16 June 2013

Winter warmers - Beef Cheeks Ragu

I love Twitter and the little community of friends I have made. Although I'm not a die hard twitterer, I still like to pop on and see the latest news my new mates are up to, follow a few organisations that I love and shout out for advice if needed.

My beloved and I were hosting his family for dinner last night. It was going to be a cold night (yes, even for Brisbane for those of you sniggering that we don't know anything about the cold) and a cold night for us in our little Queenslander equates to a bloody cold night. Similar to living in a tent, but safer if it rained…just.

To compensate for the ice-box living quarters, I wanted my in-laws to fill there bellies with tasty warm food. I felt a tasty ragu would do the trick.

Enter Twitter.

I sent out a tweet asking if anyone had a tasty ragu recipe. The lovely @melkettle came back promptly with a yes, followed by a photo of a recipe from the OzHarvest book (a fantastic organisation that distributes excess food to charities):

Ragu recipe from the OzHarvest cook book.
As I have a love of slow cooked beef cheeks - you can find my other recipe here - and I needed to make it for 8 people, a little ingredient substituting was in order.

This recipe was so tasty and easy to have bubbling away until my guests arrived. All I need to do was cook the pasta on their arrival.

Beef Cheeks Ragu
Adapted from the OzHarvest cook book
serves 10 (easily)


Beef cheeks and porcini mushroom ragu

Ingredients
50g butter
olive oil
100g speck, cut in small batons
2 onions, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
300g swiss brown mushrooms, finely chopped
60g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in water for about 10 mins then chopped
1 to 1.2 kg beef cheeks, cut each cheek into about 3 or 4 pieces
8 vine-ripend tomatoes, roughly chopped, juices saved
1litre of beef stock
3 bay leaves
leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
2 x 500g packets of linguini (or your pasta of choice)

Method
Melt the butter with a good couple of glugs of olive oil in a deep frying pan - I used my dutch oven - and cook speck for a few minutes. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently until soft. Add the mushrooms and porcini and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they have released their juices and these have been reabsorbed. Remove from pan.

Without washing the pan, return it to the heat and add another good glug of olive oil. When it starts to shimmer (just before smoking point) add the beef cheeks. You might need to do this in a few lots for this portion sizing. I had to do it in 3 lots. Fry them until they are brown. Add all beef cheeks back into pan and add the mushroom mix, stir. Then add the tomatoes with their juices, stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then gently simmer for 4 hours with no lid on.

After 4 hours - or until the cheeks are very easy to pull apart - remove the beef cheeks form the pan and shred the meat by using a fork. No need to be perfect here, just get in and shred away. Return shredded meat to pan. At this point taste the dish and season. I cooked for another 2 hours with the lid on. This isn't necessary, but my guests weren't coming for a while so I thought I would just leave everything to bubble away on the lowest my stove could go until they arrived. Also, if you prefer and less 'saucy' sauce, keep the lid off so you can steam off the liquid.

I served this with some rustic country style bread from my local bakery and a simple salad of rocket, pear, parmesan, a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a little salt and pepper.

I will certainly be making it again.

Beef cheeks ragu, served with a rocket salad
and rustic country style bread