Cooking has brought me closer to the people I love. I treasure the connections I feel with the beautiful cooks in my life who aren’t physically with us anymore, especially my nan, Edna White, Mick’s mother, Kathleen Goodwin, his grandmother, Imelda Henebery, and my friend, Julie Wilson. They live on in my cooking and in my memory.
The point I find myself at is as the parent of three sons who are new adults. They are all still at home right now, but I guess the clock is ticking. Although I have taught them what cooking knowledge I could over the years, I feel an almost desperate need to get all the important recipes, information and tips together, so that when they go, they’re set.
My Essential Cookbook is a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to nourish yourself and the people you love, the recipes that bring back childhood memories for me and my kids. It’s the little bits of kitchen wisdom that have been handed down through generations, or passed on from friends, or discovered by accident, or through trial and error. It’s the book I want my boys to have when they have families of their own.
I want them to have these recipes, not just so they can cook well, but so they can cook for the people in their lives and, through that act of love, draw them closer and make them feel valued. So they can create new memories of their own and, by doing that, be truly connected to the patchwork of our family through generations. So they can have family meals like we have – gathered around a table, appreciating the food, laughing and talking about the day.
So their children might develop their own passion for cooking and pay it forward to their children.
SERVES 6 PREP TIME 20 MINUTES COOKING TIME 1 HOUR
750g pork mince 250g premium beef mince 4 eggs 1 cup grated parmesan 1 large garlic clove, crushed 1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs salt and freshly ground black pepper 200g mozzarella cheese, cut into 1cm cubes spaghetti and fresh basil, for serving
1 tablespoon olive oil 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 brown onions, finely chopped 2 x 600ml jars tomato passata ½ teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon black pepper 2 teaspoons sugar 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 Combine all the meatball ingredients except the mozzarella in a large bowl, and use your hands to mix thoroughly. Using damp hands, roll into meatballs about the size of a golf ball, keeping the size uniform. Press a cube of mozzarella into the meatball and make sure it is completely covered with the mince mixture. Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
2 SAUCE Heat the oil in a large chef pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté gently until the onion becomes transparent. Be careful not to brown it. Stir in the passata, oregano, salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Taste and add more salt, sugar or vinegar, as required.
3 Drop the chilled meatballs into the sauce and simmer for 1 hour. 4 Serve meatballs tossed through spaghetti, sprinkled with fresh basil.