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Spaghetti Bolognese

One battle which continues to haunt the Scottish soul after 260 years is the Hanoverian defeat of the Jacobites at Drummossie Moor on 16 April 1746. This was not a straight-forward battle between Scotland and England but a civil war between relations – the ruling Hanoverians on one side and the deposed Stewarts on the other. The Jacobite Cause and their demise at the Battle of Culloden has been romanticised over the years – the Bonnie Prince as against his Butcher cousin Cumberland has produced countless arguments and books. The Highlands, in particular, paid a terrible price for ‘The Year of the Prince’.

 Thousands of visitors from all over the world take time every year to visit the site of the battle which is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland. The numbers alone would have merited a new visitor centre but recent archaeological and historical research carried out by the Trust revealed that the now- previous visitor centre stood on the third Hanoverian line. As the Trust is determined to restore the battlefield to as close as it was on that fateful day 260 years ago, a new centre was the answer. In one of the largest projects carried out by the Trust some £9 million was spent on building a new visitor and exhibition centre  which was opened to the public on 20 December 2007, a few months later than planned but just before the end of the 2007 Highland Year of Culture. The official opening by Scott Hay, aged 11, and six-year-old Philip Nicol, whose forebears fought in the battle, was carried out on 16 April 2008, the 260th anniversary of the battle. Prior to the official opening a piper played for one hour – the time the battle lasted. The new centre has already proved to be very popular and the Trust have strived to allow the whole Culloden story to be told, shorn of any romantic notions, in an innovative and interactive way to appeal to visitors of all ages.

At the end of the battle, it is said that Lord Elcho shouted at the defeated Prince Charles as he left the field – “Run you damn’d Italian coward” reminding us that the ill-fated Prince was born in Rome. In memory of the Prince’s birthplace this week’s recipe is an Italian one which has become very popular in Scotland.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients:  2 tbsp olive oil or sun-dried tomato oil from the jar; 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped; 2 large onions, chopped; 3 garlic cloves, crushed; 1kg/2¼lb lean minced beef; 2 large glasses of red wine; 2x400g cans chopped tomatoes; 1x290g jar antipasti marinated mushrooms, drained ; 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano or a small handful of fresh leaves, chopped; 1 tsp dried thyme or a small handful of fresh leaves, chopped; drizzle balsamic vinegar; 12-14 sun-dried tomato halves, in oil; salt and freshly ground black pepper; a good handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces; 800g-1kg/1¾-2¼lb dried spaghetti; lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry the bacon until golden over a medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, frying until softened. Increase the heat and add the minced beef. Fry it until it has browned, breaking down any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon. Pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third. Reduce the temperature and stir in the tomatoes, drained mushrooms, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and balsamic vinegar.
2. Either blitz the sun-dried tomatoes in a small blender with a little of the oil to loosen, or just finely chop before adding to the pan. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer the Bolognese sauce over a gentle heat for 1-1½ hours until it's rich and thickened, stirring occasionally. At the end of the cooking time, stir in the basil and add any extra seasoning if necessary.
3. Remove from the heat to 'settle' while you cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water (for the time stated on the packet). Drain and divide between warmed plates. Scatter a little parmesan over the spaghetti before adding a good ladleful of the Bolognese sauce, finishing with a scattering of more cheese and a twist of black pepper.

Serves 6-8

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