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Cheat’s pork meatballs with tagliatelle

pork meatballsA few years ago, one of the Sunday papers had a weekly column “How to Cheat at Cooking”. Canny recipes created by Delia Smith. Danny and I loved trying these. They introduced us to new ingredients and showed us how to cut corners. They encouraged us to experiment and become a bit more relaxed about all our cooking. After a while we lost interest as we were striving to cook everything from scratch. Great if you are home early. If you totter in at eight, scratch cooking means that you could well be eating at ten. As we have found to our cost.

A lot of my clients are talented cooks with tight schedules. When they are up against it, they use ready made sauces, which they adapt and give them their own special twist. They are happy to share their secrets. Lloyd Grossman and Seeds of Change seem to be the odds on favourites. Secretly I though they were crazy. Making good, tasty sauces is so easy and usually they freeze well.

Recently, we have been working late and eating very late. Something had to give. A few weeks ago I bought a jar of Waitrose Tomato and Herb Pasta Sauce to spread on homemade pizzas before I loaded on a lavish homemade roasted vegetable topping. I was seduced by the 99p price tag rather than the jar.

I didn’t find the time to make the pizzas and the sauce loitered in the larder. Last week I discovered that we had run out of our homemade pasta sauce and the good old standbys of tinned tomatoes and passata. In a desperate exploration of our larder, I spotted the jar standing upright surrounded by the pale green stems of a rose that had crept through the window and quietly invaded our storage space.

I examined the label and was delighted to find that the sauce contained onions and garlic. Suddenly this jar of sauce was my best friend РI could skip the onion saut̩ing stage (it was meatballs again; pork this time). In seconds it was opened and released into the depths of the casserole. I tossed in a couple of handfuls of chopped Marmara and sweet Romano peppers and some fresh roughly chopped tomatoes. I sprinkled herbs and 50g of white breadcrumbs onto the minced pork and moulded 16 meatballs. These beauties were ready in half an hour and the sauce was as soft and delicious as the succulent pork mouthfuls. Usually it takes me a good hour (plus, plus), to make a decent sauce and meatballs from scratch.

I have just ventured onto Delia Online to see whether her cheat recipes are included on her site. I discovered the she has a new series of how to cheat recipes which look rather tempting. As she says, in one of the recipes.
“Cheats are not perfectionists, they’re realists.”

If you want to eat well and you are on a very tight time schedule, some of these recipes might be the answer.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Roisin,

    Thanks for your tip. I will look out for Bunalun Organics. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I was raised by a mother and father who grew everything and cooked everything from scratch. I only realised about 2 years ago (at the age of 36) that I could buy a jar of tomatoe sauce. I am a mother of 3 young children. While I like Lloyd Grossmans sauces they are expensive and oily and have what I refer to as junk in them (stuff that I would not normally have in my food cooking from scratch).
    Having tried some sauces the best brand that I can purchase which tastes just like my homemade tomatoe sauce is by a company called Bunalun Organics. All organic & no crap added.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi z,

    Isn’t it amazing that, only thirty years ago, tinned toms were considered a cheat! I do remember the soup ingredient explosion -it was always Campbell™s in those days.

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate,

    There is nothing like a leisurely cook for friends and family. We are under pressure, time wise, at the moment and experimenting with cooking food that can become part of another meal.

    Cheating is fine. The problem is that I don’t like the taste of most ‘off the shelf’ sauces. This one is good as a stand alone sauce and also a perfect base to be doctored to your taste.

  5. I’ve just fished down my mother’s copy of How to cheat at cooking. First printed in 1971, this paperback dates from 1976. Glancing through, there’s not much actual ‘cheating’ going on, unless you count a tin of tomatoes and a stock cube. It’s dated by its use of tinned soup rather than cook-in sauces however.

  6. Cheating sounds like a fine idea – I do it often because I’d rather be out in the garden. Besides cooking for my 14-yr.-old son has made me into a different sort of cook than I used to be. Now I save up my leisurely cooking times for friends.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Spot on, Amanda. D wants a proper meal in the evening. If I drift back from eork at eight this sort of meal is a godsend.

  8. I think the way we all live nowadays (even if at a slower pace to some) you sometimes have to cheat. You know I’m a firm believer of sharing cheating recipes. I sometimes like to compare the two and work out if it was worth the extra effort of cheating or not.

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