Baked Beef Ragu

With the colder weather in full swing I've been further experimenting with slow braises and casseroles.  The above dish is a result from playing around in the kitchen.  As I stated in my beef stifado recipe I like to use chuck steak in my casserole cooking.  It's a cheap cut of meat, with a good amount of fat that melts as it is slowly cooked.  I buy it in big pieces and cut it accordingly.  What I did different this time was to grind it myself using the food processor.  I was after a coarse grind but it ended up a little finer than I would have preferred.  This dish is traditionally associated with spaghetti bolognaise but I can tell you now this recipe or method is nowhere near Bologna.  I cooked this in a sealed cast iron pot in the oven for a good three hours on a very gentle heat.  Although I did start it off on the stove top for the first half hour.  It turned out gloriously rich with beautiful meaty flavours.

As with most slow cooked dishes I like to use a base of  finely diced onions or leeks, celery and carrots.  I like to fry these off in a combination of olive oil  and butter.  Adding a little chopped pancetta is a nice flavour enhancer at this point too.  The liquid you choose will also vary the flavour of the dish.  In this case I used a good quality red wine and some home made beef stock along with some crushed tomatoes.  I added some fresh thyme but you could add pretty much anything you wanted.  Flat leaf parsley would be a good choice here too.  This tasted fantastic the next day and I froze a lot for future use.  Always good to have a back up plan in the freezer.

Serve it up with your favourite pasta or use it as a filling for stuffed vegies...I'll leave that up to you.  Just remember to enjoy it with a good red!  I know I did!