Category Archives: Oregano

Recipe: Ragu Giorgio (aka the best spag bol)

Ragu
Ragu

Ingredients;

Extra virgin olive oil
3 x carrot, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x celery sticks, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x onions, finely diced
3 x garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 x anchovy
5 large tomatoes
50g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped or blitzed in a blender
150g tomato puree
2 x large handfuls of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground cumin
500g lean mince beef
2 x bay leaves
500ml water
250ml wine
300ml Italian tomato sauce


Once you have completed all the preparation, get a large saucepan, pour in a generous lug of olive oil and get it onto a high heat until the oil just starts to smoke. Add the anchovy and fry this hard until it starts to break up and disappear. At this point add your carrots and bring the heat down to a medium heat.

Fry these for about 5 minutes, then add the onion and celery and reduce the heat to a low heat and continue to fry this until the onions begin to caramelise (usually twenty to twenty five minutes) stirring occasionally.

While this is happening you need to skin, quarter, core and de-seed the tomatoes. To skin them you will need a pan of boiling water and a bowl of ice cold water. First score an X on to the bottom of each tomato, with the water boiling hard, carefully pop the tomatoes in for about 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of ice water to stop them cooking and make them easier to handle. Now you should be able to remove the skin by simply tearing from where you made the X. Next quarter the tomatoes and using a teaspoon remove the core and seeds in one go, you only want the flesh of the tomato. Remember to keep an eye on the main saucepan while you are doing this.

If the onions are starting to caramelise by now, simply remove the pan from the heat. Begin to fry the mince, with a pinch of cumin powder, in a large frying pan over a high heat. You want to brown the meat as quickly as possible, making sure that you brown all the meat.

Depending on the quality of the mince you may find that it releases some water once you start to fry it, if this happens keep the heat as high as you can and keep turning and moving the mince until all the water boils off. This can take a bit of time so don’t forget about the other pan, and remove it from the heat if the onions start to caramelise before the meat is done. You want to keep frying the mince until it is completely dry looking and starts to stick to your frying pan.

At this point your onions should have started to caramelise and you may have removed them from the heat, if you have, get them back onto a low heat for about a minute then add the meat. If the onions haven’t started to caramelise then turn the heat down on the meat and give it an occasional stir until the onions start to caramelise and then add the meat and stir the lot together.

By now there may well be some mince and fat stuck to your frying pan, this is great because that’s pure flavour. Add a good splash of your wine to the frying pan and using a wooden spoon or spatula gently stir and scrape those little bits off the pan, the heat and wine should make this very easy and in less than a minute all that flavour should have combined with the wine which you can now pour into the saucepan.

With regards to the wine: The conventional wisdom is to use red wine. If you have some available great, however the day I came up with this recipe, I looked at our collection of unfinished bottles and there were no reds, as I didn’t want to open a bottle of red just for this, I picked up a bottle of white wine, a Sauternes (very sweet wine) that had been open too long and had started to vinegar a little. A quick bit of measuring and in it went.

Now if my mum was still alive I would have gotten an earful, not only letting such a good wine start to vinegar but also for using it for cooking, that is until she tasted the end result, this gave the whole dish a different flavour than if I had used a red wine and exaggerated the caramelised flavour of the veg in a way that’s hard to describe.

Next you will need to add all the tomatoes, tomato purée, the blitzed sun-dried tomatoes, Italian tomato sauce, oregano, the rest of the wine, basil, bay leaves and stir gently.

Now bring this up to a medium heat and start to add the water, while stirring continuously. You want to add enough water so that the sauce is slightly thinner than you want the end result to be. In my case this turned out to be 500ml almost exactly but depending on the water contents of your ingredients you may require less or more. Once you’re happy with the consistency bring it to a very gentle simmer and cover the pot.

You want to simmer this for at least an hour stirring it occasionally. After an hour give it a good stir, if it’s still a little thinner than you like leave the lid off and let it simmer for a few more minutes and it should thicken up. I’ve had this Ragu simmering for up to 3 hours on occasion and if anything it just improves the flavours.

