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FoodThe Croft2023

Filthy/Gorgeous in the Kitchen

Inspired by the kitsch within our kitchens, Emma Witham plays with non-aesthetic food items, providing a recipe which finds the gorgeous within the filthy.

By Emma Witham, Food Digital Editor

The Croft Magazine// I’ve never been a hugely inventive cook. I don’t enjoy throwing everything I have left in my fridge all-together - rather unlike my partner, evidenced in his recent creation of a dish that mixed both sauerkraut and lentils. He’ll play with any forceful flavours he can get his hands on, while I generally just stick to the flavour pairings I know and love. But I’ll always adopt someone’s recipe and make it my own, bringing it from gorgeously complex to downright cheap and easy. And I have no shame behind that either.

I’ve made potato salads where I’ve swapped boiled potatoes to canned ones, and I’ll stick frozen veg in a stir-fry any day. There should be no shame around long-life ingredients – on a low and solitary budget, it’s good to have staples that won’t go off as quickly as fresh will and it saves you lots of time during tired evenings. Can-filled cupboards certainly aren’t as eye-catching as the veggie cornucopia of a fridge, yet I can’t help but love it. Bring on the frozen spinach!

One of my favourite recipes is about as far away from aesthetically pleasing as you can get, a staple dish of mine that will always make others question my tastebuds. It’s a recipe I learnt from my mum; a recipe written in my notes app dating from before I even started University. It’s essentially a Spaghetti Bolognese, but it’s made with canned tuna instead of beef mince. I’ve never used a fresh tuna steak in it – I wouldn’t know the first thing about how!

Yet I’ve managed to alter it to all sorts of tastes and dietary requirements, swapping the tuna for courgette and removing the non-veggie ingredients. It’s easy, adaptable and filling, and can be batch made and saved in containers for future easy dinners - even mixed with rice, peas and broccoli to make a dish playfully known as Tuna Mice in my household. I’d recommend the Bolognese with a side salad, made of rocket, lambs lettuce and beetroot leaves, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Ⓒ Saiba Haque

The Recipe:

Ingredients (Makes 3 servings):

400g chopped tomatoes – canned or fresh

3 portions spaghetti

1 large red onion

½ tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of ground black pepper

1 tbsp tomato puree

3 splashes Worcester sauce

15ml red wine – or more if you like it a bit more boozy

1 splash balsamic vinegar

1 vegetable stock cube

1 carrot

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 cans of tuna steak according to preference

Mixed herbs - preferably a mix of thyme, rosemary, sage, basil and oregano,  fresh or readily prepared (supermarkets often do their own brand)

A couple splashes of olive oil


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, over a medium to high heat.
  2. Dice the red onion and garlic cloves as coarsely as you like, and then add to the saucepan once hot, and fry off until they soften and some colour is lost from the onion.
  3. Grate the carrot as finely as possible and put to one side.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir at high heat, then simmer for around 3 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat down to between medium and low heat, and add the rest of the ingredients, including the carrot. There’s no need to make stock with the stock cube – quite literally just add it in.
  6. Cover partially and let simmer over a low heat for around 40 minutes, giving the occasional stir.
  7. About 15 minutes before the Bolognese is ready, heat the kettle and pour the hot water into a saucepan, ready to be salted and add the spaghetti.
  8. Strain the spaghetti once cooked, and take the Bolognese off the heat once reduced slightly.
  9. Plate up and enjoy with optional salad alongside.

Adapting this recipe is easy enough too, so do play with it. I like experimenting with bell peppers and courgette, but you might want to stick a whole head of broccoli in there. The point of this filthy yet gorgeous recipe is really the fun of it. Get weird and enjoy!

Featured image by Saiba Haque

Which food combinations would you consider disgustingly gorgeous?