9 March 2015

Pork, aubergine & porcini ragu - natural umami!

I have a very embarrassing confession to make. I can't remember what inspired hubby to make this Italian style, porky, auberginey, mushroomy deliciousness - not because I am singularly forgetful (which I am!), but because he made it *blush* on the 26th January 2013.  Yes, it is now the 8th of March 2015.  *hangs head in shame*  I'm a bit behind with some ~koff~ of my blog posts.

Because these "forgotten" posts (which aren't really forgotten, but have just slipped on by in the rush of other things) are burning their unsung presence into my brain, I have decided that I must bring them to the forefront of existence.  Hence, I am going to do my best to remember at least something of the why's and wherefores of their creation, but the more important thing is to get them out there where they can be enjoyed by others!

I do recall that hubby was really keen to make a dish which did justice to the wonderful woody, rich flavour of the porcini mushroom and who who better to pair it with than with pork?  After all, both of them live in wooded areas (well, given the chance the piggies would!).  The aubergine, we felt, would give the ragu a smokiness and subtle creaminess - and so it proved.  My memory of this ragu is of a really intensely mushroomy, savoury, umami-filled forkful that was both satisfying from a comfort food angle and complex from a flavour angle.  It wasn't a simple combination of flavours, but one that developed on the tongue depending on how much of what was in your forkful.  Now you don't find that every day!

I have a few Cook's Tips for you with regard to this one :

Firstly, when you're char-grilling the aubergines, always oil the aubergines and not the pan.  Aubergines are total sponges and will soak up as much oil as you want to give them, so make sure to brush on just enough to help them to cook, or you'll end up with a greasy ragu.

Secondly, with regard to soaking the Porcini mushrooms.  When it comes to adding them to the dish, take care not to disturb the bottom of the soaking liquid.  Porcini's are renowned for containing little pieces of grit which will sink to the bottom of the bowl as the dried mushroom softens.  Pour the liquid gently and leave the last little bit in the bowl and you will be as sure as you can be, that your ragu will be grit free.

Lastly, be aware that as the ragu sauce reduces, the intensity of salt and pepper will change accordingly, so be sparing with the salt to begin with.

We didn't serve ours with any Parmesan cheese for sprinkling, but if you particularly enjoy a dash of Parmesan, then by all means feel free.  The flavours can certainly cope!

I have just received notification that this recipe has been awarded "Recipe of the Day" by eRecipe.com!  ~curtseys and composes a winner's speech~



Ingredients :

Olive oil

500g minced pork
1 large aubergine, cut into 7mm slices and chargrilled
2 banana shallots, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
a handful dried
porcini mushrooms, soaked in a little boiling water
3 chestnut mushrooms
75ml red wine
500ml pork stock (or 1 pork stock cube, dissolved in 500ml water)
400g tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried sage
half a tsp smoked paprika
half a tsp dried basil
half a tsp dried rosemary
a dash of Worcestershire sauce

sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Method :

1.  Firstly, prepare the aubergines.  Using a blisteringly hot griddle pan, barbecue or cooker grill, cook the aubergine slices until they are softened, ideally with dark griddle marks.  Once cooked, place onto a plate, cover with clingfilm and allow to cool.

To make the Ragu :

2.  Dry fry the minced pork in a large wok or deep frying pan until lightly browned, then remove from the pan and set aside.

3.  Add a little olive oil to the pan and cook the shallots, chestnut mushrooms and garlic until soft but not coloured.

4.  Return the pork to the pan and turn the heat up to high.  Once the pan is sizzling, add the red wine and stir for five minutes to allow the majority of the alcohol to cook off.

5.  Add the tomato puree and stir well to combine with the pork for a couple of minutes.

6.  Now add the paprika, herbs, tinned tomatoes and stock.  Bring the pan to a lively simmer before adding the porcini mushrooms along with their soaking liquid.

7.  Season with the Worcestershire sauce and simmer until the ragu sauce has reduced to a thick consistency.  Once at your preferred consistency, taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.

Serve with freshly cooked pasta.

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