Red Wine Beef Ragu (DF + NF)

Small humans. Even medium sized humans (you know the teenage kind?) take up time. Heck, I'm now in my 30's and my Mum was recently here helping me out; distracting our little cookie, doing dishes and just generally being the helping, loving Mum that she is. Yep, she pretty much sums up my parenting goals. Gotta love Mums.

Back to small humans. They take up time. As in, they take up our time with activities, with outdoor play, with laundry and dishes and shopping trips. It becomes our life. A life that is full of adventure. Or at least, that's how I view ours, one big adventure. This adventure is one that needs fuel. A. Lot. Of. Fuel. No, I'm not really talking about our little cookie (20 month old small human) but me. I'm an eater. Our little cookie is an eater too, oh boy is he! Then my man cycles, so that's a lot of carbs that get guzzled down (and the only gluten that's in the house; his oat based muesli and bread, occasionally he sneaks in licorice, the bastard!)

The answer to all this food consumption?

A plan.

Not crazy two week plan of meals, but a few days worth and a few extra things in the freezer. Thinking of how we're currently living (working, playing, sleeping on the floor next to our little cookie when he sleeps, sleeping when he sleeps due to lack of aforementioned sleep, play, laundry, did I mention laundry?) I thought I'd share how our meals work out, most of the time. I mean, there's days when we eat toasted sandwiches for lunch and dinner, or our little cookie gets a bowl of pasta with a little tuna mixed in or he only wants to eat scrambled eggs when he's teething. This is life. This is our around-about-winter-menu for a week.

Being a big fan of the fresh produce at our local farmers market; Manning Farmers Market, it rocks! our menu starts there. Our pantry is stocked with gluten free staples (I'll share more about that soon) but our weekly market shop usually includes a bunch of staple fruit and veg and seasonal items, this weeks was something along the lines of;

  • carrots,
  • broccoli,
  • cauliflower,
  • capsicum,
  • cucumber,
  • corn,
  • pumpkin,
  • potatoes,
  • sweet potatoes,
  • peas/beans of some kind,
  • onions,
  • avocado,
  • bananas,
  • pears,
  • oranges,
  • strawberries,
  • spinach,
  • basil
  • and coriander.

It's winter, I don't do salads in winter - too damn cold! So, this is our...

Round-About-Dinner-Menu-For-A-Week

  1. Nachos, a double batch. It's vego, with green capsicum + a bottle of beer (gluten free, obvs). Half was frozen. The other half did two meals for three people. The second night as stuffed sweet potatoes with cheese, baby spinach and plenty of smashed avo on top.
  2. Basil Pesto, a jam packed food processor full of basil, a little parsley and a good handful or two of baby spinach, for extra green. We made Chicken Basil Pesto Pasta, with enough to feed 4 adults and that growing small human of ours. There's still basil pesto in the fridge that's being used on toast with scrambled eggs or in toasted cheese sandwiches with leftover and on pizza.
  3. Moroccan Chicken Cauliflower & Chickpea with rice (cook extra rice, recipe in Vol 4 of The Gluten Free Scallywag Magazine). Drumsticks ahoy! Chicken legs come to life with moroccan seasonings and is filled out with half a cauliflower and a tin of chickpeas. This meal did 2 dinners for 3 adults + a small human.
  4. Fried Rice (by no means, traditional). If there's leftover rice I'll make up a huge batch of homemade fried rice. I use most veg in my fried rice and always bacon, sometimes with leftover shredded chicken. It's usually about 60% rice, 40% veg; onions, carrot, capsicum, broccoli, corn, peas, snow peas, zucchini, cauliflower and some fresh basil. This usually does about 2 meals for 3 adults + I freeze another meals worth for later.
  5. Spiced Chorizo Pasta with Roasted Capsicum Sauce. You can make the sauce, or simply finely dice and saute a red capsicum to throw into a store-bought sauce with some black olives, sundried tomatoes and pan fried chorizo. Top with fresh ricotta and a dollop of pesto. Feeds 4.
  6. Pumpkin + Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger. A big pot of this gets us through lunches with toasted cheese and pesto sandwiches for a few days.
  7. Roast Lamb (whichever cut you love or whatever meat you love) with roasted veg; all the carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, a few roast onions and some slow roasted garlic cloves... You could do a potato gratin or broccoli cauliflower cheese if you wished. Leftover lamb would be thrown on top of pizza along with the leftover roast veg and pesto the following night.

There's often a ragu in the mix somewhere, such as the beef ragu below which is a cinch to make and spends most of it's time slowly bubbling away in the oven. This recipe is a favourite of mine from Vol 4 of The Gluten Free Scallywag Magazine... ahem cookbook, which you can grab from my online store or pop down to my Market Cake Bake Stall at the September Upmarket. 

Red Wine Beef Ragu

/ Serves 6 / from The Gluten Free Scallywag Magazine, Vol 4

method:

Preheat oven to 140 C.

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large, lidded, cast iron pot over medium heat. Brown beef in batches to create a lovely golden brown edge to the beef. Don't overcrowd the beef or it will stew, rather than brown. As the beef browns, place in a bowl along with any juices, and set aside.

If the pan is dry, heat another glug of olive oil in the pan and saute the onion, carrot & celery for 5-8 minutes until soft. Throw in the crushed garlic, return the beef and stir for a minute to cook the garlic. Add in the remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover pot tightly with lid or foil and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2.5 to 3 hours, or until beef is falling apart, this may take a further half hour to an hour depending on the cut of beef. Stir every hour to ensure nothing has caught on the bottom.

Remove beef from the sauce and roughly pull apart with two forks to shred. Set aside, covered, to keep warm and avoid drying out. Remove the bay leaves from the luscious gravy. If you would like a thicker sauce, place the pot back over a low heat and simmer for 15-30 minutes. Keep in mind when you add the beef back in it will be thicker simply due to the beef soaking up that little bit extra sauce.

Return beef to pan and heat through. Season with pepper.

Serve over piping hot gluten free pasta or gnocchi with plenty of Parmesan cheese (please amend serving suggestions if dairy free)

Equally delicious with a cup of frozen peas and diced steamed carrots tossed in and topped with mashed potato as a shepherd's pie or use as a rich sauce for homemade lasagna, you could even make some ragu filled crepe cannelloni for something different.

ingredients

1kg casserole beef, chopped into 4cm cubes

1 brown onion, roughly chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 sticks celery, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups (500ml) gluten free vegetable or beef stock

1 cup (250ml) dry red wine (or stock)

2 bay leaves

A sprig each of rosemary, thyme and oregano, chopped