A warming winter ragu to comfort our inner child
JP McMahon: Comfort food is seen as sentimental, but that’s what we need right now
Child-friendly ragu or bolognese sauce
Comfort comes to mind on cold days in January. From risottos and ragus, to stews and soups, winter days like these require dishes to be a little more calorific. Comfort food is often looked down upon in food circles, being too sentimental or evoking unwanted and unnecessary nostalgia. But isn’t that exactly what we want in the depths of our hibernal chills?
Nostalgia is especially important for evoking the theatre of memory that brings together those exquisite moments when consuming those dishes that evoke events connected with our past. We all remember that cantankerous food critic in Ratatouille who was finally placated at the end of the movie by cooking that was both serious and sentimental.
When in search of comfort, I always turn towards a rich ragu, commonly called Bolognese sauce. I’m not sure if it’s the simplicity of this sauce that captures the consolation of my midwinter cooking or the fact that my father made it so often for us all when we were growing up. There is dish inside us all that evokes these feelings.
These days, having two young children, I bow to their desires and blend the onions and mushrooms into the sauce. The carrots, which were once a formidable presence, have been removed due to ongoing protests. They may make a return some day.
To make a child-friendly ragu
Fry a diced onion and two crushed garlic cloves in a little oil. Season with a little sea salt and chopped fresh thyme. Add 100g of chopped mushrooms and fry for a few more minutes and then add a chicken stock cube and a tin of tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes and then transfer to a blender.
In the same pan, fry 600g of beef mince until brown and then add the blended tomato sauce. Simmer for about 20 minutes and then season with some sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.