Cannelloni and green fingers

I think I may be getting a little better at gardening. And I think, in a small way, it beautifully illustrates a simple flaw in human nature. The garden that was here when I arrived at my modest mid-terraced house (in a vaguely attractive corner of an otherwise nondescript part of what has become a completely homogenised North London) wasn’t mine. I think that was the problem. It was here when I got here and as such it was someone else’s creation. I had no part in its conception and I therefore had little interest in its upkeep. I can imagine bringing up someone else’s kids might feel pretty much the same. And while I understand that the livelihood of a small child is more important than that of a Magnolia Stellata, I think there are similarities nonetheless. Similarities that I don’t think I should go into on this blog for fear of being set upon by my own little Daily Mail rapid action response and becoming ostracised from quasi-polite, middle-english society (although thinking about it – that would be a wonderful achievement).

But I think I’m right aren’t I? I mean, I did look after the garden when it wasn’t mine. I weeded it every now and again. I even pruned the odd branch and cut it back from time to time, but it was usually only when ordered to by the estate agent (acting as proxy for the landlord who was too chicken to tell me to my face that my front garden needed a trim). So I did care for it – but only I think through a basic sense of duty (or contractual obligation?) and often under duress (divorced mothers up and down the country are now quietly crossing me off their eligible bachelors list as they read this. I’m mortally wounding my chances of any association with a whole cadre of the female population in one blog posting – nice work)…

Anyway, the good news is that as soon as it became mine all of that changed, as I ripped everything out and laid the garden bare ready to sow my own seed. I lovingly prepared the ground, carefully selected and planted my progeny and now I nip outside every hour or so to see how they are doing. I know every little plant and shrub in there by name and I fully intend to nurture them and tend them as my own, watching them flourish, caring for them from season to season until the day when they are fully grown and they make me truly proud.

So what does this all say about human nature? Bugger all I expect, but it seemed to make sense as I was writing it… It’s certainly true that in almost every walk of life, when people (you know who you are) come into a new situation, they invariably believe that the only way they can feel a sense of achievement is to rip out everything that preceded them and start again. And while their little front garden might look fresh and new and full of promise the day after they’ve planted it, the likelihood of it bearing any fruit is no higher than it was before they started, and I’ll bet my life that in a couple of years time it will be full of bloody weeds again… amen.

So, as ever, that has nothing at all to do with what I cooked tonight for the shorts. And why should it? If all I did was post recipes on here I suspect it would get even less views than it gets now. And that’s not easy to do I can promise you…

Cannelloni with Ragu

This is really simple. First make your ragu – standard lasagne style – as follows:
Take 500g of beef mince and fry in batches until it caramelises and then stick it in a large saucepan with a tin of chopped tomatoes (and a little extra water). Now gently fry a finely chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil and again add to the saucepan. Deglaze the frying pan with a glass of red wine, and into the saucepan with it. Now season with salt and pepper and and a big handful of finely chopped fresh basil and/or oregano.

Now make the bechamel. in another saucepan melt a large knob of butter (25g) and add four tablespoons of plain flour, mixing it well, Gradually add milk constantly stirring until you have a thick smooth paste. Now, keeping it on the heat, add more milk and single cream until you have the consistency of thick double cream (as you cook it, it will get thicker). grate in a third of a nutmeg and again season with salt and pepper. The sauce should taste rich and creamy.

Ok, by now the ragu should have cooled, so you take your cannelloni and stick them in the pan with the ragu so that you force it gently into the tubes. Use you fingers if you have to. Once each one is filled, lay them in an over proof dish, filling the bottom with a single layer of the cannelloni. Once you’re done, put the rest of the ragu over the top (hopefully you’ll have almost 1/4 of it left) and let it fill in all the gaps between the tubes. Then pour over the bechamel and finely grate parmesan on top.

Cook it in a hot (180c) oven for about 40-45 mins and serve with a green salad and plenty of good bread. Oh and check out the image in full screen – looks even tastier.

Shorts happy. Shrubs happy.

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