Courgetti Ragu

Water and Wine

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I love this pasta sauce.  The oldest girl requests this when she comes back from school as it reminds her of home, and smells so delicious as it is slowly cooking.  I have made an old Anna del Conte’s (A Gastronomy of Italy) ragù recipe my own.  I tend to start the sauce off on the hob and then let it bubble gently away in the slow cooker all day so dinner time can be very easy and simply involve boiling a pan of water for some pasta to accompany it, and washing some rocket for an easy salad.

Ragù (with courgetti)

  • 750g minced beef
  • 250g block of smoked pancetta, roughly cubed
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in about 200ml water
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 pint milk
  • handful of herbs (thyme, bay leaves, or basil or oregano if you prefer)
  1. Remove…

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Courgetti Ragu

img_0436

I love this pasta sauce.  The oldest girl requests this when she comes back from school as it reminds her of home, and smells so delicious as it is slowly cooking.  I have made an old Anna del Conte’s (A Gastronomy of Italy) ragù recipe my own.  I tend to start the sauce off on the hob and then let it bubble gently away in the slow cooker all day so dinner time can be very easy and simply involve boiling a pan of water for some pasta to accompany it, and washing some rocket for an easy salad.

Ragù (with courgetti)

  • 750g minced beef
  • 250g block of smoked pancetta, roughly cubed
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in about 200ml water
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 pint milk
  • handful of herbs (thyme, bay leaves, or basil or oregano if you prefer)
  1. Remove the hard rind of the pancetta and reserve; chop the pancetta roughly and whizz to a paste in your blender.img_0433
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion, celery sticks and carrots and add to the pancetta paste in the blender, blending again to create a vegetable mash.
  3. Heat a large heavy based (frying) pan and use the reserved pancetta rind as rendering.
  4. Once the fat has rendered, add the pancetta and veg paste to the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.img_0434
  5. Add the minced beef to the pan and cook, stirring, until it has lost its redness.
  6. Add the dissolved stock cube and tomato puree, along with your preferred herbs and bubble for a few minutes while the liquid reduces a little.

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  7. Cover the meat with half a pint or so of warmed milk, season and remove to the slow cooker.
  8. Cook on the low setting for 4 hours or more.
  9. When ready to eat, serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan and the pasta of your choice, or courgetti (see below).  Remember to remove the stalky herb stems and the pancetta rind which has added a richness to the sauce but is no longer needed.

You’ve probably heard of courgette or zucchini noodles or zoodles by now.  They’ve been fêted internationally on Instagram for quite some time now, and the Hemsley sisters, amongst others, who write about nutrition for Vogue, have more recently promoted the use of a spiralizer in the UK.

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In essence, a Spiralizer is a sort of mandolin that has a number of blades that can slice vegetables into interesting shapes.  Courgettes, in particular, make a wonderful grain-free pasta, having a similar mouth feel and texture to it when paired with a pasta sauce.

As you can see, they “spiralize” into beautiful spirals which become coated with spaghetti sauce much in the same way spaghetti does.  The only downside I find is that they can become quite watery when cooked, so it’s important to drain them well after cooking.

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After spiralizing, I simply sauté the courgette in a heavy pan in some oil flavoured with a clove of garlic and a good pinch of chilli flakes. Once I have combined the courgette with the ragu, I tend to drain out any excess water again as the heat of the spaghetti sauce makes the courgettes release more of their water.

An Asian Salad

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We had a delicious pot roast chicken at the weekend when the boy came home unexpectedly and we needed to feed him up with something quick and delicious.  Pot roasting is new to me and while it was not the crispiest skinned bird ever, it was probably the moistest one we have cooked at home, and the leftovers were so good I just had to make another meal out of them.

When we have left over roast meats we often use our own version of a Nigella Vietnamese salad recipe from Nigella Bites.  In essence, this dish is an Asian slaw to which you can add whichever (shredded) meat you have in your fridge.  It is very easy (all the ingredients are available from the supermarket), relatively quick to make, delicious and very virtuous in terms of calorie intake, if you care about that sort of thing.

