My Best Bolognese

Now, before you start getting argumentative about whether or not I should be using mushrooms in my bolognese, let’s agree that there isn’t actually such a thing as “authentic” bolognese.

Sometime in the 18th century, Italian chef Pellegrino Artusi first documented a meat sauce – a ragú – that somewhat resembled the bolognese that we know and love today. But Artusi’s was made with veal, onion, carrot and pancetta – not a drop of wine in sight. Over time, the recipe evolved into the familiar sauce we know today, typically paired with spaghetti, but the overall consensus is that there can never be a consensus.

Still, I think we can all agree that a good bolognese should have three things: a good meat-to-sauce ratio; a rich, savoury depth; and a generous serving of parmesan sprinkled on top.

Over the years, I think I’ve perfected that formula. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

The Best Bolognese Sauce

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 500g minced beef, 18% fat
  • 500g minced pork
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 handful mushrooms, diced finely
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 generous squeeze tomato puree
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 2 x 400g can crushed tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 1 splash whole milk
  • 10 splashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Parmesan, grated to serve
  • Parsley, to serve

Method

Step 1: Cook the Mince

Fry off the mince in a deep saucepan with a little olive oil and a square of butter until browned. Add cinnamon while cooking. Transfer to a bowl, careful not to carry over the excess grease. Dispose of grease.

Step 2: Prepare Your Mirepoix (The Base of Your Sauce)

Add the onion, celery, carrot, and mushrooms to the same pan and cook until the onions have just started to brown. Add the crushed garlic and oregano.

Step 3: Reduce

Create a small crater in the centre of the pan, where you will add the tomato puree. Let sauté for a minute before mixing the puree in with the vegetables. Add the red wine and stir to well. Allow the wine to reduce for a few minutes – this will add a greater depth of flavour to your sauce. Add the rest of your ingredients, along with the fried mince, and stir well. You may need to add some water at this step, to make sure the meat is covered.

Step 4: Simmer*

Bring to a boil, and then reduce your heat to the lowest setting and let the sauce simmer for at least three hours. Be sure to check on this regularly – if the sauce has reduced too much, add a bit of water. However the sauce should not be too runny.

Step 5: Enjoy (With a Glass of Wine)

Serve with spaghetti, topped with the bolognese, followed by a generous grating of fresh parmesan and parsley.

 

*You can add a sprig of thyme to the pot while simmering for a different flavour.
*Image credit.

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#Cook90: Get Creative

After a holiday of carefully avoiding After Eights and third (okay… fourth) helpings of roast potatoes, I joined Epicurious’ #Cook90 challenge.

The concept is simple: pick a month—or any 30-day period, really—and cook every breakfast, lunch, and dinner in that month. Easy peasy, right?

Not so much. It involves a hell of a lot of planning, grocery shopping, more planning, lots of cleaning (man do I miss having a dishwasher) and, you guessed it, more planning. Still, it’s been fun and I’ve had a great time challenging myself to cook something outside the 10-dish rotation we have at home.

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To start with, we found a new favourite lunch. It’s simple, wholesome, and incredibly delicious. Sautéed cabbage, brown rice, roasted sweet potato, and cayenne lemon chicken. My boyfriend loved the chicken so much he asked for three portions the next day. It’s excellent topped with Sriracha, and a dollop of tzatziki. Like I said – simple, but delicious.

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Day 2 was positively mind-blowing. I’m talking red quinoa and brown rice with roasted red peppers, feta, parsley, nuts, squash, topped with the same chicken from day 1. Can you say yum? This was actually the first time I’ve ever cooked with butternut squash (not exactly a local food in Lebanon) and I fell in love. We finished it so fast I forgot to take a picture and was left with just half a squash. Needless to say, this one’s going on our regular rotation. Will repeat and share the full recipe (with pics this time!).

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Today’s dinner was great, but I couldn’t get through a bowl. It’s the sort of salad that takes so much energy to chew, you’re sure that you’re burning calories while eating it. Kale, roasted squash (of course), feta, toasted walnuts and almonds, smoked red peppers, red and white quinoa, and a mustard vinaigrette.

I’ll be posting my #cook90 journey here, so stay tuned, or follow my Instagram here.

 

 

A Better Beef and Guinness Irish Stew

But don’t tell the Irish I said that. I moved to Ireland in 2015 where my boyfriend was living, and promptly decided to win his friends over by cooking them the best beef and Guinness stew they ever had. I found the recipe online and, to my delight, it won them over in a heartbeat.

Later I discovered that they usually only ate take-aways, so really any sort of home cooking impressed them, but that’s neither here nor there.

This Irish stew is not for the faint-hearted. It’s packed with hearty stout, good-quality meat, and plenty of Irish butter to taste. Pair it with a loaf of crusty bread and a side of creamy mash, and I guarantee you’ll win yourself an Irish man faster than you can cry over P.S. I Love You (let me tell you, that opening scene is pretty heartbreaking).

