Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beef ragu

This is another really simple recipe that doesn't take much effort but is best when left to cook for a long time, like four hours worth of time. It's so easy to throw together though, that I would recommend starting it the day before you want to eat it, as it can be put on after dinner, and left to cook until you go to bed. Then just re-heat it the next night.

Use a cheap cut of beef as the slow cooking process will turn just about anything to velvet. You can use any pre-made tomato napoletana sauce, but I was lucky enough this time to have an exquisite home-made version courtesy of my workmate, David, which turned this from mmm to wow.


1 kilo of diced beef chuck steak
1 big jar of napoletana sauce
1 brown onion
lotsa garlic
olive oil
0.5 litres of beef stock
splash of red wine
herbs of your choosing (basil, oregano, sage and rosemary all spring to mind)
penne, or your preferred pasta
parmasan, salt and pepper to taste

In an oven proof dish, brown the beef in a small amount of olive oil, then remove from the dish. Add some more oil to the dish, then throw in the finely chopped onion and garlic. Once the onion is softened, add the tomato sauce, stock, wine and herbs and bring to a boil. You could add a couple of chopped tomatoes too if you wanted. Then add the beef back in, put the lid on the dish and place in the oven at about 150 Celcius, or as low as you can manage with the sauce still sizzling and leave for at least two hours and preferably four. If you make it the night before it's even better.

When you're ready to eat, bring the sauce to the boil, cook the pasta and scoff it down with garlic bread, if you know what's good for you.

Pasta sauce with slow roasted mushrooms (and other yummy things)

This is a pasta sauce that I like to make from time to time. It's basic, rustic and good for you. The giant field mushrooms have a really meaty texture, and the mushroom flavour becomes potent through the roasting. It takes a little while, but is ridiculously simple, and can be varied according to your preference and whatever you have to hand. Sometimes I also slow roast some tomotoes brushed with balsamic, then add some pecorino or fetta, other times I've just sliced and tossed the mushrooms through some pesto.

It always goes well with a chunkier pasta, like parpadelle, farfalle, orichiette or similar.

This time I mixed the mushrooms through with some sauteed kale and toasted walnuts and had it on gnocchi. This was an excellent combo. In a perfect world I would have made the gnocchi from scratch with a mix of both standard and sweet potatoes, but this time I used fresh potato gnocchi. Here's the recipe:

3 large field mushrooms
1 bunch of kale or Tuscan cabbage
lotsa garlic
a big knob of butter
olive oil
salt and pepper and parmasan to taste

Brush the mushrooms lightly with olive oil on both sides. Place them on their caps and throw a shake of salt and ground pepper over them. Put them in a slow oven (about 140 Celcius).

After about 30 minutes, start the rest of the preparations. First chop the walnuts into big ol' chunks and scatter them around the mushrooms, then return to the oven. Boil some water for the gnocchi, then melt the large knob of butter in a deep, non-stick frying pan.  While this is melting add the gnocchi to the water. Throw the roughly chopped garlic into the buttery pan and after about half a minute, the equally roughly chopped kale and toss through the butter.   At about this time the gnocchi will be done. It takes about 2 minutes, but will float to the top of the water when it's done. Drain the gnocchi on a plate. You can add a splash of the pasta water to the kale to help it wilt, and if you have a bottle handy, add a splash of wine (white or red, either is good but I prefer red) to it as well.

Remove the kale from the pan and rest in a dish. Take the mushrooms from the oven and slice in half, then across in approximately 0.5 centimeter slices. Mix the mushrooms and garlic through the kale.

In the same frying pan you cooked the kale, add a generous splash of olive oil and then scatter the gnocchi into the pan. Toss at 1 minute intervals, until each gnoccho is golden brown on at least one side.  Throw the mushrooms and kale mix over the top, add a small amount of salt and plenty of cracked pepper and grate parmasan over the lot.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Potato and Leek Tart

  • potatoes - 5 small or 3 large
  • 2 leeks
  • mustard (your preference, I use French or Dijon)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 block of gruyere, grated
  • a small amount of parmasen cheese, grated
  • shortcrust pastry (make your own, or if in a hurry, use frozen sheets)
Boil the potatoes until just cooked and still firm (the same consistency you might use for a potato salad). Thaw the pastry sheets and line a greased, fluted pie or tart dish with the pastry, and trim the edges. Line with dry rice or beans and blind bake for 10 minutes or so, the packet will specify the time.  If I don't have beans I sometimes line with foil and blind bake at about 200 degrees - it's not perfect but it's pretty good. While the pastry is in the oven and the potatoes are boiling, thinly slice the leeks and and sautee in butter or olive oil until soft.

Once the potatoes are cooked, run under some cold water to cool them quickly, then slice in half longways, then in half centimeter slices (half moon shaped). 

Mix together the leeks, potatoes, raw egg and half the gruyere cheese with some salt and pepper. Be careful to mix carefully so the potatoes do not turn to mash. 

Spread a generous layer of mustard over the floor of the pastry, then spoon over the potato and leek mixture and spread it to the edges. Cover with the remaining gruyere and the parmasen and bake for a further 15 or 20 minutes, until the top is browning.