Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sunday Night Ragu

Spag bol: beloved by most as a fail proof and inexpensive student/weekday staple/can't think of anything else to cook with mince dish. Yet say the word ragu and I instantly think of  something special made with slow cooked hunks of meat, beef, lamb, venison, whatever you have, gently simmered for as many hours as it takes to allow it to be shredded into soft sweet strands, all melty and delicious. I actually looked it up on Wikepdia and I think we have just bastardised and cheapened Ragu alla Bolognese into a reliable and easy weekday fodder.  I think of good old reliable bol as being the Primark to a decent ragu's Prada. Now we all love and need a bit of good old Primarni every now and again, but a proper slow ragu cooked with time and love, is really where the quality and taste is, a necessary treat. This may not make sense to boys reading this but never mind.

I went home for the weekend to stay with the rentals and had to leave on Sunday, before Mum's legendary roast beef (with the best Yorkshires known to man). Being the kind and generous soul she is, Mum actually cut off a chunk of the roasting joint and gave it to me to take home! How nice is that?! So I eventually got back to Surbiton, having left Salisbury, the train being diverted via Southampton Central (ggrrr), and proceeded to make beef ragu, and this is how you make it:

Feeds 3 (random I know but it was a random bit of beef, just add more tomatoes and wine if using more meat). Take a 400g piece of beef topside and slice in half lengthways so you have two thinner bits of meat. Brown in olive oil in a casserole and season. Remove and set aside and fry a chopped onion until starting to soften, then add 4 chopped cloves of garlic and a decent pinch of dried chilli. (I also threw in a spoonful of Colombian aji, a fiery hot pepper sauce that my friend Simon had just brought over with some amazing empanadas as a tasty and very welcome present). Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a glass of red wine, return the meat to the pan with all the juices, and add water if the liquid doesn't quite cover the meat. Put the lid on and simmer for a couple of hours, poking it about every once in a while to make sure its not sticking and adding more water if it looks like it's drying out. It's done when you can shred the meat with two forks, do this on a chopping board and then return all the meat back into the sauce (if it doesn't seem like it wants to shred, try from a different angle as the 'grain' of the meat is directional). I made a little gremolata which I thoroughly recommend (a mixture of finely chopped lemon zest, garlic and parsley sprinkled over the top), which really sings on top of the deep savoury meaty richness. Plop a few big spoon fulls of ragu over some pasta and the world is suddenly a better place.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

End Of Summer (meat) Party

Want. Now.
Towards the end of the summer I was getting that old nagging feeling, a little whisper in my ear that said 'Hey, you haven't had a party for a while, surely your nice nearly finished garden needs trashing while you water the lawn with red wine...' It was decided, we were to have a bash, invite all our friends, and above all, cook delicious meat. The meat planning commenced, or rather I day dreamed about marinating, jerking and rubbing for a few days before consulting the Bularian Meat Man of Surbiton. This wasn't something I did without thought, he is a serious and busy man, I didn't want to waste his time, what I did want was some beautiful meat. To cut a long story short, I asked for some pork and chicken wings and got to work deciding on a jerk recipe for the wings and some sort of fennely garlicky rub for the pork. Not necessary. I went to pick up the meat and it was handed to me by a girl who's name he had just texted to me (all very cloak and dagger) and I was a bit perplexed when I found the pork to be slightly warm.  I could see it was vacuum packed in (what I thought) was its own juices and blood, and cut open the bag over the sink as soon as I got home to investigate. Nooooooooo!!! It became immediately clear that this most generous man had not only marinated the meat, but cooked it in his sous vide for 48 hours at low temperature. I felt such a fool. Unworthy of such meat bestowed unto me, I pulled myself together (no point in crying over spilt marinade) and rubbed it with garlic and fennel anyway, wrapped it tightly in clingfilm to keep the moisture in and stuffed them in the fridge. The meat was so tender I could have broken the flesh in half. I prayed I hadn't blown it and planned to just brown them on the barbie the next day, surely the two hunks of oink would be fine? They were, and it was a triumph, but I desperately tried to get them cooked and sliced up before the  meat man came and saw what I had done to his perfect pork. I have never seen so many people gorging on soft melty pork all at once, I just wish I had saved more for myself as by the time I got some I was so hammered I can barely remember it. But I know it was definitely good.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Kind of Korean...supposedly

