Tag Archives: stew

Tuscan Ragu & Polenta

It’s been a New Year’s resolution of mine for a few years to make polenta – i always enjoy it in restaurants yet have never cooked it myself. Yesterday was the day!

My dear friend Laura who lives in Florence sent me a wonderful Tuscan cookbook for my birthday and after a long 3 days completing the 3 Peaks Challenge the Tuscan Ragu recipe provided inspiration for a comforting, warming, tasty dish that kept me happy in the kitchen yesterday afternoon.

Serves 4
For the Ragu
1 Carrott – diced
2 sticks Celery – diced
1 Onion – diced
2 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
Sprinkle dried Chilli and Oregano
20g Pancetta Cubes
300g Minced Pork
2 Sausages – remove the skin and mash the meat
Handful Chestnut Mushrooms – chopped
Handful dried Porcini Mushrooms – chopped (save the soaking liquid)
3/4 Pint Sangiovese Wine (or any Italian Red)
1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 tin Plum Tomatoes
3/4 Pint Beef stock
Nutmeg
Handful Basil leaves – torn
For the Polenta
5tbsp Extra Fine Polenta (Cornmeal)
2 Bay Leaves
2 handfuls Grated Parmesan
Pepper

In a large saucepan, gently fry the celery, onion and carrott in some olive oil until softened. This is a classic trilogy of ingredients called a Mirepoix or Soffritto and provides the flavour base for the dish. After 15 minutes or so, add the pancetta , garlic and the dried herbs and continue to sautee for another 10 minutes.
Add in the pork mince and sausage meat – mix thoroughly and mash together. Stir in the mushrooms and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the wine in – don’t be surprised by how red the dish turns, allow the wine to reduce and once the mixture is dry, add in the stock, porcini liquid and tomatoes. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for at least an hour – add more stock if the dish starts to dry out.
Meanwhile, make the polenta. Boil the bay leaves in a pan on a medium heat in 3/4 pint of water with some salt and olive oil. Add the polenta and whisk to avoid lumps. Turn the heat down and continue to whisk – add more water if needed. After 20-30 minutes the mixture should thicken up – you want it the consistency of a very creamy mash potato. At this point stir in the parmesan and add black pepper to taste.
To serve, scatter the basil leaves into the ragu and amend any seasoning.
Place the polenta at the base of the bowl with the ragu on top. Enjoy this warming, autumnal dish with some kale, tenderstem broccoli and sauteed sprouts.

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Cleanse Weeks 2 and 3

Sorry for the delay in posting this but work and my new house combined with seeing friends and being away etc have made me a very busy bee the past two weeks.

So…..the cleanse….week one was a breeze, far easier than i imagined. Week two was slightly harder – being the only one on our work trip away not drinking lovely red wine with our tapas dinner and starting off life in my new house without chocolate to get me through the stress of it! I had a couple of nice meals out which were gluten, sugar and grain free including Jin Juu’s Jap Chae Noodles and a simple Flat Iron Steak with a side salad of green beans, heritage tomatoes and a light citrus dressing at Bordelaise in Toots.

On top of that my meals and snacks have been easy to include in the cleanse. Cauliflower Rice and Courgetti have been fabulous substitutes for regular rice and pasta. Elix was shocked the other day when I announced I would never have rice again as I love the cauli stuff so much! Fruit and Veg smoothies for breakfast with eggs, avocado and salmon at weekends as a treat has also been easy to continue with. Packed lunches at work have involved chicken, walnut and apple salad, tuna nicoise and roast vegetable salad. Whilst rooibos and peppermint tea are delightful I continue to pine for cappuccinos and a milky earl grey cuppa!

My weight loss has continued – nothing huge but a little nip and tuck here and there which my skinny jeans have been grateful for! Most importantly my skin is in a far better state now with some little irritable patches I used to suffer from now completely clear and my face pretty much free from blemishes.

To confess, I did take my best friend Bex for afternoon tea for her birthday at The Goring. We enjoyed sandwiches, scones and pastries aswell as a glass of champagne. I felt ok afterwards, fuller than usual (i would normally devour extra servings of sandwiches and scones and I didnt!) and a little bloated but nothing too concerning. I think this showed me that everything in moderation, for me, is ok although I do think I have a slight intolerance to milk which I will investigate.

My favourite recipe from the past couple of weeks has been Seafood Stew with Tomato and Saffron.

Serves 2
200g Mixed Seafood including prawns, mussels and squid
6 Scallops
1 Onion – diced
4 cloves Garlic – crushed
1/2 Carton Tomato Passata
1 tin Plum Tomatoes
Sprinkle of Saffron
1tsp Chilli flakes
1tsp Turmeric
Flat Leaf Parsley
Lemon Juice

Start by slowly frying the onion and garlic in some olive oil in a saucepan. As they begin to soften, add in the spices and mix. Pour in the passata and tinned tomatoes and stir together – leave to simmer gently in the pan for 30 minutes.
If you need to sweeten the sauce add a little sugar or agave – I found that mine didn’t need it.
Add the seafood for a couple of minutes to cook through and stir through the chopped parsley. Finally add a little lemon juice and mix again.
When the sauce has a good balance of chilli heat, sharpness from the lemon and sweetness from the tomatoes and the seafood is cooked through you are ready to serve.
I served mine with kale, tenderstem broccoli and cauliflower rice.