A while ago I wrote up a bunch of recipes for cooking for your young people, this included a standard recipe for easy bolognese with how to turn it into other things like chilli. I have since learnt a more excellent way. As I pointed out then, “in every youth group there is one young person who states they hate onions. They don’t, they hate the big lumps of onions that aren’t properly cooked. So just make sure they’re diced fairly finely and cooked properly.” This is true, but the solution I offered isn’t the best one. Sure it works, but it takes a lot of practice to dice onions finely and you’ll still inevitable miss a bit that a young person will find and complain about. So, here’s a better solution. Buy one of these:
This is a hand blender. You should buy one. Not this one; this one’s rubbish. This one constantly smells and sounds like an old Scalextric set that’s been raced all day. I’m worried to use the more powerful setting in case I end up cooking bolognese a-la-burnt-and-on-fire-motor. We used to have a much better one; the standard model John Lewis hand blender which proved pretty much indestructible apart from an strange inability to cope with being left lying on top of a still hot hob. Anyway…
The magic of a hand-blender is it can take chopped up onions and garlic and carrots and celery and turn it into a mush like substance that still browns and brings out flavour excellently. And because it turns things into a big mush, after they’ve been cooked through and the beef and liquid has been added to it, they disappear completely and utterly. The flavour remains and they add bulk and thicken the food, but the young people will never know they’re there.
Of course, you could do all this in a food processor, but food processors are big and expensive. Hand blenders are cheap and live in the cupboard under the microwave and can be pulled out, used, washed, put away again, in the time it takes you to work out which way round all the bits are meant to go in the food processor. A hand blender also doesn’t just solve the problem of your young person who hates onions, no! It also solves the problem of your young person who hates lumps of tinned tomatoes.
You can use it for other stuff too obviously, whipping cream, blending soups, emulsifying mayonnaise. But as a youth worker I find its primary purpose is hiding vegetables from young people.