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There is always something happening in supermarkets - new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something catches your eye, something is interesting . . .

Anyone fancy Spag Bol?

This month's product under the spotlight is Oxo's Spag Bol. I don't biggest new on the shelf but I spotted it for the first time last week. I'm always keen on any food product which makes cooking easier for those who are learning to cook or for when you are pushed for time.

Spag Bol has always seemed a horrible name for a dish but it is something very British and all it really owes to Italy is the fact that it is served with pasta. I think everyone in the UK instantly knows what to expect when they hear the mention of Spag Bol. I also think there are any amount of versions and no one version is the correct one. It is a dish that everyone and their own twist to.

I think I cook a very good Spag Bol, and my daughters generally enjoy eating it. Last Saturday they had to get their own evening meal so I thought I would give them a choice one of which would be the Oxo Spag Bol. I cooked it in advance so all they would have to do would be reheat it and cook some pasta.

Oxo Spag Bol recipe


500g minced beef
2 x Oxo Spag Bol cubes
1 x Oxo beef stock cube (optional)
1 x onion
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp of tomato purée


  • Brown mince and onions with one Oxo beef cube (optional).
  • Crumble in 1 to 2 Spag Bol recipe cubes and stir well.
  • Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and tomato purée, simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Serve with spaghetti and enjoy!

Serves four
Ready in 15 minutes

So what was it like?

Answer: Disgusting!

One of my daughters said it smelt so disgusting when she lifted the saucepan lid that there was no way she was going to eat it, and that was without even tasting it. I did taste it . . . and it was disgusting!

To my mind the flavours were all wrong and something like that cooked in only 15 minutes is not going to develop any real flavour.

Recommendation: Don't buy Oxo Spag Bol cubes.

If you scroll down further you will find the recipe for my version of Spag Bol so you can judge for yourself which you think would be the more enjoyable.


Terracotta Cazuelas ~ The Spanish Clay Dish

Spanish cazuelasThe Spanish cazuela . . . a magic terracotta cooking dish from Spain that is so versatile that no Spanish kitchen is without them. Cazuelas come in various sizes, the smallest being 6cm which is great for serving tapas like almonds or olives. On the other end of the scale you can buy cazuelas up to 47cm – complete with four ceramic handles and a very impressive piece of pottery indeed.

Cazuelas are suitable for a multitude of uses, they can be used indoors over the gas hob, outdoors on the barbeque, over hot coals and even placed in the oven. Cazuelas also have excellent insulating properties so if your are making for example individual pies then they will remain piping hot. One of the more popular Spanish recipes cooked in these terracotta dishes is “gambas al pil pil” or chili garlic prawns, the recipe is usually cooked outside where the cazuela is filled with olive oil and fresh chili before the prawns are dropped in to furiously sizzle away in the chili infused olive oil – simply delicious!

Although seemingly fragile cazuelas are tough and at their toughest once used. The top tip for cooking with cazuelas is to soak them in cold water (overnight is best) where they can then be used over any heat. Soaking only needs to be done once as after the dish has been used it will retain its heat resistant qualities ready for next time.

So which to choose, what are the most popular sizes? For serving tapas then the 10cm mini cazuela will add a real touch of Spain to your table, all you need to do is think of which tapas to put in each one! General cooking will require something larger, 14cm dishes are good all rounders for individual servings and for something larger to marinade meats or perhaps cook a stew then the 18cm or 23cm are good and also deeper. Not forgetting variations . . . the tagine which originates from Morocco is a superb cooking dish, retaining flavour and ideal for slow cooking and also the sartena, a cazuela with a handle for ease of use especially over the gas hob or barbeque.

Discover more >>>


Having gone to town on OXO's Spag Bol product I thought I might share my easy version with you! Remember you can vary the recipe to suite your tastes, for example you might add real garlic or you might add fresh chopped Basil just before serving.

Spag Bol


250g lean minced beef
1 onion, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes (with garlic if you like)
500g passata (pureed tomatoes)
2 beef OXO cube or 1 Knorr beef cube
2 tbsp Oregano (quantity to your taste)
1 or 2 tsp Gia Garlic paste (or use real thing)
2 tbsp olive oil

How to make:

  • Finely slice onion and gently fry in a large saucepan for 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Add the oregano and continue to fry for a further minute.
  • And the mince and continue to fry, stirring all the time until the meat is browned.
  • Crumble in the Oxo cubes and stir until incorporated into the mince.
  • Add the garlic paste.
  • Add this in tomatoes and stir together.
  • Using the tin that contained the tomatoes, add a tin full of the passata to the pan. (You should have some of the passata left which you can keep to one side in case your source becomes too dry.)
  • Bring your sauce to the boil and then lower the heat to let it gently simmer for about 40 to 50 minutes.
  • The sauce is now done and can be served with spaghetti or pasta of your choice. When serving you can sprinkle on top some ripped basil leaves and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

I always make the sauce well ahead so that it can stand for a few hours before it needs to be served. I think this gives it more flavour.

