😃 This is a guest post by none other than Devvers! 😃
The other Sunday we finally had time to do some slow cooking, and after looking through “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan, we decided to make ragù and polenta.
For those of you which are not familiar with this book, it is an encyclopaedia of Italian cooking; there is a section talking about ingredients and techniques and every recipe is detailed and precise. It truly is kitchen essential, and definitely worth investing in.
The ragù took about four and a half hours to make, so it can’t be rushed. We served the ragù on top of the polenta and grated plenty of parmesan cheese on top – delicious!
We attended this afternoon workshop at their Borough Market baking school a few weeks ago. It was actually my Christmas present, but we have been so busy lately that we could only find time in March to do it!
It was really fun, the teacher was absolutely phenomenal and enthusiastic, and I am really embarrassed to admit that I did not remember her name, but thank you, Teacher!
I was a bit scared about baking because I have tried to bake breads in the past and they always ended up really flat and tough. But the workshop helped me realise what my main issues were:
not enough time or the wrong environment for the yeasts to do their business,
often, the capital sin: adding more flour instead of kneading more when the dough is sticky.
This is authentic Team Work™: my partner prepared and cooked the leeks and potatoes, and I puréed them and prepared the croutons! 😜
Butter, olive oil or coconut oil
Peel the potatoes, trim off the ugly bits in the leeks and possibly remove the outer leaf, as it tends to be quite sad looking. Wash everything thoroughly, to remove soil.
Slice everything in quite small pieces—the smaller, the faster they’ll cook.
Put in a pot with water and lots of pepper.
Bring pot to a boil, and leave to simmer for about 45 minutes or an hour (until the potatoes start to break apart).
For the croutons, I used dry bread left overs. Instead of throwing it away, I diced it and saved it in a box. So when I need croutons, I just put them in the pan with a bit of oil, salt and pepper, and fry them, tossing them in the pan until they’ve absorbed the oil (this also makes them not be hard like rocks anymore).
I used a blender to purée the potatoes and leeks, but if you’d prefer a bit more of texture you could use a fork or a potato masher accessory to roughly mash them.
Add butter (or your substitution of choice) to taste, mix well, and correct for salt after the butter is well mixed–specially if the butter is salted! Don’t add salt before. Adding some fat is essential because otherwise this soup can feel quite thin and insipid.
Finally, serve with the croutons. And enjoy!
This is so good for cold days 😃
You can make this vegan if you choose a vegetal oil instead of butter.
It might be interesting to experiment with other spices instead of just pepper: perhaps nutmeg? some moderately hot chilli?
My partner was really excited to experiment with the rice cooker, because it has a soup-making function, so we used that instead. With this method, it takes way longer to cook the soup: 2 hours! and that’s even if we added hot water to start with. But it can be programmed in advance and it has a “keep warm” setting, so it’s nice to find the soup waiting for you when you arrive home.
The fastest option would be to use a pressure cooker, in which case we would be done in about 15 minutes. You’d put everything on the cooker, add water to cover, close the lid, bring to pressure, reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, then turn the heat off, wait for the pressure to come down (or release it manually, depending on how hungry you are) so you can open the lid, and then continue from step 5. I so love pressure cookers! 💨😍
This is fun to make (spiralising things is so much fun), and fairly quick to prepare. Plus it’s quite filling AND lightweight – courgettes are basically water!
You will need a spiraliser, or you can buy pre-made courghetti, although I’ve never tried those and I’ve no idea how bad or good they are!
Ingredients (for two people)
Two medium sized courgettes (about 15 cm length)
3 or 4 garlic cloves
One 400g tomato tin
Optional: Parmesan cheese and butter (leave out if vegan)
Start by washing and spiralising the courgettes. I make one pile per courgette, as it makes it easier to separate the portions later
Peel and chop the onion and garlic cloves
Put oil on a pan, and start frying the onion and garlic
In parallel, wash and chop the parsley, and add it to the pan as well
Once the onion is pretty soft, move everything to one side, like in the picture
Add some more oil, and set to a very high heat
When the pan is very hot, add the contents of the tomato tin to it, and fry on a very high heat for about 1-2 minutes or until you think things are going to burn! Stir frequently during this time. The goal is to get the tomato to lose its acidity
Now reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes
Optional: add a dash of butter now to get a deeper body. Mix it well until it dissolves.
Slowly add about 200ml of warm water to compensate for the evaporation.
Add a tablespoon of paprika, and mix well
About 10 minutes in the simmering, try a bit of the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste, mix well and try the sauce again. It might still be a bit acidic, but don’t add sugar – just wait for longer!
Depending on the quality of the tomatoes, you might need to wait for longer. It usually pays off to wait as the flavour gets more developed and interesting. So you might need more than 20 minutes.
Once the sauce is ‘done’, turn the heat off.
To cook the courghetti, add some oil to another pan, and set on a very high heat.
When the pan is very hot, add a ‘pile’ of courghetti, and stir continuously. We don’t want anything to get stuck, and we want the cooking to be homogeneous. We also don’t want the courghettis to get too soft, so that’s why we need the heat to be very high, so they cook outside but not too much inside. If the heat is too low, they will start releasing water, and the result will be too “liquidy”.
Once one pile is cooked, place on a deep bowl, and go to step 15 to cook the next, until all have been cooked.
Pour the sauce on top of the cooked courghetti
Optional: add a good dose of grated Parmesan cheese
Add some pepper
Optional: add a dash of the best olive oil you have
Tricks and tips
I used this smoked paprika my mum brought me from Extremadura, a region in West Spain, renowned by the quality of their paprika!
If you have the chance to shop at a Spanish grocers, “Pimentón de la Vera” is the type of paprika you want to look for.
Also, depending on your spiraliser, you might get very long ‘courghetti’ so it might be interesting to cut the piles a few times with scissors before cooking them, so they’re not like 3 meters long and impossible to eat with a fork.