Finally, taste it and season it with salt and pepper if required and stir in 2 tablespoons of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.

I like to serve this with fresh Tagliatelle and some Parmesan cheese, grated fresh over the top at the table.

Thankfully this recipe freezes really well and is ideal for freezing in bags as described here, 150ml is a serving so we tend to freeze it in bags of 300ml for the two of us. Alternatively, we’ve found the leftovers make great pizza. just spread some on your pizza base, add some cheese over the top (crumbled Mozzarella if you want to be really decadent) and cook as usual.

Recipe: The Greatest Burgers Evah!

The Greatest Burger
The Greatest Burger

Ingredients;

500g lean ground beef
1 large red onion, finely diced
2 slices of bread, made into breadcrumbs
Large handful of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Large handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 pinch of cumin seeds
2 tablespoons dried oregano
Salt
Pepper
1 egg
1 teaspoon of smooth French mustard
2 handfuls of grated mozzarella cheese
1 chili, finely diced

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Burgers in general are just ground beef reformed into a convenient shape to place in a burger bun, right? Even at it’s simplest a burger is so much more than that, every burger maker has their own preference for the cut of beef to be ground for their burgers or the blend of cuts and the percentage of each. Some add nothing more than seasoning and others bulk out their burgers with all sorts of synthetic “fillers” and “flavour enhancers”.

I like the idea of a pure beef burger but in truth I find all but the most exceptional to be a little bland and lacking in flavour, which is why I go down the route of using a blend of herbs and other flavours to make every bite an event.

Once you have the onion and fresh herbs chopped, place the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, a large pinch of salt and pepper and the oregano in your mortar and pestle and grind them up as finely as possible. Then add this to the blender along with the fresh herbs and the bread and blend until you have nice fine herby breadcrumbs.

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and mix them together well – get your hands in and mix everything together really well, yes even the cheese.

Next place a large sheet of clingfilm onto a clean surface and arrange the mixture on top so that you can roll it into a six to eight centimetre thick sausage and seal it in the clingfilm, making sure to have this sausage compacted into this size as much as possible. Now place this in the fridge and allow it to cool for at least an hour.

Now remove the burger-sausage from the fridge and (without removing the clingfilm) slice it into burgers about one and a half centimetres thick using a very sharp knife. Once all have been sliced it should be easy enough to remove the pieces of clingfilm.

These can then be cooked on a grill, in the frying pan, or my personal favourite, grilled over a charcoal burning barbecue for approximately 2 minutes each side. I like them served in a toasted bun on a bed of lettuce and sliced cornichon with a generous helping of grated cheddar melted over the burger, topped with some hot fresh caramelised onion chutney and a blob of ketchup.

Recipe: Tuna Bake

Tuna Bake
Tuna Bake

Ingredients;

3 tins tuna
1 tin sweetcorn
4 medium potatoes, diced
good handful frozen peas
2 carrots, diced
2 onions, diced
2 parsnips, diced
15g butter
handful plain flour
glass of white wine
glass of milk
3 good pinches of dried herbs (whatever you have in the cupboard, i.e. oregano, thyme, basil, etd)
2 slices brown bread
large handful cheddar, finely grated
Packet of Lidl bacon bits

Serves 6.

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Open and drain the cans of tuna. Peel and dice the vegetables into approx 1 cm chunks. Toast the slices of bread and use a blender to zap into breadcrumbs, set aside.

Turn your oven on to 180° C and set aside a large casserole dish.

In a large stock pot or frying pan, heat up some oil and add the onion, potato, parsnips and carrots and fry on a medium heat for 10 mins. Add the peas and sweetcorn and fry for another 2-3 mins. Add the tuna and stir well until it breaks up.

Turn up the heat and add the butter, letting it melt and coat all the vegetables. Toss in a good handul of plain flour and stir well until it vanishes.