Remember this is only a guide. You can vary the recipe to suit your own tastes . . . how about adding some sliced mushrooms or some diced red pepper? If using fresh garlic add it to the onion just before you add the minced beef.


Watercress, Potato and Ginger Soup

Watercress, Potato and Ginger SoupIngredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
200g new potatoes, par boiled for 15 minutes until soft
100g watercress, stalks and leaves separated
1 1/2 tsp Schwartz Ginger Ground, Ground
600ml milk
1 1/2 tbsp Schwartz Parsley Flat Leaf
Schwartz Sea Salt and Pepper to season

How to make:

  • Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a saucepan.
  • Add the onion and gently fry until softened, but do not colour.
  • Add the garlic and fry for a further minute.
  • Chop the potatoes roughly and add to the pan with watercress stalks, ginger and milk and boil for 3 - 4 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper, add the watercress leaves and half of the Parsley, stir.
  • Pour into a blender and blend until smooth then divide between 4 bowls.
  • Combine the remaining olive oil with the remaining Parsley and drizzle over the soup to serve.

Serves 4

Recipe courtesy of www.schwartzspicesandhealth.co.uk

  01st-31st Veggie Month March is Veggie Month!

There are many reasons to go veggie including animal welfare, health, environmental protection and cost. If you are concerned about one or more of these issues, why not take the opportunity to try some more meat-free meals during March or take the veggie challenge?

  • Resources
  • Recipes
  • Veggie Events
  • Youth art and poetry competition

Brought to you by Animal Aid

Click for more
  04th-05th FEAST EAST 2011 Tastes of Anglia is gearing up for its 2011 show where you can enjoy wonderful, locally-produced food and drink from the six counties of the East of England. There will be a wide range of produce including cakes and bread, ham, soups and beer with demonstrations and masterclasses from the region’s best chefs. Click for more
08th Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday is traditionally Pancake Day in the UK. The custom arose because of the need to use up food items forbidden during Lent

12th-20th La Dolce Vita

Bringing Italy to London it also features delicious Italian food!

  • Teatro del Gusto Cooking Theatre

    Enjoy daily demonstrations from top chefs from some of London's best Italian restaurants. Get cooking tips from award-winning chefs including Giorgio Locatelli, Francesco Mazzei, Michael Brown, Paolo Barone, Marco Torri, Theo Randall, Andy Needham and many more . . .
  • Producers Market

    Back by popular demand, this treasure trove of delicacies is where you will find some of Italy's best kept food and drink secrets, right in the heart of London! From Olive Oil to Italian preserves be sure to fine something to tickle your tastebuds!

Click for more

13th–20th National Butchers Week The week is now approaching it's fourth year. Full details of all activities coming soon

National Butchers' Week was set up by leading trade magazine Meat Trades Journal to provide the retail butchery sector with a platform to promote their business. The aim of the week is to raise the profile of the trade among consumers, promoting butchers as a beacon of excellence for all things meat, and as a potential career to young people.

Click for more
  21st–27th Bacon Connoisseurs' Week

This year, Bacon Connoisseurs' Week is all about celebrating the amazing range of premium bacon available. There will be a celebrity Bacon Ambassador on board, exploring the many flavours and uses of one of Britain's best-loved ingredients. The Love Pork chef has also created some new bacon-based recipes for you to try plus there will be bacon-themed events and promotions at pubs, restaurants and in stores all around the country.

Click for more

Potato Scones


3/4 lb cooked potatoes
2 ozs butter
3 ozs flour


  • Melt the butter.
  • Rub the potatoes through a sieve or mash finely.
  • Blend the butter into the potatoes.
  • Work the flour and salt into the potatoes until a dough is formed.
  • Place dough in a polythene bag and leave in fridge 30 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough thinly.
  • Cut into round cakes and cook on a hot griddle for about 10 minutes, turning them once.
  • Butter the scones and serve hot either on their own or to accompany a cooked breakfast of bacon and sausages, etc.

The fastest way to bake a Potato!

Wash the potato, coat it with butter. Stick a nail into the centre and bake on a sheet pan so that the potatoes do not touch each other. This should reduce cooking time by at least 20 minutes. The butter will keep the skins from cracking and add flavour.

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