Bolognaise Sauce (Ragu)

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Bolognaise is one of the most common form of an Italian Meat Sauce that’s popular the world over. However there are no standardised recipe and presumably every family have their own version largely influenced by which part of Italy they come from. When I came to UK first I got introduced to this very tomato rich sauce with mince meat and often had mushrooms thrown in. Most of the generic ones that I had tried used to repeat on me and I found them very acidic. That put me off initially and then I would not order it from a menu based on my prior experiences and the same went for Lasagne. But I liked the concept. It was much later that I started researching it and got drawn back into it so much so that I wanted to create a version that agreed with me. In 2007 Heston Blumenthal had a show on Television that got my attention. It also revolutionised the way I perceived Bolognaise Sauce. He used milk like they use in certain parts of Italy that I previously did not knew could be done. So I simplified the process to suit me and came up with my own version. You can also read about different techniques on The Guardian’s website here or follow a close version of the original recipe here on Kok Robins’s blog.

I am not claiming any authenticity here but this is a recipe that I have come up using easily available products that tastes good and is not overly complicated. This is also a healthier version where I have cut out some of the initial oil, used lean mince and have not used any cream or butter at the end. It does take a bit of time but its the time that makes this sauce in my opinion. The amount of each each ingredient varies as I do not have any fixed amounts yet so most of them are approximation.

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Ingredients:

Olive Oil 50 ml
Garlic 3 large cloves chopped
Red Chilli 1 medium chopped
Onion 1 large diced
Celary 3 stalks diced
Carrots 2 medium diced
Bayleaf 2
White Wine 100 ml
Milk 250 ml approx
Lean Mince Beef 450 gms
Good quality seasoned Sausages 8 (slightly course mix is preferable)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tomato Puree 1 to 2 tbsp
Worcester Sauce 1 tablespoon
Fish Sauce 1 tablespoon ( I have also used Anchovy paste instead )
Staranise 2 whole
Thyme 2 tsp dry or one fresh sprig (I have also used mixed dry Italian herbs instead)

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Heat oil in a heavy bottom casserole dish. Add the chopped garlic and chopped chilli and stir. After a minute add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle some salt and sweat it over low to medium heat with the cover on for about 20 mins stirring often. Turn up the heat and add the white wine. Fry for a bit longer but without browning the vegetables till the wine is absorbed. Now add the mince meat and the sausage meat. Fry and break up the chunks as you go along. Now add the Worcester Sauce, fish sauce, and salt and pepper.
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Add the Bayleaf, thyme and star anise. Stir for a about 10 minutes and then add just enough milk to cover the mixture. Now bring to a boil and simmer on a very very low flame for about one hour stirring occasionally. Now add the tomato puree. Add any vegetables if you want like mix veg or peas if you wish at this stage. Stir and simmer on low flame for a further 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve with a good quality pasta with grated Italian dry cheese on top.

We also use the same sauce to make lasagne at home using shop bought lasagne sheet (also green lasagne sheets), home made bechamel sauce and little cheese on top.

Update N8vember 2018: I have recently found Aldi selling a 5percent fat Beef and Pork mince in a 750 gsm pack and have used it instead.

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Goan Pork Vindaloo

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I spent 6 months in Goa during my Hotel Management Course and had the pleasure of trying some lovely local dishes. Of all the Goan dishes the Vindaloo is perhaps the most popular the world over. However the ones cooked in the UK curry houses are far from the original. Here it seems to be popular as one of the hottest curry on the menu. However the dish is a Indianised version of the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic. The wine was substituted by vinegar and red chillies and a few other spices, ginger , garlic and sugar were added. Locally it’s also known as vindalho or vindallo. Essentially the spices are ground in vinegar and the meat is marinated in it before cooking. The end result is a delightful hot and sour curry with a slight hint of sweetness. I have heard stories in Goa that during family feasts this was cooked in a earthen pot and then reheated over 7 days before being finally laid in the banquet table. Not sure how true it is and if people these days have that kind of time. However one thing is for sure, this dish is a million miles apart from the curry house offerings. Another good thing is if you are making your own spice paste (easier than you think) you can control the amount of chillies that goes in it.

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I used diced pork fillet and found that with a 5 hour marination the meat was falling into pieces with a gentle touch after about 40 mins of cooking but this will vary. Using Belly Pork or meat with slightly more fat will add to the final flavour of the dish. Dry roasting the spices brings out the best flavour and is defiantly worth the extra effort and time. I also prefer mine with potatoes but this is a matter of personal choice.

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Ingredients
Port Fillet – 500 gms and diced into medium chunks
Onion – 2 medium, sliced
Ginger – a thumb sized piece, peeled
Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin – 1 tsp
Corriander – 2 tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Black Peppercorn – 1 tsp
Red Chilli – 2 medium size (adjust according to taste)
Cinnamon – a 2.5 inch long stick
Cloves – 4 nos
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 4 tbsp (white or malt)
Oil – 4tbsp
Salt To taste
Fresh Curry Leaves – 5 nos (optional)

Method

Dry Roast all the spices except turmeric powder in a hot pan. Transfer onto a cool plate and leave aside. Make a paste with all the roasted spices, turmeric powder, salt, 3 tbsp of the Vinegar, Ginger and Garlic. Marinate the meat in this mixture and leave covered in a fridge for about 5 hours. 30 minutes prior to cooking take it out and allow to come to room temperature.

Add oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when hot add curry leaves if using. Stir for a minute and add the sliced onions. Fry on a medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes till slightly translucent. Now turn the heat up high and add all the meat and its marinating juices. Stir for about 10 minutes. Season with more salt if necessary. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of the vinegar and a drop of water if required. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 30 – 40 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure that its not sticking to the bottom and if necessary add little water to prevent it from sticking. Check meat and take off heat when done (this will depend on the cut of meat and marination but my fillet pieces with 5 hours of marination took 40 mins). It should be very soft to touch with the juices sticking to it. Serve with steamed rice or bread of your choice. This dish can be prepared in advance and reheated when required enhancing the taste even more. I have added potatoes to mine but its a personal choice.