtime?
Outside of the recipe, the Merlot is an intensely flavoured wine - in fact, I'd go so far as to say it almost explodes on your tongue. The bouquet is one of freshly cut pine wood, but the flavours are raisins, cherries and a deeper note that sparks the tastebuds into almost frenzied activity. A really very surprising red wine!
DRUNKEN SPAGHETTI (serves 3)
400g dried spaghetti
2½ cups of red wine (Barefoot Merlot)
500g lean minced beef
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
a good pinch of dried oregano (or to taste)
2 tbsp olive oil
grated Parmesan to serve.
1. In a deep frying pan or a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until tender. Remove and reserve to keep warm.
2. Add the beef and brown over a high heat until it has rendered its fat. Drain the beef by moving it to one side of the pan and spooning away the fat.
3. Re-introduce the onions to the pan, and include the garlic, carrot, celery and tomatoes. Stir over a medium heat until softened.
4. Add the passata and a half a cup of the wine. Stir well to combine and add the oregano and seasoning to taste.
5. Cook over a medium heat so that the sauce boils gently, so reducing the liquid, for some 15 minutes or so - or until a thick consistency has been reached and the vegetables are all tender.
6. In the meantime, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the rest of the Merlot (try not to cry - it's worth it, honest!) and the spaghetti.
7. Cook to the packet instructions (usually around 8-10 minutes) or until al dente. Drain, then return to the pan and add a drizzle of olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.
8. Serve the meat sauce on top of the spaghetti and garnish with a good covering of finely grated Parmesan cheese.