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Archive for October, 2014

The clocks have gone back and there is no escaping winter. Although the temperatures seem to be on the rise the last couple of days with 20 degrees and a balmy wind – so perhaps it won’t be too bad.

Along with winter comes of course hunger. We do tend to want to eat more comfort food in the winter months, so what better than a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese? And yes, I know, you make the best spaghetti Bolognese in the world… So did I. However, the recipe I found yesterday on the BBC Good Food website is pretty good. It uses a different method to what I’ve done before, and I must say I actually prefer it, it’s a one pot wonder. My favourite!

Also, in yesterday’s version I skipped both the carrots and celery, simply because I was in a hurry, and added a few more garlic cloves.

You need:

  • 500g Fresh Beef Mince
  • 200g smoked bacon lardons
  • 2 Tins of Plum/Chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 Medium Onions, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 Sticks of Celery, trimmed and finely diced
  • 2 Carrots, trimmed and finely diced
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely diced (I used 4)
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 1 Beef Stock Cube ( I used Marmite)
  • Glass of red wine (optional)
  • 2-3 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper.

Method:

  1. Place a large, heavy based saucepan on a medium heat. Add a good lug of olive oil and gently fry your bacon until golden and crisp, then reduce the heat slightly and add your onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Next remove the leaves from the Rosemary sprigs and add them to the pot, discarding the sprigs. Move everything around and fry for around 8-10 minutes until the veg has softened.
  2. Increase the heat slightly, add the mince and stir until the meat is browned all over. Stir in your tins of plum/chopped tomatoes, (plum tomatoes are best as they contain less water, but either will turn out great!). Add your remaining herbs, tomato puree, stock cube, chilli and if using, the wine.
  3. Give everything a stir with a wooden spoon, breaking up the plum tomatoes as you go and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to low-medium, put the lid on and leave it blipping away for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the flavours develop into a wonderfully rich tomatoey sauce. Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch.
  4. Cook your pasta as directed on pack, drain and serve in deep bowls with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Enjoy!

Love,
Natasja

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The below is written by someone I know, and illustrates how in a heartbeat, your life can change.

“You are closer to a precipice than you ever imagined, I know I didn’t see it and if warned probably wouldn’t have believed it anyway. I was safe, or so I thought back then. You are only a few pieces of bad luck in close succession away from all of the above just falling away from you. Regardless of how well protected you think you may be.

I earned £50k salary and had £30k banked. I worked hard but loved my job and genuinely liked the majority of the people I worked with. Even those I didn’t like, I understood the kind of pressures they were under.

I have no idea how many meters of intestine the human body contains, but at some point a piece of it, the size of a grain of rice took it upon itself to bulge and then burst. I remember it happening, it hurt like hell and I spent 3 days rolling about in bed in agony. I went to the Doctor and then to the hospital for X-rays but nothing was found, and by this stage it had stopped hurting so we all decided to forget about it and move on. I now know I actually had a perforated bowel, and day by day was leaking into my blood stream, and was slowing poisoning myself internally. It took a while but I began to struggle to put in a full day. I’d get through work, but then come home and collapse until the next day.

A few months later, appraisal time came around at work. Someone I considered my 2IC who I had talked 3 times out of leaving the company decided they wanted my job. Their network at senior level trumped my network with 95% of the rest of the company, he won. To be fair, he put more energy into his bid for the position, while I was struggling to remain upright. I left as soon as the decision was given.

Two days later I was in intensive care, having woken up barely able to breath and stumbled outside and hailed a taxi. It took over two weeks to clean my blood, which was so full of shite it was killing me.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention, having resigned I no longer qualified for the company health insurance.

A routine 2 hr operation was scheduled to repair the perforation. Unfortunately, I’d carried the injury for so long my intestines had fused together like a bowl of cold spaghetti and after 13 hours they had to call a halt to the operation and put in a half measure (A colostomy bag) to give me time to recover for a year before they went back in. A truly dreadful period of my life. Had it become necessary as a permanent solution I had made plans to remove myself from the gene pool. Fortunately, the reversal surgery worked a treat. I could have remained on Sickness benefit for a year, but declared myself fit for work after a few months.

With an 18 month gap in my CV I hit the job market, just as a recession struck down the country. In sickness and in Health, I have been seriously job hunting for over 5 years, and turning 50 isn’t helping.

Now, I eat 1 meal a day on 4 days a week, nothing on the other 3. I’ve never been a big eater, so it isn’t really a problem. Though there are days when you are just sooo unbelievably hungry and there is nothing I can do about it.

If I’d had a mortgage or was in rented accommodation when all this started, I can only imagine I would have ended up on the streets living rough. There are plenty out there who are not junkies, drunks or mentally unwell. Some are intelligent people decent people who just had a small string of minor bad luck hit them in succession and completely derail their comfortable previous lives. Fortunately for me I have lived for a long time in a place with a secure tenancy which Housing Benefit now takes care of. Without that, I shudder to think.

This posting isn’t about woe is me. I don’t need or actually want your sympathy. I still have my pride, but thank you. It’s a watch out, or you may find yourself where I am through no fault of you own type posting. Forget thinking, ‘Well that would never happen to me’, that’s what I thought.

I met my woman well before all this occurred. We managed and adapted to the aftermath which just kept going on. Instead of me insisting on paying for everything, she did instead, whether I liked it or not. My refusing her paying for me was impacting on her ability for us to go out and I had to see her point.

She paid for us to go and participate in ‘Battle Proms’ at Hatfield House. We had a fabulous time, enjoying the displays and quite liking people asking if they could take photos of us. We came back into town on the Sunday so we could stay at mine and go to my local for a poker tournament. At the time she was working in Slough as a Lead Test Manager with Mars, which is mid way between her home and mine. So spending weekends at mine wasn’t unusual.

Monday morning, driving along the M4 in her precious red sports car, an artery bulged the size of a Pea, for no reason and burst in her brain. Though lucky to be alive, things will never be the same again. No way will she be able to cope with the level of work she used to. Just driving a car again is unlikely.

So my point is, if you and those near to you have intestines, arteries, and internal organs, then don’t take them or your current lifestyle for granted, it can change in a heartbeat.”

Have a good Sunday, folks!

Love,
Natasja

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