People aren’t all the same and that’s probably a good thing. I can’t begin to image how epically boring a place the world would be if they were. Unfortunately this different-strokes-for-different-folks thing is a bit of pain when it comes to writing recipes.

Take my friend Betty (not her real name, as she would NOT be amused). She pecks at her food like a day-old sparrow. I’ve counted and she averages five teeny-tiny bites before she turns to me sheepishly in the hope that I won’t take offense. I’m used to it by now. Or my other friend, Sarah (for obvious reasons also not her real name) who has more of a last-supper approach when it comes to food. I’ve long suspected it’s only her fancy private school education that prevents her from licking the plate. And that folks is why I hedge my bets, and say a recipe serves 8-10. Or as is the case with this lamb sauce, 4-6.

It’s rich, so if you’re serving a bunch of Sarahs, you can stretch it with more pasta and less sauce. I opted for stewing lamb with cheaper, tougher cuts that need hours on low heat. I figure there’s no point in saving money on cheaper cuts only to use enough electricity to trigger another crisis at Eskom, so I cheated and (shock, horror) blitzed it in my pressure cooker for 50 minutes. It came out fall-of-the-bone soft, thick and dark, just like a proper ragu should be.

All you need is…

2 large carrots, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
1 large celery stalk, leaves removed
50g bacon, chopped
1kg stewing lamb with bone in (make sure you have quite a few pieces of neck)
2 tbs flour
350g ripe red fresh tomatoes (or one tin of tomatoes if need be)
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 mutton stock cube, dissolved in three cups of boiling water
2 bay leaves (dried will do but I much prefer fresh)
1 tbs fresh oregano (a touch less if you’re using dried)
olive oil for frying
parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
chopped fresh parsley and oregano or mint, for serving

Chop the carrots, celery and onion fine in a food processor. Dust the meat with flour. Fry meat over a medium-high heat in olive oil until brown. (Start with two tbs of olive oil and only add more if need be. Very important: Only fry a few pieces of lamb at a time. If you add too many, the temperature will drop too much and you will end up with watery grey meat instead of caramelised pieces!)

Remove the meat and fry veggies and bacon in the same pan for 5 minutes. Stir to ensure you lift all that caramelised awesomeness from the bottom of the pan. Chop and add the tomatoes. (Using really ripe red tomatoes is important. If you can’t find ripe big ones, use the smaller rosa or cherry tomatoes which are generally nice and red. Now this is where a self-respecting cook will tell you to blanch the tomatoes briefly in boiling water to help remove the skin. I could not be bothered.)

Add the stock, pepper, bay leaves and oregano and cook in a pressure cooker for 50 minutes (you need a briskish bubble and boil, so it needs to whistle baby). Check to see if it’s soft – it must fall off the bone. Remove the bones and flake the meat (you should be able to do this easily with your fingers or a fork). Return to the heat to warm through. The sauce should be moist but nice and thick, so if it’s too wet at this point, simply boil it without the lid for a few minutes to reduce it further. Check for salt and give it a grinding of black pepper. Serve with the pasta of your choice. I used home made pappardelle, but fettuccine or linguine will do nicely too.

serves

4-6

prep

10 min

cook

70 min

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More ideas

If pasta is not your thing, how about using this filling for an ultra fancy shepherd’s pie? Simply top it with creamy mash, grate over parmesan and pop it under the grill for a minute of two.

If you want to be really decadent, use this filling for a toasted sandwich. A crisp green salad with a few shavings of parmesan on the side and I’m happy.

enjoy with

Anything red will work with this. Glenelly’s 2010 Shiraz is a grownup wine in a slightly reserved European style. Expect the usual pepper of a Shiraz on the nose but also floral notes of jasmin and violets and of course berries.

Platter gives it 3.5 stars and Parker a very reasonable 88/100. A retail price just shy of R80 makes this a good quality-vs-value buy.

Glenelly

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