Category Archives: White Wine

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: Allium and Root Veg Soup

A Bowl of Allium and Root Veg Soup with a drizzle of cream and some fresh chives
A Bowl of Allium and Root Veg Soup

Ingredients;

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove peeled and diced
3 large leeks, sliced
1 parsnip, diced
1 onion, diced
110ml white wine
500ml onion stock (or vegetable stock)
100ml cream
700ml vegetable stock
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Serves 4-6

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Place your saucepan on a medium to high heat and add a splash of olive oil. Once this is up to temperature add the potato and garlic and fry gently until the potato starts to soften. Stir this regularly to avoid the garlic burning.

Once the potatoes have started to soften add the leeks and continue to fry until they too have softened.

Next add the wine, onion stock and cream and bring this to a simmer, cover the saucepan and leave to simmer and reduce for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this point you should have very little liquid left in your saucepan. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for a further 15 minutes, then remove from it the heat and allow it to cool a little.

Next, pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. As always if the soup is thicker than you would like you can thin it with some additional stock. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper if needed, and you’re ready to serve.

I’ve served this alongside a pizza base, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, some Gruyère and goats’ cheese (no tomato sauce), baked for about 8 minutes as you would a normal pizza. This combination brings out the flavours, even more, in both.

This soup can be frozen although it is best served fresh with a little drizzle of cream and some chopped chives sprinkled over the top.

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.