8 Sep 2013

things in the fridge

This week I used a new ingredient - a small bottle of balsamic vinegar of modena. I found out later that it was an imitation product... I ended up using it a total of three times before stashing it in the pantry. A dash or two in the sweet and sour sauce and in the pork ragù I was making and coated some sliced strawberries with it. It made my sauce tart, heightened the flavour of the ragù and brought the dull strawberries to life. If the imitation works this well, the real thing must be great!

I thought ragù was something very fancy but it's actually a no brainer. Really. So don't let the long list of ingredients deter you from making it. In fact, most of the ingredients listed below are staples in my regular pasta sauce. You just have to simmer it for a longer period of time and you don't even have to tend to it. The only thing different is that you have to let it rest overnight to allow it to develop flavours. Dinner the next day will be ready in a pinch.

I scooped some sauce out as I thought I had to much. A future pasta sauce or lasagna in the makes possibly, but it rejoined the others in the end. An extra bowl and spoon to wash, but all I had to do that night was cook the pasta and reheat the sauce.

With the leftovers, I ended up making a baked pasta which was equally delicious. Just heat it up in a microwave, stir in some baby spinach, transfer into an oven-safe dish, pile on the cheese (parmsesan and mozzarella) and bake at 175C until golden brown.

● ● ●

pork ragù     serves 8
adapted from the SBS Feast magazine issue 24

1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery stalks, peeled and finely diced
1 solo garlic, finely diced
2 heaped Tb tomato paste
800g pork gravy
few sprigs each of rosemary and thyme
3 dried bay leaves
pinch of grated nutmeg
250ml white wine* (I used a French one I had in the fridge)
800g canned diced Italian tomatoes
chicken stock, enough to cover the pork
dash of balsamic vinegar of modena
500g dried rigatoni
sea salt, black/white pepper, sugar, to taste
cooking oil, as required
finely grated parmesan, to serve

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick frying pan and saute onion, carrot, celery, garlic until onion softens. When done, stir in the tomato paste, turn off the heat and leave aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large cast iron casserole pot and wipe the pork gravy dry with a paper towel (do it, or else oil will splatter everywhere). Season pork with salt and pepper, add to the pot and brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium, add the sauteed vegetables, herbs, nutmeg, wine, tomatoes and chicken stock (enough to cover pork) and bring to a simmer. Skim off the scum if it bothers you. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours** or until meat is tender and falling apart. Taste and season. Remove lid and allow to cool completely in the cooking liquid. Leave the pot with the lid ajar on the stove top (if weather permits) or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove pork from the pot, fish out the herb stems and bay leaves, reserving the cooking liquid. Using your hands, shred the meat and place it back into the pot. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar and check if you need to season the tomato mixture again. Bring it to a simmer over low heat and cook until meat has heated through, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni according to packet instructions. Drain well then add into the pot, stirring and tossing to combine.

Serve with finely grated parmesan cheese.

*Substitute with red wine or extra stock if you like
*I had 2 pieces of pork gravy, around 400g each. I felt that 1 1/2 hours was sufficient time to achieve the meat's tenderness. The meat was "peelable" with steel tongs. The original recipe uses a 2.2kg piece of pork shoulder on the bone and cooked it for 2 1/2 hours. Adapt your cooking times depending on cut/size of meat.