A Dry Spell – Followed by Ragu!

We’ve had a bit of a dry spell in the Not Posh kitchen. A house move followed by the loss of our beloved Nana and a wonky spine (off to the physio this morning) has certainly put a dampener on things.

However we are about to enter into a period of culinary activity as  we have a major birthday looming and the house will be full of friends and family. I find in the lead up to big bouts of cooking it’s handy to have a couple of family meals prepared well in advance; which can in turn be quickly served up as and when required.

This next recipe is a family favourite; a proper Ragu. You won’t be whipping this one up after a long day at the office, it’s best made on a day where it can simmer away for a few hours. And if you’re thinking of short cutting those hours – forget it; this is so good because of the slow cook process.

Here’s what you’ll need to feed 4 – 6 hungry mouths:

  • 400 – 500g minced beef (at room temperature)
  • one large onion, or two medium
  • 2 good size cloves of garlic
  • nutmeg
  • salt, pepper and sugar
  • milk
  • 400 – 500g tin / carton of tomato passata or chopped tomatoes
  • spring onions (scallions) and red / yellow / orange peppers (capsicum)
  • white wine
  • olive oil

A good ragu presents as a very rich meaty sauce to be served with pasta. The meat takes on an almost ground consistency after the slow cooking; and even though the ingredients list is not long; the flavour is awesome. For large families this is also a very economical meal.

Start by finely chopping the onion; I do mine in the food processor to get it really neat. Cook it off gently in a large pan in a little olive oil; don’t let it brown. Add the crushed garlic, stirring so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.

Ragu Step 1

Next add the minced beef, it’s important to separate all the strands of mince. It is easiest to do using two forks. You don’t want big lumps of cooked meat as it won’t absorb any flavour. Keep the temperature low, you simply want to take the pinkness away, not to brown it. As soon as the pink is gone, add a really good shaving of nutmeg. You can use ground nutmeg, but I prefer the flavour of the whole nuts. You can use a fine grater or microplane…

Microplane

You will need around a teaspoon of nutmeg to enhance the flavour. Now add some milk, just enough so that the base of the pan is covered, but you can still see the meat.

Ragu Step 2

Allow the meat to absorb the milk very slowly, it should be barely simmering. Make sure you keep the lid off the pan to help with the evaporation process. While this is happening you can prepare the vegetables. I like to use spring onions (scallions) and peppers (capsicum), 1 – 2 of each. I don’t use green peppers as I find them bitter, and the others provide good colour too.  Again, chop these very finely, so for the best result simply trim the spring onions of their ends, core the peppers and throw them all in the food processor.

Ragu Step 3When the milk has evaporated, add the vegetable mix to the meat and some white wine, again, just enough to cover the pan, but not covering the ingredients. Simmer gently with the lid off to allow the wine to evaporate.

Ragu Step 4

Now add your tomato passata / chopped tomatoes, a good seasoning of salt, pepper and sugar. It won’t be looking too great at this point, but gently mix it through, pop the lid on and leave to simmer as gently as possible for at least two hours. It shouldn’t be bubbling,  the idea is a slow cook. Stir every so often and when it is rich and red, check the seasoning again. If it is too sharp it needs more sugar, if it is too bland, more salt.

Ragu

If you used fresh mince, this is a great recipe for freezing in. Serve with pasta and a good chunk of homemade garlic bread (and maybe a salad if you are so inclined!)

As my photography is not as good as my cooking some of my recipes use stock images. The featured image is by Brent Hofacker 

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