Saturday, 8 December 2007

Michael Smith's Chef at Home

I love this show, at first it was mainly because he has the most wonderful pantry I've ever seen, and I want it really really badly, but then it was because I liked what he was cooking.
I haven't had the best results with some of it (see my watermelon and basil salad experiment) but I haven't let that discourage me.

I was lucky enough to get a hold of a few more episodes this week, and I started watching them this morning. The first episode was "Three Meat Pasta", and basically was Michael cooking a pasta sauce with minced beef, pork and veal in 30 minutes. I had a tray of beef mince in the fridge, so I thought I'd give it a go for lunch today.

Michael Smith's Favourite Meat Sauce for Pasta
From Chef at Home episode "Three Meat Pasta"

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 x onions, cut into large chunks
  • 2 x carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 3 x garlic cloves
  • 2 cups of button mushrooms
  • 3 stalks of celery, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 6 oz of pancetta or bacon, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz of ground beef
  • 8 oz of ground pork
  • 8 oz of ground veal
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of red wine
  • 2 x bay leafs
  • 1 x large can of stewed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  1. Pulse onions, carrots, garlic cloves, mushrooms, celery and olive oil in a food processor until finely chopped. This may need to be done in several batches.
  2. Heat a large sauté pan with the olive oil and add pancetta. Fry until golden, aromatizing the oil with the rich flavour of the Italian bacon. Add the vegetable mixture and sauté until it begins to caramelize. Add ground meats and stir vigorously to break apart. Stir in the tomato paste, red wine, bay leaf and stewed tomatoes and continue to stir and break up any chunks of meat. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and all the flavours have blended. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

I embraced the freedom Michael tells of when you work without a recipe and modified this one to suit our needs and my laziness. I didn't measure anything, and just guessed (this never works with me, I don't have a good eye). I didn't put in mushrooms, because I don't like them, I used tinned tomatoes instead of stewed tomatoes and because I think I had substantially less tomatoes than I needed, I also added some Italian stock (which is stock infused with tomato, oregano and something else) and two beef stock cubes.

The idea behind this is that he saves time by using the food processor to cut the mirepox and he doesn't brown the meat, which means it doesn't need to simmer for a long time to rehydrate. He uses pancetta to give some "bacony" flavour and to help create a strong flavour base which will be instead of the flavour normally imparted by the browned mince.

In the show, Michael doesn't add the tomatoes straight away like the recipe states, he adds the mince in with the red wine and bay leaves and allows the alcohol to cook off before he adds the tomtoes. I did it that way rather than following the recipe, even though the red wine I used was the cooking red wine you can buy from Coles.

It was really good. I like a meaty ragu, not one that really tomato-y. This was tomato-y at first, but the two stock cubes gave it a nice depth. It had a very similar flavour to Nigella's Rapid Ragu which isn't that surprising considering that they are very similar recipes. I could easily eat this pasta sauce just sprinkled with cheese as Nigella suggests you eat the Rapid Ragu. DD's first reaction was "This would be great on jaffles!".

It was nice and simple, even though DD thought there were too many ingredients required for it to be easy. As for it being quick, it did only take about 45 minutes, but then when I cook a normal pasta sauce with mince it doesn't take me much longer. Maybe that's why my pasta sauce never tastes as good as my mum's? That said, this is much better than my normal pasta sauce. Very impressed.

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