James Learns to Cook – Part 2

I have had a complaint recently that there have been no more ‘James Learns to Cook Posts’ – very remiss of me! I have just been looking through my phone at photographs and came across some from a cooking lesson that I had failed to write up – good old British Spag Bol – oh, hang on, pasta’s European isn’t it? Oh well (… and that’s about as political as I will ever get on this blog!).

I don’t have a photo of the finished product because I had deleted it before I remembered why I had taken it, it was rather delicious though.


… and here boys and girls is how one chops and onion.


  • an onion
  • a clove or two of garlic
  • minced beef (about 150g per person is about right)
  • a tin of tomatoes
  • some fresh tomatoes (only because I happened to have some which needed using up)
  • a squeeze of tomato puree
  • a beef stock cube
  • oregano
  • black pepper
  • spaghetti
  • grated cheese


I think that the pictures below are pretty clear, but in essence…

Chop the onion and garlic, as finely as you can comfortably do without crying uncontrollably, and then fry them in some olive oil along with the oregano and pepper.

When the onions are beginning to  become ‘transparent’ add the minced beef and break it up with a spoon or spatula, adding more oil if it begins to stick. At this point I sometimes add a splash of red wine if I have some open; I don’t tend to bother opening a bottle just for this purpose (although it can be a good excuse). James only drinks Cava so that doesn’t help much.

When the mince is beginning to brown, crumble the stock cube into it and add the fresh tomatoes, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes. Allow this lovely mixture to simmer for about ten minutes, cover with a lid if you have one.

Grate some cheese and then cook the pasta, following the instructions on the packet. Taste the beef before serving and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Pop-tastic mate!


Spaghetti with tomatoes and poached eggs


Cheap, quick, easy and yummy – four of
my favourite things!
This fed two adults and a child (approximately 1/2 a tin of tomatoes per person and an egg each).

1 Onion, chopped
1 Clove garlic, crushed
A few mushrooms, chopped
Black pepper
1 tsp Oregano
1 & 1/2 Tins tomatoes
A couple of squirts of tomato puree
3 eggs
A handful of grated cheese

If I had them I might also have included bacon or anchovies, olives or capers.

Fry the onion, garlic, black pepper and herbs in olive oil until beginning to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and mushrooms and simmer until the mushrooms have cooked.

While the sauce is simmering away put the spaghetti on to cook, following the instructions on the packet for the quantity and cooking time.

When the pasta is nearly done crack an egg into a mug, make a little well in the sauce and pour in the egg; repeat so that there is one egg per person. Note, if your pan is not non-stick you will probably need to put a bit of oil in each well before you add the egg.

After about a minute, turn each egg with a spatula and then sprinkle the cheese over the sauce.

Drain the pasta and divide between shallow bowls. Put an egg onto each serving of pasta and then share out the rest of the sauce.


on top of spaghettiiiiii, all covered in cheeeese…

… I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed!  (aarrgg, I’m going to be singing that all week now!)

So, I haven’t had a chance to spend my first £5 yet so this is a true store-cupboard/ freezer recipe. I quite often seem to end up with burgers at the back of my freezer left over from the BBQ season and I enjoy being a bit creative with them. This is the first time I have made them into meatballs to go with pasta though, so this is a true Kitty’s Store Cupboard experiment. I have rather unfortunately run out of onions so I will have to make up for it by using lots of garlic!

The amounts given below served two adults and two children.



  • a couple of burgers from the freezer, completely defrosted
  • a tin of tomatoes
  • 2/3 cloves of garlic
  • dried mixed Mediterranean herbs
  • dried oregano
  • tomato purée
  • a splash of red wine
  • dried spaghetti
  • a handful of grated cheese

Ingredients that I could have included if I had them: onions, courgette, mushrooms, fresh basil.

Cut the burgers into quarters and shape into meatballs. Fry these  for approx 5 minutes in just enough oil so that they don’t stick, along with the garlic (crushed or finely chopped) some black pepper and the dried herbs. Turn frequently and add more oil if required.

Next add the tin of tomatoes (making sure that you swill it out with a little warm water so that you don’t waste any), a good squidge of tomato purée and the wine. I tend to freeze wine if I have some left in a bottle that has been open a little too long (yes, it does happen sometimes!) and then scoop out as much as I require.

When the sauce is warmed through, taste and add salt and pepper if required. Cook the spaghetti as instructed on the packet and serve with cheese on top. I like to add chilly flakes to tomato-based pasta sauces – but depending on who you are serving it to it can best to put it on the table so that people can help themselves.