I absolutely adore Junior MasterChef (both the UK and Australian versions). I love the idea of kids being passionate about cooking, eating and appreciating good food. As one of the most popular TV shows in recent years, MasterChef has the potential of inspiring a new generation of foodies who otherwise would have been lost to the junk food empire.
The dishes concocted by the young aspiring chefs on Junior MasterChef are nothing short of amazing. From rabbit and mushroom ragu on soft polenta to chocolate fondant with raspberry coulis and fresh berries, these kids definitely know the difference between Tartufi truffles and chocolate truffles!
I was recently invited to have dinner with a family whose two little girls, E and L, receive weekly Chinese lessons from me. E and L are aged 10 and 7 respectively, and are both very fun, playful and intelligent kids. The girls have a wonderful working mother, N, who loves (but wished she had more time) to cook and just had a beautiful new kitchen installed. N also has a neat little fruits & vegies plot in the local community garden that bears fresh greens and sweet fruits of all colours and varieties in spring! Needless to say, her husband, T, is the biggest fan and beneficiary of N’s foodie passion!
Inspired by Junior MasterChef, we decided to go on a culinary adventure with E and L. They would pick one of their mum’s favourite recipes and learn how to make it in two hours. N and I would guide them through the recipe but ultimately they are in charge of the kitchen! (Of course we would help them with safely using the stove and oven)
So E and L took on the challenge of preparing one of N’s signature dishes: tagliatelle al ragù bolognese, served with a simple, fresh salad on the side.
tagliatelle al ragù bolognese
serves 5 (including 2 hungry little ones)
- 60g (2 oz) butter
- 60g (2 oz) minced pancetta
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 red capsicum, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 150g (4 ½ oz) minced lean beef
- 150g (4 ½ oz) minced lean pork
- 60ml dry red wine
- 4-5 tbsp beef stock
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 700g (1½ lb) fresh tagliatelle or 500g (1.1 lb) dried egg tagliatelle
- 60g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
for the ragù
- Heat the butter in a large pan. Add the pancetta, carrot, celery, capsicum and onion and cook for 10 minutes, or until soft, on medium heat.
- Add the minced beef and pork to the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon to break up the mince and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the meat is browned.
- Add the wine and 1tbsp of the stock to the meat and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste, 2 more tbsp of stock and the bay leaf.
- Cover the pan with a lid or cartouche and let simmer for an hour on low heat, adding more stock if it becomes dry.
- At the end, add a little more stock to give the sauce a smoother consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
for the tagliatelle
- Cook the tagliatelle in salted boiling water until al dente.
- Then drain and place it in a hot pasta bowl or plate.
- Spoon the hot mixture over the steaming tagliatelle and serve with freshly grated cheese.
The girls added a simple side salad to complement the main dish (both in taste and aesthetics)! The salad was prepared with mixed greens, a sliced cucumber, diced roma tomatoes, mozarella, baked bread croutons and toasted pine nuts, drizzled in their Mum’s favourite Caesar salad dressing.
And the outcome? Not only do the kids love their tasty, healthy gourmet masterpiece, N now wants them to cook for the family every night!!