The key thing is the dressing, which you can play around with according to your tastes, but it should be a combination of sweet, sour, savoury and salty. I often add a bit more fish sauce and lime juice, as well as some extra chilli, as I like it really salty and sour with plenty of kick.

A Vietnamesesque Salad

  • left over roast chicken, a couple of cooked chicken breasts, or some pieces of cold roast beef or pork
  • 1/2-1 small white cabbage
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 red chillies (small bird’s eye ones if you like heat or the larger milder serrano ones if not)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use Coconut Blossom Nectar which feels a bit more virtuous as it is untreated and has a lower Glycaemic Index than sugar)
  • 3 tsp vinegar (I use Coconut but just about any vinegar other than Balsamic would do)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp fish Sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp oil (sunflower or similar – something unflavoured)
  • large bunch of coriander
  • large bunch of mint
  1. Slice the chillies and the onions finely and crush the garlic and place in a bowl with the sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce and oil.  Whisk and refrigerate until needed.img_0429
  2. Finely slice, mandolin or grate the cabbage (removing the tough core) and grate the peeled carrots, and put in your serving bowlimg_0430
  3. Shred or slice the meat finely and add to the serving bowl
  4. Once the dressing has marinated for a while in the fridge, add to the undressed salad and methodically mix until everything is covered
  5. Pick the herbs and add to the salad, tossing it together.

The flavours are amazing and it makes a nice contrast to all the heavier carbohydrate-based dishes around at this time of year.  If it doesn’t feel quite substantial enough for you, you could always add some glass or rice noodles to the dish.

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An Asian Salad

img_0431

We had a delicious pot roast chicken at the weekend when the boy came home unexpectedly and we needed to feed him up with something quick and delicious.  Pot roasting is new to me and while it was not the crispiest skinned bird ever, it was probably the moistest one we have cooked at home, and the leftovers were so good I just had to make another meal out of them.

When we have left over roast meats we often use our own version of a Nigella Vietnamese salad recipe from Nigella Bites.  In essence, this dish is an Asian slaw to which you can add whichever (shredded) meat you have in your fridge.  It is very easy (all the ingredients are available from the supermarket), relatively quick to make, delicious and very virtuous in terms of calorie intake, if you care about that sort of thing.

The key thing is the dressing, which you can play around with according to your tastes, but it should be a combination of sweet, sour, savoury and salty. I often add a bit more fish sauce and lime juice, as well as some extra chilli, as I like it really salty and sour with plenty of kick.

A Vietnamesesque Salad

  • left over roast chicken, a couple of cooked chicken breasts, or some pieces of cold roast beef or pork
  • 1/2-1 small white cabbage
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 red chillies (small bird’s eye ones if you like heat or the larger milder serrano ones if not)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use Coconut Blossom Nectar which feels a bit more virtuous as it is untreated and has a lower Glycaemic Index than sugar)
  • 3 tsp vinegar (I use Coconut but just about any vinegar other than Balsamic would do)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp fish Sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp oil (sunflower or similar – something unflavoured)
  • large bunch of coriander
  • large bunch of mint
  1. Slice the chillies and the onions finely and crush the garlic and place in a bowl with the sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce and oil.  Whisk and refrigerate until needed.img_0429
  2. Finely slice, mandolin or grate the cabbage (removing the tough core) and grate the peeled carrots, and put in your serving bowlimg_0430
  3. Shred or slice the meat finely and add to the serving bowl
  4. Once the dressing has marinated for a while in the fridge, add to the undressed salad and methodically mix until everything is covered
  5. Pick the herbs and add to the salad, tossing it together.

The flavours are amazing and it makes a nice contrast to all the heavier carbohydrate-based dishes around at this time of year.  If it doesn’t feel quite substantial enough for you, you could always add some glass or rice noodles to the dish.

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