Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Comfort Food

Mmmm winter in the hills: long periods of grey interrupted by the occasional bright blue day when you don’t notice the cold because you’re too glad to see the sun. The theme of my window this week is ‘Comfort Food’, books on decadent desserts, Tamara Milstein’s gorgeous soup cookbook & Clarissa Dickson-Wright’s amazing book on the Sunday roast are on display. Customers are fewer but tend to stay longer rather than go back out in the cold. Books on stews, casseroles, soups, curries & Moroccan tagines and the old faithful crock-pot cookbook walk out the door with them.
At home I’ve been cooking curries using a wonderful wagar (cook-in sauce) and a rich, slow-cooked veal ragu to serve with pasta or soft polenta. Enjoy.

Slow-cooked veal ragu

1kg cubed veal or beef
Light olive oil
Three onions, finely chopped
Five cloves garlic, finely chopped
Two sticks celery, finely diced
600ml hearty red wine
Four fresh bay leaves
3 tbs tomato paste
Three tins diced tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves

Roll the cubed meat in combined cracked black pepper and salt.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
In a large oven-safe casserole (Le Creuset or its clones are perfect), heat some olive oil over medium heat and brown the meat on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Add more oil and cook the onions, garlic and celery gently until soft. Pour in the wine and add the bay leaves, let simmer for a minute, then add the tomato paste and the tins of tomatoes. Return the meat to the casserole and bring to a boil.
Give the ragu a good stir and add enough water to make sure the meat is well covered. Cover the casserole and place in the oven. (Note: this can also be cooked on the stove-top but will probably need the addition of more water as it cooks. Place on to your lowest element and keep simmering).
Cook for three hours, checking occasionally to see if it needs any more water.
When cooked, stir in a generous handful of torn basil leaves, break up the cubes of beef and stir the ragu through cooked, good quality dry or fresh pasta (I use orrechiette) The ragu is also delicious served with soft polenta.

Curry ‘Wagar’ (Cook-in Sauce)

8 TBS vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp cumin seeds
12 cloves
575gms onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
15g fresh ginger peeled and crushed
5 med sized green chillies (Cut in half, scrape out seeds and slice thinly)
3 x 400g tins diced tomatoes
2 TBS ground cumin
2 TBS ground coriander
1 TBS turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp salt
500ml water (approx)

Heat oil in wok or large heavy saucepan until hot. Add mustard seeds, cover pan and cook until popping (be careful not to burn).
Add cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and cloves. Fry gently, covered for 5 minutes.
Add onions. Crush garlic and ginger into pan and mix well and fry gently for 5 minutes. Add chilli strips and fry until onions are soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Add tomatoes and all remaining ingredients. Stir well to mix and simmer for 10 minutes. Amt of water can be adjusted up or down to achieve a thick and smooth sauce, not too watery, not to chunky.
This sauce can be made ahead and either frozen or bottled as you would any chutney or tomato sauce – sterilise bottles and pour sauce in while hot, put lid on immediately.

This sauce is particularly good for making vegetable curry – fry all vegetables before adding sauce and cooking until veges are tender. Also great with beef – as above, brown beef then pour in sauce, water down slightly and cook until beef is tender

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