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!

 

 

Rich wild boar ragu with parmesan polenta and gremolata

Let’s face it,  you just can’t beat a good old ragu! Comforting, rich and warming, it really is the perfect choice for a hearty meal so get cooking. To balance the richness of the ragu I made a gremolata to serve with it to add an extra freshness. Gremolata can be served with a range of meat and fish dishes and is so quick and easy to make so do give it a try.

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Ingredients-serves 4
For the ragu
Vegetable oil
500g wild boar- diced into large chunks
1 large white onion -chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
Small pack of pancetta
1 carrot- finely chopped
2 celery sticks- finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml red wine
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
300ml beef stock
Fresh rosemary and bay leaves

For the polenta 
200g polenta
30g butter
30g freshly grated parmesan

For the gremolata (optional)
Handful fresh flatleaf parsley- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely chopped
Zest of a small lemon
Squeeze of lemon juice
Glug of olive oil

1. Get cracking by preheating the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Take a large casserole pan and heat a good glug of oil over a medium to high heat. Add the chunks of boar and cook to brown them off. You could do this in a couple of batches if needed so you don’t overcrowd the pan and start to boil the meat. When browned, remove the boat and set aside.

2. Next up keep the meat juices in the pan and cook the garlic, onion and pancetta until the onion is softened and the pancetta is turning golden. Pop in the carrot and celery and cook for a further couple of minutes. Stir through the tomato puree and make sure it is all well combined.

3. Add the red wine and reduce by half before the stock and tomatoes go in. So in the herbs and season. Cook in the oven for 3 hours until the boar is tender and simply falls apart. Whilst the ragu is coming you can also make the gremolata if you’re using this by mixing all the ingredients together and cooking in the fridge until you need it.

4. When you’re ready to serve, start off the polenta. Cook it according to packet instructions as it can vary slightly. At the end of cooking take the pan off the heat and stir through the butter and parmesan. Taste and check the seasoning and tweak according to taste. Serve the unctuous ragu on a bed of polent and a small amount of the gremolata on top.

Wild boar ragu with parmesan polenta and a gremolata topping- rich, fresh and oh so satisfying!

Ultimate slow cooked bolognese

A great bolognese should be in everyone’s culinary repertoire so let me share mine with you. The key to a beautiful bolognese sauce, or ragu, is slow cooking so be patient! Also remember that Italians traditionally serve this with tagliatelle so use a good quality pasta so the sauce clings to every strand. If you’re not a huge fan of mince then substitute it with diced beef but remember that this would cook better in the oven on a low heat to ensure the meat falls apart.

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Ingredients-serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
400g beef or veal mince or half and half
1 onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Handful of rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 carrot- finely chopped
Small pack of pancetta cubes
120ml red wine
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
Beef stock cube
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400g dried spaghetti or tagliatelle

1. To start, take a large pan and heat 1tbsp of the oil over a high heat and brown off the mince which will take a few minutes. I often use veal mince as it has a lower fat content and gives a lighter bolognese.

2. In a frying pan sautee the chestnut and porcini mushrooms until golden. Mushrooms need to be cooked over a high heat to draw out the water

. 3. Take a heavy based pan (time to crack out my Le Creuset again!) and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat.Cook the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta until it all begins to soften and then add the garlic into the pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pancetta cubes are easy to find however if you want to ramp up the flavour even more then look for a small block of pancetta which you then cut yourself. This tends to have more flavour and a smokey note which you don’t get with precut cubes so head to the local deli and treat yourself!

4. Next the tomato puree goes in to cook off for another couple of minutes, followed by the red wine and aim to reduce this by half. Pop the bay leaf in and sprinkle the oregano.

5. Stir the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in and crumble in the stock cube which will add an additional depth of flavour. Season to taste, bring the bolognese up to a simmer, cover and cook on the hob for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. I also keep some of the porcini mushroom liquor back and add a little to give an extra meatiness.

6. When the bolognese is nearly ready cook the pasta and drain well. I add the pasta into the sauce to ensure each stand if pasta is well coated. Divide the bolognese between the bowls and serve with parmesan.

A classic dish to please any family! I mean who wouldn’t want this simmering away on their hob?…

 

Ultimate slow cooked pork cheek ragu

Pork cheek is an inexpensive and underused cut of meat which really should be on our menus more often. When cooked low and slow the meat simply melts in your mouth. This ragu is rich and intense and is sure to please.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
4 pork cheeks- trimmed and cut into inch chunks
1 tbsp oil
1 onion- chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed or finely chopped
1 celery stick- finely chopped
1 small carrot- finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
2-3 anchovy fillets
60ml red wine
200ml beef stock
400ml chopped tinned tomatoes
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 140c/120 fan. Start by heating the oil over a medium/high heat and brown off the pork chunks. Make sure you brown them well all over to make a rich, dark ragu. When ready, remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Next up goes the onion to soften for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic, celery and carrot for another couple of minutes. Stir through the tomato puree and anchovy fillets and make sure the mix is well coated. Pop in the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half.

3. Add in the stock and tomatoes as well as the bay and thyme. In go the pork cheeks and bring the sauce up to a gentle boil before popping in the preheated oven for 2 1/2- 3 hours. When the ragu is ready the pork cheeks should feel soft to the touch. Serve with pasta, such as rigatoni, tortiglioni, pappardelle, or polenta and dive straight in!

Indulgent, rich pork cheek ragu- worth the time to discover a new cut!