Monday, 23 August 2010

Venison ragu

Sounds a bit decadent but it's not really, well, maybe just a little bit...

I'm all for whipping up a bolognese sauce after work, it can be a nice and quick crowd pleaser, but it's also fun to luxuriate in making a proper ragu from scratch, and if you do it you'll really taste the difference in the end product.

Preparing the mirepoix base (the holy trinity of carrot, celery and onion) takes a little time, but it's the base for great sauces and stocks, giving depth and sweetness to all it touches. Combined with beautifully ripe and juicy tomatoes they form the basis of a great ragu.

Whilst it's not really practical mid week post work, given the rain has been pummeling down all day its been the perfect time for me to cook this culinary treat, and try something a bit different with it.

Venison mince is priced around the same as minced beef from a butcher so its not overly expensive, and it brings a sweet richness to the sauce that really elevates it to something a bit more special.

The meat is pretty lean though so whilst it enjoys being cooked gently and slowly for a few hours, you don't want to pound it with masses of heat for hours and hours on end. And I definitely recommend making it one day and eating it the next, it gives the flavours time to intensify and deepen quite deliciously.

Food for four:
600g minced venison
3 fat rashers of smoked streaky, rind removed, cut finely
1 large carrot, peeled, top and tailed and finely diced
2 celery stalks, top and tailed and finely diced
2 golden onions, peeled and finely diced
Two fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 big juicy tomatoes, plum or salad will do, the green core removed and diced
1 can of tomatoes, or the same volume of pasatta
3 glasses of white wine
4 tablespoons tomato puree
One level teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional but very tasty)
Olive oil for cooking
Sea salt and pepper
Pasta to serve

- In a large saute pan or saucepan heat several glugs of olive oil for cooking and butter, and cook on a medium heat, as soon as the oil is heating up add your carrots, onion and celery to the pan
- Cook for around 20 minutes until the vegetables have really softened and are turning a light golden colour (you're not looking for them to turn too dark)
- Add your bacon to the pan and continue to cook for another 6-7 minutes, then add your venison
- The mince has the tendency to clump together, so use the end of a wooden spatula to break it up and stop it being too lumpy
- When the venison has just browned all over, add the garlic to the pan and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the wine, tinned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato puree and a generous amount of salt and pepper (taste it to see how much it needs) stir to combine and put the lid on
- Turn the pan down to its lowest heat and leave to cook for three hours (stirring occasionally) then switch off
- The following day when you're ready to eat, put the pan back on the lowest heat and add the dried chilli flakes
- Cook the ragu for 30 minutes stirring occasionally, then remove the lid and cook for a further 30 to reduce the sauce a little, continuing to stir
- Serve over your favourite pasta (I like these penne because they're wheat free, but if you can eat wheat I'd go for anything by De Cecco - overtime!) with a handful of extra virgin drizzled rocket and Parmesan cheese
- Wine to accompany is optional, but recommended

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