As mentioned in previous posts, the Boyfriend just loves to help out with the shopping, returning home, a proud hunter-gatherer, clutching in his arms...packets from the supermarket with the magical red stickers on them. A few weeks ago it was steak, very expensive steak: 'But look how much it was, it must be really good!'. Which is fine, but the freezer was choca and we were going away for a few days so I had to spend half an hour playing tetris with the contents of the freezer to wedge the two massive fillet steaks in.

It turned out to be worth it, as it was one of the best steaks cooked at home ever. But there were two to deal woth and only one had been eaten. Steak twice in a row? Now I love meat, but I knew I would't appreciate two steak dinners on the trot, so I went Eastern. Stir fry type dishes are ace because you don't need that much meat and you can use up that half onion, slightly limp greens and bit of broccoli sulking in the fridge. I bastardised a recipe that inspired dinner, called Sizzling Korean Steak  or something like that, but really it was just a slightly fancy pants stir fry, nothing wrong with that, I might add.

Feeds 2: Slice up a really tasty piece of fillet steak (approx 300g) as thin as you can. In a bowl mix 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 1tbsp mirin, a tsp sugar, 1tsp sesame oil, 1tsp fish sauce, 2 chopped garlic cloves and as much chilli as you care for. Take whatever veg you have (I used broccoli, baby sweetcorn, onion and mange tout) fresh and perky or aged and slightly festering and slice into pleasing shapes. For anything like onion which takes a little bit of cooking, cook this first, in a wok with hot oil until just softening. You have to you use your initiative here, adding veg in order of how long it takes to cook, the beef will take 3 minutes so throw that in when you're nearly done mix well, and add some pre-cooked noodles, or just serve with rice. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and sliced spring onions and chow down, safe in the knowledge that you rescued your wilting veg from a destiny of mould and the compost bin.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

MY Spicy Meatballs (not Mama's)

You know you want it...
I once read in a 'foodie' magazine that one should never use wine when cooking, that one wouldn't be happy to drink. Balls to that. I have, on average, 4-5 half drunk, verging on vinagary bottles of red in the kitchen, plus a cheeky, definitely undrinkable white in the fridge (why it's still in the fridge 3 weeks after opening, I don't know). I would never throw wine out; it vexes me to pour the delicious freshly opened Rioja I'm glugging into the casserole, when a bottle past it's best will do fine. Like I said, I usually have a nice collection of said 'mature' wine, so this rarely happens.

So yes, there is red wine in this recipe. This one pot wonder of a dish is brilliant because, um, it's in one pot. It also involves minimal faffing, is great to cook in a massive batch for the freezer, and tastes lush.

Feeds four: Pre-heat the oven to 200c. In a large bowl combine 500g beef mince, 2tbsp chopped stoned black olives, 2tbsp grated Parmesan, 1tbsp chopped parsley, as much chopped fresh or dried chili as you desire/can handle, 1 egg and a smallish finely chopped onion and seasoning. Roll into same sized meatballs, big ones, little ones, you choose ( I like little ones because you get more, yessss), and place in a very lightly oiled deep baking tray or casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Now add a very big glass of red wine, rolling the meatballs round a bit and bake for another 10 minutes. Stir in a tin of chopped tomatoes, mix well, combining the meat juices and wine with the tomatoes and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until the tops of the meatballs have browned and the sauce has thickened. Serve with whatever type of pasta you fancy and get stuck in.*

*Do remember this recipe is for 4, so don't feel you have to eat the lot, it can be very tricky resisting this urge, and The Little Dinner Lady takes no responsibility for weight gain caused by this recipe, or any other recipe for that matter. She has her own to worry about.