Add 1 glass of white wine. As it starts to boil off, turn the heat back down to medium and add the glass of milk and slowly add glass of water as needed – the mix should be wet and move freely, but there shouldn’t be too much free liquid. Now add your pinches of herbs and a little salt and pepper (half a pinch or so of each).

Stir the mix well and cook for another 5 mins, then turn the heat off. Pour the mix into your casserole dish and smooth down. Top with the breadcrumbs, then the handful of cheese, and finally scatter the Lidl bacon bits over the top.

Bake for 30-40 mins, until the top is golden and the bacon bits are well cooked. Keeps well for a few days and leftovers can easily be microwaved in a bowl, approx 2 mins on high per portion.

Recipe: Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs hot from the oven
Italian Meatballs hot from the oven

Ingredients;

1Kg lean beef minced
2 slices of lightly toasted bread
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, ground
1 Chile pepper, finely diced
1 handful of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 handful of fredh basil, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 large onion, finely dliced
1 teaspoon of french mustard

Serves 8

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Lightly toast the 2 slices of bread and whizz them in a blender to make breadcrumbs.

Next finely dice the onion, and fry it gently with a teaspoon of french mustard until soft, then let them cool, while you finely chop the chile, Rosemary and Basil.

Next put your meat into a large bowl and add the chile, rosemary, basil, oregano, cumin, egg yolk, the (now cooled) onion and the breadcrumbs and mix it all together, just get your hands into it and scrunch it all together.

Wet your hands and take some of the mixture and roll it into a ball about the size of a golfball and set it onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and repeat until you have used all the mixture. Check out http://dcwcasing.com/ if you want to cook the meatballs in natural casings.

Next get a frying pan onto a medium heat, add a little olive oil and fry the meatballs gently, rolling them round the pan so they cook (and colour) all the way round.

At this point you can either bag and freeze the meatballs in portions for use later or you can follow one of these 2 options.

I’m in a hurry

Once your meatballs are cooked, turn the heat right down and pour some Italian tomato sauce over them in the pan. Allow this to heat up while cooking up some pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and gently stir in the meatballs and sauce, then serve.

I’m not in a hurry

Heat your oven up to 200C, place your meatballs in an oven tray and cover with Tomato Sauce. Take a Mozzarella ball and either chop it into chunks or just rip it up and sprinkle this over the meatballs. Take a handful of fresh Basil leaves, rip them up and sprinkle them over the top, then grate a handful of parmesan over the lot.

Place this in the oven for about 20 minutes or until all the cheese melts and colours nicely. Then serve on a bed of fresh pasta and garnish with some fresh basil.

Recipe: Italian Tomato Sauce

Italian Tomato Sauce
Italian Tomato Sauce

Ingredients;

1 anchovy fillet
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 large handful of basil, stalks and leaves separated and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
4 x 400g of tinned plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

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Chop the garlic as finely as possibly, remove the leaves from the basil and roughly tear them up, take the green part of the Basil stalks and chop them up reasonably fine. Open the tins of plum tomatoes.

Heat a large saucepan and pour in roughly 2 tablespoons of oil, once this has heated add the anchovy and garlic, you want to stir fry these gently till the garlic starts to colour slightly and the anchovy starts to break up.

Next add the plum tomatoes, oregano, about half the basil leaves, all the chopped basil stalks and stir gently being careful not to break the tomatoes if at all possible. Put a lid on the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil and simmer for at least an hour stirring occasionally. I have let this sauce simmer gently for anything up to 3 hours depending on how much time I have on my hands, this makes the sauce a bit thicker and the flavours stronger.

At this point you can start to break up the tomatoes with a spoon or alternatively use a hand blender to blend it into a nice thick sauce.

Next add the remaining basil and taste the sauce. Then season with salt and pepper to taste, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and stir them in well.

I’ve found from experience that the better the plum tomatoes the thicker the sauce, however if you find that your sauce is not as thick as you like it, simply simmer it for longer the next time you try.