My family started making spaghetti bolognese on the fire during camping trips in Botswana and Namibia when I was a teenager. As much as I like braaied steak and boerewors, you can’t eat that every day. The secret to a great bolognese sauce is to simmer it over low coals for a few hours. The problem with cooking something that smells this good for 3 hours when camping in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is that a pride of lions might smell it as well and pay your camp a visit, as happened to us one evening. We ate in the car that night.
WHAT YOU NEED (serves 4–6)
- 2 tots olive oil
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 1 carrot (grated)
- 1 celery stick (finely chopped)
- 500 g lean beef mince
- 200–250 g smoked streaky bacon (diced)
- ½ tot mixed dried herbs (or 1 tot finely chopped fresh herbs like basil, thyme and parsley)
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes
- 2 tots tomato paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tot lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- To serve: 500 g pasta like tagliatelle or spaghetti
- Parmesan cheese (grated or shaved)
WHAT TO DO
- Heat oil in a potjie over a medium-hot fire. Add the onion, carrot and celery and gently fry for 5–10 minutes until the onions are soft and shiny but not brown.
- Add the mince, bacon and herbs to the pot and fry for 10 minutes until the meat starts to brown. Stir often and break up any lumps in the mince. You want the bottom of the pot to become slightly brown and sticky here and there, as this adds flavour to the meal, but you don’t want it to actually burn.
- Pour in the wine and stir well. Use your spoon to scrape and loosen any bits of meat or other matter stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the wine is almost completely reduced.
- Now add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to a simmer over low heat. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 20–30 minutes to ensure that the sauce doesn’t cook dry and burn. You need very low and gentle heat, exactly the opposite of braaing steak. (If the pot runs dry, add a bit of water.)
- After 2 hours, take off the lid and simmer uncovered for another 20-odd minutes. While you enjoy the aroma, keep a close eye on the pot – you want the sauce to reduce and thicken but not burn. During this time, cook the pasta in salted water in a separate pot.
- When you’re happy with the bolognese sauce, serve the sauce with the pasta and a handful of grated Parmesan.