Just back from a short trip to London and I have had the pleasure of hitting the airport bookstore the very second I set foot on English soil. Omg, so gooood to finally pick up English foodie magazines and crossword puzzle books ~ I bought three of each. Best time to do it too coz almost every magazine there was featuring their Christmas feast ideas. These past few weeks I have been getting really over zealous with the cooking … so now I am all cooked out and need a break. Inspiration for me comes and goes in waves and now I can regenerate the food ideas as I pour over all these glossy pictures. There will be weeks where you absolutely cannot keep me out of the kitchen, and then there would be long pauses when I have no idea what to whip up. But now that I am armed to the teeth with foodie mags, I think I shall be right when Christmas rocks around.
Looking at mere pictures is never enough tho …I have been flooded with a wealth of new cookbooks and I have been diligently flipping pages, looking for something to click (in my head). Inspiration is there, but I find the motivation lacking as I cannot bare stepping into the kitchen … I just want to lick the food right off the pages. The best I could come up with was a simple bowl of pasta and sauce. The best excuse I could come up with was that it is comfort food and with the chill in the air these days, it should be the best option. Slow cooked meat sauce is something that should be cooked in large pots so that it lasts a couple of days. The key to a good meat sauce is to allow it to sit and simmer away for a good while to allow the acidity of the tomatoes to sweeten and for the alcohol to cook off.
I have been making meat sauces for spaghetti ever since I was in college. Duuhh … college days always meant tight budgets and cheap dinners, so apart from rice, pasta helped a lot. Even back then I made a pretty decent meat sauce, and I used to make big batches of the stuff to feed friends. My sauce became so famous that it kinda left behind a legacy (only within the circle of said friends) … and they named it after me. 🙂 I used to cook it with ground beef and sausages, but these days I have improvised and made variations, but always with the same principles in mind.
Rigatoni in Beef & Mushroom Ragu.
300 g mince beef
100 g brown mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp majoram
1 can crushed tomatoes
I usually start by turning on my oven coz I tend to bake my sauce nice and slow in the oven rather than on a stove top; sometimes I burn the bottom when I forget to stir the pot.
Chuck the onion and garlic into a blender and give it a fine chop. Then saute in olive oil with a pinch of salt for 5 mins.
Once the onions are soft, add the ground beef and saute until browned and most of the liquid has cooked off. It is always a good idea to rid the meat of excess moisture and to brown it sufficiently for maximum flavour enhancement … just a little something I learnt from watching Marco Pierre White on Youtube
Marco Makes Bolognese.
Then add the chopped mushrooms (you can add them sliced, if you prefer). Again, saute until all the moisture has left the mushrooms.
Now add tomato paste and cook it thoroughly with the ground beef and mushrooms. Also add in the dried herbs of your choice.
Add with wine and beef stock and crushed tomatoes. Season with salt. Cover with a tight fitting lid and either simmer on the stove top or shove it in the oven for 40 – 60 mins.
After an hour take it out and stir in some fresh basil leaves and leave the sauce to sit a while. In the meantime, boil your pasta in salted water until al dente.
Toss cooked pasta in the beef and mushroom ragu. Grate some cheese on the top and you are ready for dinner.
I generally make lots of sauce and keep the rest in the fridge to use on other things, like on toast the next day. Or to have in a simple burrito wrap. Freeze some if you prefer, and that means you will always have sauce on hand the next time you want pasta in a hurry.
Haapy days … I took this gorgeous plate of food with me to the couch and curled up with my magazines for a double dose of Christmas food porn. Brilliant! Now I feel like I can take on the festive season single handedly … if only we weren’t moving and packing up the entire bloody house and I had access to all my gadgets packed in boxes. Oh well, there is always next year, I suppose. And I plan on decorating the entire house in gold and bronze hues. *makes note to self*