Andrew’s Birthday Treat

My lovely no. 1 son is 32 today.  Hard to believe it’s been so long since I first saw him, born at 16.20 on market day just in time for tea.  He was  the most beautiful baby despite the sticking up hair and all the nurses wanted to take him home.  He was amiable, cheerful and later would sit for ages on Papa’s knee listening to the finer points of combine harvesters and forage harvesters.  He was a text book baby – if the text book said to expect teeth at a certain age, Andrew got them; the only thing he didn’t do by the book, thank heavens, was have the Terrible Twos (but then none of you did – you were no worse at two than at any other age).   Andrew was never particularly difficult – most of my parenting problems with him derived from the fact that we’re so similar, both in looks and in nature, and for nature read ‘temper’.  (By the way, well done, Nico – Andrew tells me that you’ve just realised that he and I do look alike.)  Andrew has often said that the reason he keeps a beard is because it makes it less obvious that we’re related.

Lots of disconnected thoughts are bouncing around in my head, Andrew – how you used to re-wrap a present that you really wanted because you couldn’t quite believe it was yours; your obsession with Saabs; how many times you went to the Railway Museum with Papa because you didn’t want to upset him by saying you’d been too often; Suzy saying that you couldn’t walk yet because, even though you could walk across the room, you couldn’t pick yourself up; exploring the Welsh castles with you; what a wonderful big brother you are to everyone, even to people who aren’t your little brother; your stoicism in facing this shitty illness; and especially I see your face not so long ago when you told me you’d fallen in love. And not only are you my no. 1 but you’re Suzy’s no. 1 too.  We really didn’t know what we were doing, but, darling boy, you were loved a lot, and you still are.

So today’s recipe is a dish that Andrew loved and which sadly hasn’t been made for a long time.  Andrew’s 6th birthday occurred soon after we moved to Hong Kong and he didn’t have any friends for a party (all together now ….   ahhhhhh).  In keeping with tradition, I asked him what he’d like for his birthday tea – he looked at me and smiled and said ‘You know’.  I responded confidently ‘Spaghetti Carbonara’ and he said ‘No, Dad’s spaghetti bolognaise‘.  I was crushed.  Dad thought it was hugely funny.  I have almost got over it.

The recipe came from The Dairy Book of Home Cookery which was published by the Milk Marketing Board, and which you could buy if you ordered enough pints from your milkman.  It’s a wonderful book which has all the basic recipes you could ever need, and this is

Dad’s Spaghetti Bolognaise – Ingredients

(Serves 4)

  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely
  • 40 g / 1.5 oz butter
  • 2 tspns olive oil
  • 250 g / 8 oz lean minced beef
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 100 g / 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 300 ml / 1/2 pint water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150 g / 5 oz can tomato puree
  • 2 level tspns sugar
  • 1/2 level tspn basil or mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 350 g / 12 oz spaghetti


Gently fry onion in butter and oil until pale gold.  Add beef.  Fry for 3 to 4 minutes until beef is brown and there are no lumps.  Add garlic.

Add mushrooms, bay leaf, water, tomato puree, sugar, basil or mixed herbs, and salt and pepper (to taste) to saucepan with beef mixture.

Bring slowly to boil, stirring.  Cover pan and lower heat.  Simmer for 30 mins.  Uncover and cook for a further 20 to 30 mins (or until about half the liquid has evaporated).  Stir frequently.

Cook spaghetti according to instructions and drain well.


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