Remember two posts ago, when I posted about my virgin entry into a baking competition? Well, I’m really pleased to announce that I got into the finals! There are 6 of us in the finals, which will be held on the last day of the Savour festival, 14 April. I definitely am facing some stiff competition for my trip to Paris, judging from the flyer below! Truth to be told, I had hoped that my passion fruit and chocolate combination, inspired by Pierre Herme’s Mogador would stand out from the crowd, but two other contestants had the same idea as me :/ Well, contestants are judged based on originality, presentation, technical execution and taste – so hopefully, mine hits the spot on all four on the day of the competition!

If you have already bought tickets, pop by the competition area to say hi!

Now back to the post proper. I just got back from yet another trip to Australia, a short one week trip this time. I took a Scoot flight to save money, and disappointingly, the flight got delayed for over 2 hours on my return, and I eventually touched down in Singapore about 2.5 hours later than expected. I got back home close to midnight, bathed and promptly fell asleep because I had to go to work early the next day! My experiences with Scoot have been moderately pleasant, but I can see from the fb page that many others have had unpleasant experiences, flight cancellations, etc. My next flight with Scoot is to Seoul, which was their new destination, in August – fingers crossed that nothing untoward happens to the flight and between the two Koreas from now till then!

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This is perhaps the second or third savoury dish on my blog, after my mee hoon kueh and spaghetti bolognese. The main reason being I only tend to cook daily when I’m in Australia, because I love grocery shopping there and cooking for Jon, but back here in Singapore, my mom’s the queen of the kitchen and with my long work hours, I really don’t have time to cook as much as I want to. I made this dish when I was in Australia, because the lean beef mince was on offer (A$3 for 500g!) and there was a half bottle of red wine in the fridge to use. A ragù is very simply a meat-based sauce, and if you check out my previous spaghetti bolognese recipe, you will realize that bolognese sauce is in fact, a type of ragù. The french term ragoût refers to a main dish stew, which is somewhat similar to the ragù.

A bolognese sauce is typically served with tagliatelle, but I chose to use macaroni here because it was the only dry pasta I had besides spaghetti, and macaroni would go perfectly with the hearty beef-laden tomato sauce. If you ever want to eat pasta ‘the right way’, ie the right sauce with the right shape, do check out this very helpful guide on CHOW.

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Another thing I do in Australia is to buy the food-related magazines while I’m there, because the recipes in the magazines are crafted with the seasonal produce in mind, which is great because I love being able to cook seasonally and try out different recipes. Donna Hay, for its autumn issue, very helpfully (and coincidentally) had several recipes on ragù. I also browsed through several recipes online, by Jamie Oliver, Taste Australia, but as usual, I eventually didn’t follow their recipes closely.

From the picture above, besides the steam from the piping hot sauce, I also used a fresh sprig of rosemary, which was freshly plucked from our mini potted herb garden! Jon was growing basil, rosemary, parsley and chili (not a herb I know).  The joy of being able to pluck fresh herbs from something you grow is indescribable! I do want to grow herbs in Singapore too, but it’s pretty hard where I live, because my apartment has very harsh afternoon sun and is very windy. And honestly, I just don’t have the same oomph in Singapore to look after the herbs :/

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The ragù is not the most photogenic of dishes, as you can see from the picture above, but it certainly is hearty. Eating a hot bowl of ragù during a cold autumn day in Australia = YUM. The best thing about the ragù is that you can cook a huge pot of it and freeze the excess for a cold rainy day (in Singapore). If I had the freezer space, I would definitely double the recipe! In fact, that is what my mom and I usually do for our pasta sauces here in Singapore – at any given time, our freezer will have 1 or 2 person portion of a tomato-based pasta (make sure that you freeze the sauces without mushrooms as they don’t freeze too well or too long) and a pesto (you should ideally freeze the pesto without adding the Parmesan cheese and without having added the meat etc – ie, just the pesto sauce itself should be frozen). What then usually happens is that the night before, I will thaw the 1-person portion sauce in the fridge and in the morning before I go to work, my mom will cook the pasta and either add the sauce to it or pack it separately, depending on what sauce it is. I would highly recommend this to any OL (office lady) who wants to eat healthy meals in the office and yet are hard pressed to find time to cook during the weekdays. If you don’t have time to cook the pasta in the morning, what I’ve done before is to cook the pasta (usually the short varieties of pasta such as fusili and macaroni) in the microwave oven in my office pantry. Just pour hot water to the dry pasta, and microwave it on high for about 10 minutes. Admittedly, the pasta is less flavourful, unless you remember to add salt to the water before microwaving, but the pasta will be nicely al dente and will be piping hot for your pasta sauce!

I’ll be sharing how I prepare my meals (for packed lunches in the office) in the next few posts, so look out for salads and other simple dishes that you can prepare over the weekend and eat on a weekday!

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Beef Ragù
 
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 4
 
 

Ingredients
  • 500g beef mince + 100g chuck beef, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 60g tomato puree
  • 250g red wine (about 1 cup) (I used Pinot Noir)
  • 400g chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 250g homemade beef stock (about 1 cup)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Herbs of your choice (I used rosemary, basil and thyme)
  • Button mushrooms, optional
  • Parmesan, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking

Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a casserole over a medium heat. Add in the garlic and onion and cook until the onion turns transparent and fragrant.
  2. Increase the heat to high and add in the chuck beef and the beef mince, cooking until the sides of the chuck beef and the beef mince browns.
  3. Add in the chopped carrots and celery and cook for another minute or two, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and cook for another minute.
  5. Add in the red wine and cook for another two minutes on high heat, stirring the bottom regularly. Once the red wine has reduced by a third, pour in the beef stock, bay leaves and fresh herbs. Use about a sprig or two if you do not want the herbs to be overpowering. I used about 5-10g of basil, 3 sprigs of rosemary and some dried thyme.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer over a very low heat for about one hour, or until the mixture thickens and reduces to about half. Add salt according to taste. If your beef stock contains salt, it is unlikely that you need any more salt. You may wish to add up to a tablespoon of sugar if the ragu tastes a little sour (due to the tomatoes). Remove the bay leaves before serving.
  7. To serve, prepare the macaroni or any tubed pasta, according to the instructions on the pack. Ladle the ragu over the pasta and buon appetito!

Notes
Substitution: You may wish to use canned diced tomatoes if you do not like to eat the “skins” of the fresh tomatoes in the ragu. Also, when choosing the red wine, be sure to use a red wine that is something that you would drink. The rule is “If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.” I used a moderately priced Australian Pinot Noir, but you can also use any other dry red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz/Syrah or Chianti.
Storage: Allow the ragu to cool completely before storing in the fridge, for up to 5 days. Freeze excess for up to a month.
Would I make this again?: Definitely!

1 comment

  1. Sammie says:

    Hi Janine! Congratulations on being shortlisted! That’s really quite amazing! All the best to you! And haha yes I definitely agree that cooking is much more enjoyable when not in Singapore! I loved cooking when I lived in Vancouver but didn’t really quite find the need for it here. It’s rather much more tempting to buy a packet of noodles for cheap within a 300m vicinity from anywhere you are! Hawker foods are the best ;)

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