Retro Food For Modern Times – Singers and Swingers – Roberta Ashley (1967): Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Spaghetti Bolognese

What do my latest kitchen rule and the American military have in common?

Hint – the answer is in the title.

Prompted by my latest foray into Roberta Ashley’s  Singers and Swingers, the events of this week have led me to adopt a strict “need to know policy” in terms of the produce issuing from said kitchen.

The recipe in question was Noel Harrison’s Spaghetti Bolognese, inspired by a recipe by none other than Elizabeth David

It obviously wasn’t all franks and beans for the celebrities of 1967, some of them were slightly more highbrow.

Noel Harrison 001

I dithered over making this recipe for about a week before deciding to go for it.  The reason?

I don’t care if the recipe is inspired by the Grand Dame of British Cookery, a Spaghetti Bolognese without garlic is not any Spaghetti Bolognese I care to make!

That’s not true, well it’s partially true but the real reason for the prevarication was the presence of chicken livers in the recipe.

Ingredients - Noel Harrison's Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients – Noel Harrison’s Spaghetti Bolognese with a sneaky garlic clove thrown in!

I have never cooked liver before, in fact I have never, outside of a paté even eaten liver before.  I am actually a bit frightened by the thought of offal. Still, one of my reasons for wanting to do this was to expand my horizons as a cook, so whilst it took a bit of internal debate there really was only one decision that made sense.

The texture of the raw liver was…ooky.  It was softer than I thought it would be, almost a little spongy and a little….stringy. It was kind of gross.  I would certainly not discount using chicken liver in a recipe again but I’m not scouring recipe books either!

Chicken Liver

Chicken Liver

Still, I persevered, (yay, me!) and the end result was a super Spaghetti Bolognese, even if I do say so myself.  It was rich and flavoursome.  There was an undercurrent of liver but the flavour certainly wasn’t overpowering.  Bravo Noel Harrison and Elizabeth David!

Simmering Bolognese Sauce

Simmering Bolognese Sauce

I made the Bolognese sauce in the afternoon as I wanted it to simmer for a few hours.  I had a gym class that evening, so just before I left I  put the spaghetti on to boil and left Mark to fend for himself.   When I got home, he had eaten his.

“Did you like it?”

“I was the best spaghetti Bolognese I have ever had…it was delicious” Proof is in the eating.  he wiped his plate clean.

Mark's Plate...

Mark’s Plate…

Wow!  That’s some praise from a notoriously picky eater!

So, I then sat down to eat mine and, he was right, it was pretty damn good!

I’m putting my next comments down to delirium caused by too much exercise.  Too much jumping around is not good for my brain!  Because the next words out of my mouth were “Yeah, I was really worried about putting the chicken livers in there but they work”.

That was it.  I continued eating, he continued watching tv.

End of discussion.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese

Or possibly not.

The next night, we were having left over Bolognese with garlic bread, also from the book.  Or I thought we were. I ‘d started to reheat  the Bolognese sauce when I heard a small voice behind me.

“I don’t think I can eat it”.


“You shouldn’t have told me about the chicken livers”

“But you eat liver, you eat calves livers when we go out and they’re huge…the chicken livers were tiny”

“I know”

“You had chicken liver paté on toast for breakfast”

“I know”

“You said it was the BEST Spaghetti Bolognese you’ve ever eaten”

“That was before I knew about the chicken livers…I’ll have the garlic bread though, that looks great”

Bolognese and Garlic Bread

Bolognese and Garlic Bread

This example of man logic  floored me.  On a scale of one to ten where one is cold hard calculated rationality and ten is utter gibberish, surely this rates a 9.5?

So, from now on….any, and all, feats of kitchen wizardry are going to be hidden behind a veil, cloaked in a cone of silence and locked in a vault. From now on, nothing coming from my kitchen is being divulged to anyone.  Ever.

Except for you dear readers…just don’t tell anyone!

hear no evil

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2 thoughts on “Retro Food For Modern Times – Singers and Swingers – Roberta Ashley (1967): Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Spaghetti Bolognese

  1. Erica February 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm Reply

    That’s why every single meat my kids eat, no matter what it may actually be, is called chicken. Even the tofu.

    (He’s right, that garlic bread DOES look great…)

    • tarynnicole February 28, 2013 at 7:40 am Reply


      My mum used to tell me Brussels Sprouts were special cabbages that normally, only the fairies were allowed to eat. It worked!

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