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Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 01:00

Penne with braised beef in red wine

Serves 6

500g beef chuck steak, diced

1 bottle Chianti wine

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 head celery

1 red onion, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled an diced

Small bunch sage

2 sprigs rosemary

5 juniper berries

4 cloves

30g dried Porcini mushrooms, soaked in 500ml hot water

4 bay leaves

20g pine nuts

1 lemon zested

500g penne

100g Parmesan

Marinate the beef in the red wine overnight. Drain the meat and retain the wine. Pat the meat dry. Heat up the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and when it is good and hot, add the beef and sear it all over, keeping the heat up high and seasoning the meat very well. If you find the meat is stewing rather than colouring, remove it with a slotted spoon, let any liquid evaporate, add some more olive oil and get it to the point of smoking before putting the meat back in. You really need to get some colour going.

While this is happening, roughly chop the celery, onion and garlic and add them to the saucepan and mix well. Add the herbs and spices. Then add the mushrooms – which you can drain and roughly chop – and add three-quarters of the reserved wine that you marinated the beef in, and most of the mushroom-soaking water. It’s probably a good idea to strain the water as it can sometimes be a bit gritty.

Bring the meat up to a simmer and then put a lid on and gently simmer for at least three to four hours over a very low heat. Top up with any remaining water or wine to keep the sauce wet.

I think it’s best to let this cool down, settle and then mash it with a fork. Then add enough olive oil to give it a saucy unctuousness and re-heat gently.

Boil up the pasta, drain and toss with the beef sauce and pine nuts – which you can lightly toast if you remember to – and some lemon zest. Adjust the seasoning, top with Parmesan and serve.

Wholewheat spaghetti with olives, capers and herbs

Serves 4

250g Kalamata olives, pitted

Large bunch parsley

Large bunch mint

2 tbsp capers

2 cloves garlic, crushed

200ml olive oil

Salt and pepper

500g wholewheat spaghetti

Roughly chop the olives and herbs and mix together in a decent-sized bowl. Crush the capers with the back of knife and add them, along with the garlic. Whisk or stir in the olive oil and season really well. You could also add some lemon zest to this. Leave it at room temperature for the flavours to develop.

Boil up the pasta, drain well and then toss with the sauce. Serve warm rather than piping hot.

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