About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006
The Gift
Hmmm, I love long, slow cooked foods. Sometimes you forget about your favourite ones for a while, then something triggers your memory and off you race to the kitchen on a mission of creation. I don't recall what the trigger was for me a couple of weeks ago, but the dish I had to have was pasta with bolognese sauce.

Now I've seen bolognese sauce whipped up in half an hour, but not mine and I suspect not from anyone who cares about food. It's amazing how many secret ingredients there are for all the classics, purportedly lifting a dish to new heights, but the real secret for bolognese sauce is not what you put into it, rather it's what you give it and that is plenty of time to cook.

When you consider mince meat, all of you would realize we are not talking prime cuts, rather secondary cuts that if you cooked in their own right, would require a lengthy cooking time to be properly tender. So it is with the mince. Of course it can be cooked for a short period of time as it is when made into hamburger patties, but the reason hamburger is not tough is that all the meat fibres have been cut short, but regardless of the shortness of the meat fibres, butchers mince will never be as tender as a piece of eye fillet that you have hand chopped or minced and is the reason that eye fillet is used for steak tartare instead of something from the blade for instance.

What happens to mince after cooking for two hours or so, is that it breaks down and melts into the sauce. If you have a taste of bolognese sauce just as it comes to the boil and a taste after two hours of simmering, what you will notice is the texture of the longer cooked sauce is smooth and homogeneous and all the flavours have merged into something entirely different from a short cooked sauce where the flavour of the meat and tomato dominates and the texture is almost gritty. The other property of a long cooked sauce is that it will cling better to pasta as it is more paste like.

Because of the long cooking time involved, I always cook way more sauce than is needed and freeze the remainder for future meals. Just as I was putting the leftover sauce into containers for freezing, my wife D came into the kitchen.

"I'm giving you a gift." I proudly told her.

"What's that?" she asked expectantly.

"I've cooked four dinners for you for later on."

The look on her face told me that the next time I say that, there better be a back up present and a restating of my love for her.

Bolognese Sauce

2 large onions, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
3-4 ribs celery, finely diced
6-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
1.3 kg (3 lb) minced beef
3 700 g (25 oz) bottles tomato passata
2 tablespoons dried oregano
salt & freshly ground pepper

In a large pot place the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and the olive oil and sweat until all the vegetables have softened and slightly collapsed, about ten minutes. Put in the meat and turn the heat up, vigorously stirring to prevent the meat from clumping together. When all the meat has changed colour, add the tomato passata, oregano, salt and pepper. You will need a surprising amount of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for two to three hours, stirring occasionally.
  posted at 10:06 am

At 3:33 pm, Blogger Captain Blog said...

Hey Neil,
Because I literally grew up with Bolognese sauce (which is actually called Ragu'), and my dad was a purist from Bologna, I feel ok suggesting the following variation:
- put as much veggies as meat, (for 3 lbs of beef, 3lbs of veggies, equally divided)
- no garlic, this is a dish from north italy, not the south
- no oregano it only confuses the taste.
- I "spread" the meat on top of the veggies and then add a glass of red wine.

Thanks for noting that the meat should not clump together. Many people don't and this is why we have that thing called "meat balls".... (which i find offensive)
Captain Blog

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