The best ragù ever!!!!
March 14, 2012
As someone who eats mainly vegetarian (chorizo’s not meat right?) I’m rarely completely confident about cooking meat. Give me a filet steak and yes of course I’ll get a result but when it comes to those tougher cuts things get a lot more hit and miss. Flavour might be good but I always seem to have toughness issues despite all the “slow cooking”. Recently, I think I’ve cracked it and what I’ve realised is that 3 hours, despite what books will tell, you is not slow cooking. For slow cooking to really work its magic you need at least 6 and ideally 8. Really. It’s then that you get that meat that falls off the bone and a sauce that wows.
For this kind of dish the holy trinity of celery, onion and carrot really come into its own conferring that wonderful depth of flavour. Wine is also essential. The acidity helps break down the meat fibres and of course it makes things even tastier.
This week’s recipe is for a ragù of beef cheeks and apart from the aforementioned celery, onion, carrot and wine the only other ingredients are a tin of tomatoes and some thyme. That’s all. Sounds way too dull was what I thought the first time I started preparing this dish…….. surely things need spicing up? I was so wrong. What followed was quite simply the best ragù we’d ever made. Some kind of magic happens when you cook simple ingredients for such a long time. The flavours mingle and become so much more than the sum of their individual parts. After a while it’s not even clear what’s in the sauce it just tastes AMAZING.
I love this sauce with those enormous pasta tubes or large flat noodles. Lasagna is on the menu this week and I know for a fact this would be amazing with a bowl of polenta or creamy mash. All you need is some decent Parmesan to serve on top. I strongly advise making double quantities……….
Beef cheek ragù
2 carrots diced
2 onions diced
1 stick of celery diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
5 cloves garlic
750gr beef cheeks cut into large chunks – you might have to hunt a little to track this down. A good butchers should have them or can get them for you. You’ll definitely find them on Moore Street if you’re still having trouble. Cheeks are very tough so cutting and trimming them will take some time so allow for this or, sweet-talk your butcher into doing it for you.
300ml red wine
600ml beef stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy pot. Add the onion, carrot and celery with the bay leaf and thyme then sauté over a gentle heat for about ten minutes until they have nicely softened. Throw in the garlic and cook for another few minutes until tender. Turn off the heat and remove all the vegetables from the pot.
Reheat the pot with another dash of olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper then brown on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary setting aside each batch as it browns. When all the meat is browned and taken off, turn up the heat a little and deglaze the pot with the wine stirring well to ensure all the juices from the meat get thoroughly mixed with the wine. Reduce the wine by half then return the meat and veg to the pot.
Add the stock and tinned tomatoes then season. Bring things to the boil then turn down the heat. Leave partially covered and simmer for 6-8 hours until the meat is falling apart. If things start to dry out simply add a little more stock or water . You should be able to leave things to their own devices for most of the cooking so make sure the heat is nice and low. When the sauce is ready most of the meat will have fallen apart – you can help this along by breaking down the chunks with a wooden spoon towards the end if needs be.
To serve, simply prepare your pasta of choice. This amount of ragù will give you enough for 6 decent portions. Enjoy!