Comfort food is satisfying because it is prepared in an unpretentious traditional way with a nostalgic appeal that reminds you of home, family or friends. As the seasonal clock turns from summer to autumn, our senses inevitably convey the message that the time for comfort food has arrived.
I happen to stumble across this versatile, rich, beautifully cooked meat-based sauce that is as good served with pasta, over polenta, in wraps, chilli con-carne, as a pie filling and even cottage pie.
The secret of a good ragu is to choose the right cut of meat. A wrong cut is probably the worst mistake you can make. Some cuts which are good for braising, like sirloin and prime rib, don’t break down in the same way and you’ll be left with chunks of tight, dry meat rather than meltingly tender beef. It is advisable to use cheaper cuts like shin, chuck or blade.
- 1 kg chuck or beef shin
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1 cup finely chopped carrot
- ½ cup finely chopped celery stalks
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1t paprika
- 1t smoked paprika
- 2t cumin powder
- 1t cayenne pepper
- 2T tomato paste
- 1 beef stock cube
- 2 large fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2T fresh oregano or 1T dried oregano
- Vegetable or Canola oil for frying
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan. Salt the meat generously and fry in batches till nicely browned. Remove the meat and set aside.
Add the beef with all the resting juices, the stock cube, chopped tomato, chilli, 2 cups of water and all the herbs.
Cover the pan, and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 3 hours or more until the meat fall off the bone. Remove meat from the pan and flake with two forks.
At this stage, if the liquid is too watery, increase the heat and reduce the sauce till a nice, thick consistency.
Add meat to sauce and taste for any adjustments with salt, pepper and chilli.
Serve over your favourite pasta with some parmesan. I also enjoy it as a filling for wraps served with guacamole, sour cream and grated cheese.