My weaknesses have always been food and men – in that order. (Dolly Parton)
I like to cook. Which is rather fortunate, because I also like to eat. And, as I get older I find myself becoming more particular about what I will eat, and where my food comes from.
There are times, though, when even the most passionate of cooks can’t face the kitchen. I have friends back in New Zealand who have lovely wee lamb cutlets as their ‘go to’ meal when they can’t be bothered thinking about cooking at the end of a particularly long work day. I think they may even have a super-special crumb recipe in which they coat their wee cutlets. They buy the little chops in bulk, do their magic ‘crumb-thingy’, and then freeze them in portion-size packages. Yum.
My go-to ‘can’t be bothered thinking about cooking‘ answer has long been to have portion-sized containers of Delia Smith’s Authentic Ragu Bolognese in my freezer. It’s so good and has a secret ingredient to make it seriously smooth and rich. Chicken livers. Yep. That’s right – chicken livers.
Wanna’ know why we should eat more chicken liver? Among other things, it is:
- high in protein and a rich store of folate
- loaded with iron (for energy and immune system health)
- a treasure trove of certain B vitamins, most notably B12 (guards your body against anemia, good for tissue repair).
- one of the top sources of vitamin A (which promotes good eyesight)
And, even if the idea of liver has you running for the hills, you won’t even know it’s in this recipe. True!
I used to make the ragu as part of Delia’s Lasagne al Forno. That’s no longer an option in the gluten-free, dairy-free world I now cook in at Casa TSL.* So, now I just make the ragu and have it on hand for whenever I can’t face the kitchen…
Lately, I’ve had a wee bit of a girl-crush on Alexx Stuart of Real Food. Low Tox Living. She is a great proponent of eating real food, which just makes a lot of sense to me (and I like her pragmatic, unpretentious style). I saw her in action at the MINDD Foundation ‘Food is Medicine’ seminar. Now I like her even more!
And, as a result of Alexx’s presentation, I received a metaphorical kick-in-the-bum regarding making my own stocks from grass-fed bones again. So, this past week, I picked up some lovely bones from G.R.U.B. and made a massive batch of beef bone broth. So much, in fact, that I couldn’t fit it all in the freezer.
With all this excess broth and a need to replenish my emergency supplies of ragu, I have adapted Delia’s recipe to suit my needs. And, you know what? It works AND it’s more kiddie-friendly because there’s no wine in it. Delia’s recipe makes 8 225g portions, each serving 2 people. Mine makes more…
Ragu Bolognese TSL-Style
(adapted from Delia Smith’s recipe)
About 500g grass-fed Beef mince
About 500g pork mince (from happy pigs)
Coconut oil (or fat of choice)
About 225g chicken livers
2 x medium onions (chopped)
4 x large cloves of garlic (minced)
About 150g speck (or pancetta), chopped
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
4 x heaped tablespoons tomato paste
500ml beef bone broth (preferably home-made!)
Fresh herb of choice (basil, parsley or whatever you have to hand)
Salt & Pepper
Sea Vegetables (Optional, but soooooo good for you! I use this one)
grated nutmeg (preferably fresh)
- Preheat your oven to 140°C (275°F)
- Heat your largest frying pan over a medium heat. Add a generous dollop of coconut oil. Gently fry the onion and garlic until softened – about ten minutes. Give it a stir every now and then.
- Add the chopped speck to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a large casserole (my beloved le Creuset holds just over 4 litres).
- Add some more coconut oil to the pan and turn the heat up to high. Add the minced beef in batches to brown. I use a wooden fork to break it up in the pan. Add the cooked mince to the casserole. Repeat until all your beef is browned.
- Do the same with the pork mince. While the pork mince is cooking, rinse the chicken livers and dry them with a paper towel. Trim off any sinew and chop them into teeny-tiny pieces.
- Once the pork is browned and transferred to the casserole, heat a little more coconut oil and briefly brown the chicken livers. Add these to the casserole.
- Place the casserole over a direct medium heat and give everything a good stir. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bone broth and a generous seasoning of good salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the nutmeg (and the sea vegetables, if you are going to. Go on – dare you!). Stir again and allow to come to a simmer.
- Add the chopped leaves of about half a bunch of basil or parsley
- place the casserole in the oven (without a lid) for four hours. I give it a stir every hour or so. You should end up with a thick, unctuous meaty sauce with only a teeny bit of liquid.
- Check for seasoning and add the remaining half bunch of your herbs.
- When the sauce has cooled, divide it up. Delia reckons 225g feeds two people, so that’s the measure I go with. I use my scales.
Some suggestions for your ragu:
- the obvious one – over pasta, gnocchi or noodled squash or zucchini
- as a pizza topping
- as a stuffing for potato, kumara (sweet potato), eggplant, peppers or mushrooms
- as a sauce over steamed or roasted vegetable (my preferred option is over roasted broccoli)
- in shakshuka (baked eggs)
- As a super fancy-schmancy mince-on-toast
If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart. (Cesar Chavez)
*But, if you don’t have these limitations and you feel like showing your family and/or friends just how much you love them, Delia’s lasagne recipe is an absolute corker. SERIOUSLY GOOD.