Last weekend in the kitchen

Maggie and I will flying out of Melbourne on 25 April (Anzac Day in Australia) to spend just under a month in France and Central Europe, concluding with a 48-hour stopover in Dubai.  (I will be writing posts about this trip as the inspirations and opportunities arise.)

Last weekend, we decided to make Bolognese sauce, a dish that we could freeze in containers and use over the next few busy weeks.  We also worked to prepare some food to be cooked from Saturday to Tuesday.

From our butcher – Ashburton Meats – we brought home some beef mince, lamb chops, cornish sausages, pork cutlets and a 10cm thick piece of Scotch fillet.

Here is what happened next!

Bolognese sauce

Supermarket shelves groan under the weight of various jars of sauce that you can add to good quality mince to make a passable bol sauce. I prefer to make my own from scratch.  My recipe reflects many years of trial and error, as well as some initial ideas from Stephanie Alexander and the Australian Women’s Weekly.

In the past, I have used the more traditional mixture of pork and beef mince but, given how much else is going into the pot, I am happy to use 100% beef these days; and good quality pork mince is not always readily to hand. (As of March 2015, I have reverted to a 50:50 mix of pork and beef, giving a sweeter flavour, and deleted the zucchini, which diluted the flavours of the other ingredients.) Following the recipe, I give some suggestions for using the sauce.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely sliced & chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 carrot, grated
600g lean minced beef (or 400g beef mince and 200g pork mince)
2 tsp plain flour
½ cup dry white wine
generous pinch nutmeg
1 cup chicken stock
400g tinned chopped tomatoes (or equivalent in passata)
4 tbsp (80ml) tomato paste
2 large sprigs thyme
½ tsp sugar (to balance the tartness of the tomato paste)
½ tsp salt
2 cups of fresh shredded spinach (or frozen equivalent)
pepper

Method

  1. Sauté onions, celery and garlic in oil in a large pan.  After 5 minutes, add the carrot and sauté until the vegetables are soft and the colour is bleeding from the carrot.
  2. Add mince and sauté until browned.  Stir and press frequently to combine well with the vegetables and to prevent lumps of meat from forming.  (If your mince is very cold, add it to the pot, put the lid on and turn the heat off.  Resume cooking five minutes later – the mince will be easier to work.)
  3. Sprinkle in flour and nutmeg and stir well for a minute.  Add wine, mix well, then increase heat to evaporate most of the liquid.
  4. Add stock, tomato, tomato paste, sugar, salt and thyme and bring to boil.  After you add the chicken stock it might seem too wet but it will thicken as it cooks.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer gently for at least 1 hour, stirring from time to time. Add spinach after 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the thyme and adjust the seasoning, including some pepper.  (If you add the pepper at the start it will lose most of its bite during the hour of simmering; for most braised and slow-cooked sauces, I add the pepper late in the process.)

Bol sauce 1   Bol sauce 2

To serve with spaghetti or any other plain pasta, use at least 30g of the sauce for every 10g of uncooked pasta.

To make lasagne, we use about 700g of the sauce supplemented by 3/4 of a cup of passata, béchamel sauce made using 1½ cups of milk and 4 tbsp of pecorino, and sheets of cooked homemade lasagne.  We combine about 70% of the béchamel with the bol sauce and fill a 20cm x 20cm x 8cm baking dish with layers of sauce, lasagne, sauce, lasagne, sauce, lasagne, the remaining béchamel, lasagne, a generous topping of grated pizza cheese and a generous grinding of pepper. Put the lasagne into a cold oven, bring the heat to 160C and bake for about 35 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Once we had finished cooking the Bolognese sauce , we moved on to preparing one of our favourite marinades to go with the pork cutlets.

Marinade for pork chops or cutlets

This deceptively simple recipe produces a fragrant and delicious result.  We mainly use it when preparing pork chops or cutlets or as part of the lining for roast porchetta. It can also be used with chicken thighs or a robust fish such as Hapuka.

The quantities of each ingredient should be adjusted to suit your own palate and your experience of using the marinade.

Ingredients

4 cloves garlic
1&1/2 tsp fennel seeds
leaves from 4 young sprigs rosemary
leaves from 4 sprigs thyme
3 tsp black peppercorns (or use 2 tsp coarsely ground pepper)
1 tbsp salt
½ tsp caster sugar
2-3 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 or 2 lemons (depends on size and juice content)

Method

  1. In a mortar, grind the garlic, fennel seeds, herbs, peppercorns, salt and sugar.
  2. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and combine well.  Adjust to taste (salt, oiliness, acidity)
  3. Rub the marinade into the skin and flesh of the meat to be cooked, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  4. Remove meat from fridge one hour before cooking.

We applied this marinade to all four cutlets, put two in the freezer and two in the back of the fridge to use three days later; this was quite safe due to the freshness of the meat, the preserving effect of the marinade and the low temp at the back of the fridge.

When we cook pork cutlets in the Weber Q, we use the roasting process rather than the grill.  This results in slower cooking and more rendering of the fat.

By this time, it was late in the afternoon and we slowed the pace, easing into a simple barbecue of delicious lamb chump chops, satisfying cornish sausages, chargrilled par-boiled potato halves and a simple salad of thinly-sliced fennel, diced tomatoes, chopped mint and parsley and a dressing of some homemade vinaigrette and an extra squeeze of lemon juice.  (The potato halves were covered in cold, salted water, brought to the boil and cooked for 5 minutes then drained and dressed with olive oil and salt flakes.)

And the 10cm-thick piece of Scotch fillet – what became of that?  Well, that was barbecued on the Weber on Monday evening.  We cooked it for 8 minutes on each side (6+6+2+2), then rested it for 1o minutes, with some salt and white pepper sprinkled on each side.  The flavour was superb and there was plenty of pink flesh inside.

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About rmgtravelsandfood

Maggie and I are both in our early 60s and live in Melbourne, Australia. This blog is devoted to our shared passions for travel and fine dining at home. As cooks, we are skilful and adventurous within a framework of mainly traditional ingredients and techniques, and we aim to prepare nutritious food that looks good and tastes delicious. Our evolving repertoire is influenced by both our travels and Melbourne's vibrant food culture. While we are young enough, our priority travel destinations are overseas, although we do spend a few weekends each year exploring south-eastern Australia. As travellers, we are most comfortable with a combination of organised and independent touring. Our first overseas journey together was to Italy in the northern autumn of 2008. We later travelled in France (2009), Spain (2011), Singapore and Cambodia (2012/13). All trips from 2014 onwards are documented in this blog.
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