If you don’t believe me, give it a try. But be sure to buy yourself a few extra cans of Guinness to enjoy the meal (and the cooking) with.

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A Better Beef and Guinness Irish Stew

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1.25 kg sirloin steak*, cubed (trim the excess fat off)
  • 180g prosciutto, diced
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic, crushed
  • 1 440ml can Guinness Beer
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 in thick pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear in hot oil and a dab of butter in a deep pot over high heat in batches, until all sides are a beautiful, caramelised brown. Remove meat from pot onto a plate.
  2. If the pot is dry, refresh with another dab of butter and add the onions. When the onion are translucent, add the garlic and the prosciutto. Once the prosciutto has browned, stir in flour.
  3. Add the full can of Guinness and stir until the flour is well dissolved.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, including the meat and any juice on the plate. If the meat and vegetables aren’t fully submerged, add some water.
  5. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and reduce heat. Let simmer for about 2 hours.
  6. Remove the lid and let simmer for a further 30-45 minutes, or until the beef is very tender and the sauce has thickened.
  7. Remove bay leaves and thyme. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve with mash and crusty bread.

*Obviously you can use any boneless cut of stewing beef here, but I find that if you’re serving this on a special occasion, sirloin steak adds an extra depth of flavour to the dish. If it’s for a weekday dinner, I tend to just go with the cubed cuts of beef at the butcher (that is, until I win the lotto!).

*Photo credit: Recipe Tin Eats.

How to Poach an Egg

Food52 is probably in my top 5 favorite go-to recipe websites. It’s host to hundreds of fantastic recipes and offers incredibly useful cooking tips helpful  to both amateurs and experts. Plus, it always, without fail, has a recipe guaranteed to satisfy my cravings.

Today, it’s poached eggs. I’ve definitely mentioned my love for Eggs Florentine on this blog, and I’ve even posted a recipe detailing the gloriousness of Hollandaise sauce. Still, poached eggs can be tricky – especially for the many who didn’t even know it existed. Lucky, Food52 came up with a video tutorial for a super easy, super fast and all around perfect poached egg.

All that’s missing is the Hollandaise. *sigh*

Poached Egg

Step 1: Fill a tall pot with water, salt it well, and add 3 tablespoons of vinegar per 1 gallon of water. (The vinegar helps to coagulate the egg.)

Step 2: When the water begins to boil, lower the temperature just a bit so it simmers; too aggressive of a boil can potentially break the yolk.

Step 3: Crack an egg into a small cup or bowl; this ensures the egg dives into the water in one shot, and no unwanted shells slip in.

Step 4: Using a slotted spoon, begin to stir water to develop a tornado effect, then quickly drop the egg into the eye of the tornado. As the egg drops down, the movement of the water will prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you find that the movement of the water stops before the egg develops a strong outer layer, stir the water gently so that the egg stays afloat.

Step 5: After about 2 to 3 minutes, use the slotted spoon to lift the egg just slightly above the surface of the water and check its doneness. When the white has completely coagulated, your egg is ready! If you still see parts of uncooked whites begin to slightly seep out of the egg, put it back into the water and let it cook for another 30 seconds. Then check it again, being careful not to leave it in water too long lest you overcook it. When you are confident that the egg is ready, remove it and allow any excess water to drain out of the slotted spoon. Plate your egg and season it with salt and pepper before serving — a bit of olive oil will also lend a fruity richness.

Prepping for Paris With David Lebovitz

I adore Beirut. Even though you’ll often hear me complaining about Beirut’s eye-scratchingly slow internet, scream-inducing traffic, or even just its insane lack of decent Asian food, I love it.

That being said, I miss proper food. Falafel and mezze can only do so much in terms of fulfilling my appetites, and the Beirut supermarkets have a severe lack of decent ingredients that my culinary-inclined soul can work with. So in one of my few “I need to get out of this country” moments, I called up my long time travel buddy and said, “Let’s go to Paris.” Continue reading →

French Silk Pie

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I seriously, totally, completely, and wholeheartedly am in love with pie.

Pie. Pause for a moment. Say it out loud. Let the word roll off your tongue in sweet, sweet anticipation for the creamy goodness of it. “Pie.

Continue reading →

Eggs Florentine With Feta Cheese

I’m a huge foodie and my favorite meal is breakfast, so trust me when I say that eggs Florentine will be one of the most delicious things you’ll ever have the privilege of putting in your mouth.

Hollandaise sauce = heaven.

No seriously, I’m convinced that Hollandaise sauce is the nectar of the gods.

It’s taken me a while to perfect this recipe, but I think I’ve finally found the ultimate mix of spinach, poached egg, and feta cheese. Traditional eggs Florentine doesn’t have feta cheese but, well, everything’s better with a little feta, isn’t it? Continue reading →