Veal, porcini and cavolo nero ragu

This veal, porcini and cavolo nero cannelloni was inspired by a recent trip to a local Italian restaurant where I had order envy! One of my fellow diners ordered a sumptuous veal cannelloni so I thought, ‘why not make a classic even more special?’. Veal mince is more widely available now and gives a lighter flavour but is still delicious. You will see that I have given you the recipes for the ragu and béchamel sauce but the photo is for the veal ragu served with spaghetti- ‘why?’ I hear you cry! Simple as this: time was short and hunger was high! We all get impatient from time to time but really do try it as a cannelloni!

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the filling
Olive oil
400g veal mince
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 carrot- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml white wine
25g dried porcini mushrooms- rehydrated
Fresh thyme
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
300ml beef stock
100g cavolo nero
Dried or fresh lasagne sheets
Freshly grated parmesan

For the béchamel sauce
500ml milk
1 onion- halved
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
50g butter
50g plain flour

1. I make the veal sauce in advance so it has plenty of time for the flavours to develop. Take a large pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium/ high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the veal mince. You may need to do this in two batches so the meat browns nicely. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. If the veal has released a fair bit of natural fat then drain a little away. Return the pan to a medium heat and cook the onion, garlic and carrot for until softening but not so the onions are catching too much colour. Add the tomato puree and stir so it is well combined before cooking for a minute or two before adding the porcini mushrooms and thyme.

3. I have chosen to use a dry white wine in this recipe to keep it lighter but feel free to use red if you would like. Add the wine to the pan and heat until reduced by half; this will deglaze the pan as well as adding flavour. Pour in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. After the hour is up I then add the cavolo nero before giving it another half an hour or so. Season well.

4. Whilst the sauce is simmering away, you need to make the béchamel sauce which is going to top the cannelloni. For the sauce, secure the bay leaves to the onion halves using the cloves- this way you don’t have to go fishing around the saucepan to find the cloves later on! Add the milk to a small pan and bring to a boil before removing from the heat and allowing the flavours from the bay and clove to infuse for around 20 minutes.

5.Take another pan and melt the butter and flour together until a paste, or roux, is formed. Remove the onion, clove and bay from the pan containing the milk and slowly add the milk to the pan with the roux. Keep stirring so lumps don’t form! Simmer and stir until it thickens before removing it from the heat ready to pour over the cannelloni.

6. When the veal sauce is thick and reduced, you can get going on forming the cannelloni. Take the lasagne sheets and cook for a couple of minutes, drain and allow to cool until you can handle them. Each pasta will vary in time slightly so do refer to the packet instructions. Place a line of the veal sauce to one end of the lasagne sheet (not right on the end, leave a small gap) and roll. Place the pasta tube, seal side down, into a baking dish and repeat the process until the veal sauce has been used. Tuck each tube in snuggly. Pour over the béchamel sauce and grate over a little fresh parmesan. Bake in a 200c/ 180fan preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Veal, porcini and cavolo nero ragu which is fit for a king- a twist on an Italian classic!

 

 

Fiorentina puntalette bake

This is a surefire winner for a midweek feast! You can pick up puntalette, also known as orzo pasta, in most supermarkets or Italian delis now so stock up as you’re sure to make this more than once. I have given you a basic recipe that you can tweak until your heart’s content. Play around with a mix of mushrooms and kale which is delicious!

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g puntalette pasta (rice grain size pasta shapes)
30g butter
30g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
40g creamy blue cheese- such as dolcelatte (optional)
40g parmesan and extra to finish
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 large banana shallot- sliced
Small punnet of chestnut or white mushrooms
Small pack of baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Grab a large pan and cook the puntalette according to packet instructions until al dente. meanwhile you can make the creamy cheese sauce. Take a medium pan and melt the butter together with the flour and a good pinch of mustard powder (optional). Stir together the milk and cream before gradually mixing into the flour. Keep going until all the milk has been added and then keep stirring until it has thickened. Take the pan off the heat and add the cheese until it has melted through.

2. Take a frying pan and heat a glug of oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for a moment or two before turning up the heat to medium/ high and cooking the mushrooms. You need to cook them quickly so remove any excess natural moisture. When they are softening and catching a little colour, take the pan off the heat and set aside.

3. When the pasta is ready, drain well. I then add the cooked mushrooms and spinach into the cheese sauce before combining with the pasta, just allowing the spinach to wilt a little before adding more. Taste and adjust seasoning. A good crack of black pepper never goes amiss!

4. Pop the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with more parmesan and the odd dot of blue cheese if you like. Bake for around 30 minutes in a 200c/ 180fan oven until the cheesy topping is golden and bubbly.

Fiorentina pasta bake- a decadent midweek dish that makes a delicious leftover lunch! If you have any left…

Rich braised short rib with mushroom and golden shallot

Let’s continue on the mission to rediscover underused and forgotten cuts of meat. Next up: beef short ribs! These little (BIG!) beauties are full of flavour and create the most deeply flavoured gravy imaginable. Like a lot of our big cuts of meat, they need to be given time to cook so don’t rush, sit back and enjoy!

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Ingredients- serves 2
Glug of oil
2 whole beef short ribs
8 shallots- peeled and left whole
200g pack of button mushrooms- cleaned and left whole
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
120ml red wine
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
400ml beef stock
2 sprigs of thyme
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to season

1. Start off by unwrapping the ribs and admiring their beauty…..Done? ok, now you can get cooking! Lightly season the ribs and brown them on all sides over a medium/ high heat in a large pan. Remove and set aside.  Leave any fat in the pan and pop in the shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes until they start to go golden and smell amazing. Again, remove and set aside. Preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan.

2. Next up goes in the garlic for a minute followed by the tomato puree to cook together for a further minute. I then add the mushroom and shallot in so they get a lovely tomatoey coating. Glug in the wine and cook until reduced by half. I find that doing it like this means that the mushrooms and shallots take up the flavours even more and will give a richer finish.

3. Add in the tomatoes followed by the stock and nestle the ribs, thyme and bay leaf in amongst everything before bringing to the boil. Pop in the oven for 3 hours until the meat is meltingly tender and falling off the bone. Serve with creamy horseradish mash and tuck in!

Braised short rib, mushroom and golden shallot stew- the ultimate in winter grub! Here’s one more rib shot just for you…

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