Monday, 29 August 2011

Tagliatelle al ragù di manzo - Shin beef ragù with tagliatelle

An interesting variant on the standard bolognese ragù is this one made with very slow cooked shin of beef.  I had thought long and hard about including a wild boar recipe in the book  but decided against because it is not readily available. This isn’t wild boar but the long cooking with red wine gives a powerful depth of flavour reminiscent of sauces made with game meat. If you have a slow cooker that would be ideal for this.  Cooked on top of the slow there is a danger of the bottom catching and burning. Depending on the size of the chunks of meat, it will need a good six to eight hours of slow cooking. By then, the vegetables, bacon and wine will have combined to make a smooth sauce and the meat will be easily flaked.  If you want to be true to the wild boar tradition, you serve it with pappardelle – broad noodles – but if the key word for you is ragù then it must be tagliatelle.
A word about the pasta: I decided to try the experiment of making it entirely by machine and the result was the best ever. I mixed the dough in a Kenwood, and then used the kneading hook on it for ten minutes. As I watched, I saw the consistency changing and when I removed the pasta dough from the mixer bowl it was dry and elastic. After resting it in the fridge for half an hour, I used a pasta machine to roll it out to the second thinnest setting, making sure that I put it through the two broadest settings four or five times. By then it was sublimely silky and easy to work. And I used the Bolognese recipe: 1 egg per 100grams of flour and nothing else.
To follow, we had a dessert made from chestnut puree accompanied by a deep, dark chocolate ice cream that wouldn’t have been out of place in La Sorbetteria or Gianni in Bologna. More of that later.
This recipe makes enough for six. Or you could double the quantities and make an extra portion for freezing.

for the pasta
6 large eggs
600g OO pasta flour
2 teaspoons salt
for the ragù
2 tablespoons olive oil
150g bacon or pancetta
2 onions
2 carrots
2 sticks celery
3 cloves garlic
500g shin of beef
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
200ml red wine
500ml beef stock or beef  stock cube dissolved in hot water
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 large handful of flat leaved parsley


1. Mix the pasta ingredients in a mixer or food processor then knead for 10 minutes. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge.

2. Fry the bacon in the olive oil in a large casserole. Remove and set aside.

3. Finely chop the vegetables and fry slowly until soft and beginning to brown. Remove and set aside.

4. Cut the beef into chunks about 3 or 4 cms in size, having removed surplus fat and gristle. Fry rapidly until browned. Add back the bacon and vegetables, then the wine, driving off the alcohol. Then add the bay leaves, thyme and tomatoes.

5. Bring to barely a simmer, and cook slowly for at least six hours until the meat is very tender.

6. Roll out the pasta, and slice it into tagliatelle.

7. Remove the meat carefully with a slotted spoon. Using two forks, shred it finely, taking care to remove pieces of fat and gristle. Replace the meat, check for seasoning, reheat, adding the parsley finely chopped.

8. Put on the pasta to cook in a large pan of boiling, salted water.

9. Drain the pasta when it is cooked and combine with the ragù. Serve with grated parmesan.

Lunch with the Foodie Bugler herself

Martin's Magimix ice-cream maker churned the most delicious raspberry yoghurt and almond and vanilla ice creams. Berries from the garden.
Raspberry and almond ice creams with blackberries from the garden
Silvana has done us proud in the August edition of the Foodie Bugle. As well as a loving account of lunch here a few weeks ago, she has included pieces about Whitbourne Hall - where we live - and its gardens, plus a report of her visit to our local grocer/butcher/deli, Legges in  Bromyard.Bromyard.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Gnocchi alle fave con pesto di mandorle – Broad bean gnocchi with almond pesto

From a Bolognese point of view, this recipe could be a step too far, a step towards the risky  zone of mongrel fusion food. Well, I’ve eaten broad beans, gnocchi and almond pesto in Bologna – separately - and I don’t think this threatens the integrity of cucina bolognese. But you may think different. You could serve these gnocchi with the standard potato gnocchi, as I did last night, or alone.

Ingredients (serves 4)

for the gnocchi

480g       broad bean paste

80g         cream cheese

2              egg yolks

2 tbl       plain flour

salt and pepper

for the sauce

3 tb        l olive oil

8              shallots

50g         podded and skinned broad beans

50g         grated parmesan

for the pesto

50g         parsley

50g         grated parmesan

50g         sliced almonds

1              garlic clove

4tbl        olive oil

                salt and pepper


1.       Cook the broad beans in plenty of salted water until they are soft.

2.       Process the beans with the other gnocchi ingredients. Chill

3.       Roll out the gnocchi mixture on a lightly floured board creating a number of long sausages the thickness of your thumb.

4.       Flatten the sausages with the back of a fork, and then chop into segments about 2 cms long.

5.       Meanwhile make the pesto by processing all the ingredients.

6.       Put a pan of water on to boil. Reduce to a simmer. Drop the gnocchi into the water, and leave for three minutes. Strain and lay on a clean tea towel to dry.

7.       Heat the olive oil and slowly sauté the shallots until beginning to brown, then add the broad beans and the gnocchi to re-heat.

8.       Serve each portion of gnocchi accompanied by the shallots and broad beans and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. Lay alongside a quenelle-shaped spoonful of pesto.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Cucina Bolognese and Me - 2: Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna

 My ideal dinner companions are people who love good food and enjoy it in the company of others.

Virginio Merola was elected Mayor Bologna for a five year term in May 2011. The candidate of the centre left parties, he won just over 50% of the votes cast. He has committed to tidying up the city centre – long covered in graffiti – and pedestrianising it.  Merola, at home with twitter and facebook, has taken a distinctly modern stand on issues like gay marriage. In a photo for the local paper he posed in jeans and jacket surrounded by his cabinet, half of them women. His interview with us shows that he knows his onions when it comes to Bolognese food, even if he does betray his southern origins by plumping for penne all’arrabiata as his favourite dish.
Virginio Merola: Brought up Bolognese

1. Who or what has been the biggest influence on your food preferences?

Family and upbringing are the things that have shaped my taste in food.  I was born in the South, in the province of Caserta and I was five before we moved to Bologna.
It took me a while  to get used to Bolognese food  because the flavours were quite different to what I was used to. But in time I’ve come to appreciate Bolognese food.

2. Why do you think food is so important for the Bolognese?

Food is important because it reflects the culture and tradition of a community. And Bologna, perhaps more markedly than the rest of Italy, has a strong culinary tradition.
It is not just cooking in its strict sense, i.e. how to mix ingredients to best effect, but also how to create them. Take for example  tagliatelle al ragù, or spaghetti bolognese as it is known outside Italy. Here we always start by making the pasta – la sfoglia – and then we make the sauce. The traditional skills of the sfogline – the people who make the pasta- are handed on from generation to generation by cookery schools in Bologna specially set up for that purpose.  

3. As mayor, what would you like to do to improve the impression that visitors have of Bologna?

One of my priorities is to establish a Bologna brand to strengthen our reputation. The aim is to attract more visitors and to raise our profile as a city. We will focus on quality of life issues because we want to improve the sense of well-being of our own citizens as well as our visitors.

4. My favourite meal is...?

My favorite dish is penne all'arrabbiata

5. My ideal dinner companions?

My ideal dinner companions are people who love good food and enjoy it in the company of  others.