Here’s another recipe to help you hit your 5-a-day. If you can get used to incorporating as many veggies as possible into your meals then you’ll be well on the way to a healthier diet. Most importantly you’ll be helping your body to stay at peak condition and in turn keeping anxiety as well as other illnesses at bay. Most people enjoy a bit of beef ragu; it’s incredibly versatile you can have it with pasta, spiralized vegetables like courgetti or squash spaghetti, piled into a roasted sweet potato, stuffed into roasted peppers, on a pizza or even in a sandwich.
Traditionally in Bologna, Italy the ragù was made with a mixture of diced beef and fatty cuts of pork, which were added to a base of sautéed soffritto (carrots, onions, celery) in a broth flavoured with tomatoes and wine. It would be slow cooked until meltingly tender and tossed through wide ribbons of pasta, called pappardelle. Recipes for ragù vary from region to region and even household to household throughout Italy. The dollop of minced beef we see sitting proudly on top of spaghetti, or spaghetti Bolognese as we’ve come to fondly know it, is a largely British interpretation of the dish. The Italians are quite particular about which pasta should be served with each sauce, quite rightly so, and ragù and spaghetti aren’t a match made in Italian heaven.
So while this is by no means an authentic Italian beef ragu I like to think I’ve made it my own, given it my household twist and made it suit my needs. The result is tasty, comforting meal with a rich, deep flavour and lots of lovely vegetables – healthy comfort food at its best.
I always make this in my pressure cooker, if you haven’t got one I can’t tell you enough how much I think you’ll benefit from investing in one. However I’ll give you an option for using a slow cooker or just a regular pot on the hob too. A pressure cooker saves so much time in the kitchen, tougher and much better value cuts of meat can be cooked in a fraction of the cooking time. 25 minutes for falling apart lamb shanks, 45 minutes for ribs so tender they’ll bring tears of joy to your eyes and only 20 minutes to poach a whole chicken!
I make a giant batch of vegetable soup in around 20 minutes from start to finish – it’s fantastic! Due to the high-pressure cooking method and shorter cooking time more heat-sensitive nutrients are preserved than any other cooking method, speedy and healthy is my kind of food! If you’re going to make it on the hob in a regular pan you must give it time if you want the rich flavour to develop, and the vegetables to soak up all the delicious flavours. Rush this and you wont get the same results, it’s all about patience. I hope you like my nutrient rich, beef and vegetable ragu and enjoy some healthy, mindful cooking.
Slow-Cooked Beef & Vegetable Ragu
Makes 6-8 portion
Can be frozen/keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Drizzle coconut or olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced (no need to peel)
3 sticks celery, diced
1 large leek, trimmed and finely sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or 1 tbsp of garlic purée
3 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
750g extra lean beef mince (less than 5% fat is good)
Glass red (best) or Rose or white wine
Bouquet Garni (bundle of herbs tied together – bay, thyme, rosemary, fresh oregano if you can get it)
150g mushrooms, diced
1 small aubergine, diced
1 courgette, diced
1 red pepper, diced
500ml beef or veal stock (the veal stock adds a great favour, I use Essential cuisine Veal stock mix which you can get from good delis and farm shops or Lakeland)
400g can good quality plum tomatoes
Freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/4 tsp
Fresh Parmesan, about 3 tbsp plus extra to serve
A splash (2-3 tbsp full fat milk)
Basil and fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
To serve: 75g pasta per person or about 200g courgetti or spiralized veg per a person.
Heat the oil along with a big pinch of salt in a large saucepan or your pressure cooker and then add the onions, carrots celery and leeks. Cook for 10 minutes, while stirring occasionally, until soft. Now add the garlic, oregano, Worcestershire and soy sauce and the tomato puree and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring well. Next add the beef, cook until browned, using your wooden spoon to break up any lumps with a wooden spoon. Add the wine and bubble to reduce.
The rest of the veggies go in now, add them one at a time and give everything a really good stir letting it reduce down a bit before adding the next lot. Now the stock, canned tomatoes, some salt and pepper and the bouqet garni. Stir well and bring up to a gentle boil.
Pressure cooker: Once boiling put the lid on and lock, wait until it comes up to high pressure then turn down to the lowest heat and time 40 minutes, slowly reduce the pressure and then stir well, simmer for a few minutes uncovered if the mixture needs to thicken. Stir in the herbs, milk, nutmeg and Parmesan.
Slow cooker: Transfer your mixture to a slow cooker, cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Stir in the herbs, milk, nutmeg and Parmesan.
Hob: Gently simmer, the mixture should only just bubble, stirring occasionally for at least 2 hours, or longer if you can. Stir in the herbs, milk, nutmeg and Parmesan.
Allow to cool slightly before tasting and adjusting the seasoning, if necessary. Serve with your chosen accompaniment and extra grated Parmesan on top.