Lazy Ragu – for lovers of the trusty slow cooker

One of my favourite memories of my Dad is during my Uni years; I actually think it was my last year and I was in slight (major) dissertation panic and living off red bull, 3am library visits and of course, ¬£1 vodka shots. He had the truly brilliant idea of posting me a slow cooker, filled with freshly baked banana muffins… 1 of my 5 a day as well as a vague attempt at encouraging me to vary my food group from carbs and liquid. Perfectly logical. This has to go down as one of the best parcels I have ever had delivered to my door – receiving baked goods in the post is simply genius and that little slow cooker has done me proud. Not so much while I was at Uni as you can imagine… but certainly the last couple of years and it’s nothing fancy but I absolutely love it (this has just massively shown the impact child bearing has had on me).

I think anyone with a child/children whether you are working or not will get the need for easy dinners because quite frankly it all just gets a bit much sometimes. Although I have to say that work can be a welcome break, I can live on the edge a little… drink cups of tea above 37 degrees and put them down where I want to, I don’t need to clear a 5 mile radius at a height of at least 1.5 metres to ensure safety at all times. Plus, I don’t have to share my lunch and I can eat it like a normal person… chew it, and put it down for a bit without fear of a grubby little hand reaching up and grabbing it like some sort of food ninja.

Again… I’ve digressed slightly but where I was going with that one is that this recipe is great to come home to and opening the freezer after a tough day and finding this ‘ready made’ is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I know you’ve got to do the grafting initially, but there is also a tiny bit of smugness to be had with this one when you open the freezer and shock yourself with being organised.

This is definitely one of my all time comfort foods and I love that despite it being a household staple in most families, everyone’s tastes slightly different. My Mum’s is still a great contender and if she’s offering, and it means we get to eat, chat and leave then I’m generally very happy with that arrangement.

I thought about how I could make spag bol a little more indulgent and I figured bacon and possibly sausages were the answer to this – two ingredients which simply have to be consumed on a regular basis¬†(I know, they’re meant to be really bad for you now but everything in moderation/good quality yadayadayada). Plus, you can hide some secret veg in there and the little people of your household will never know. Hold the salt until you dish up (the alcohol will cook off) and freeze a few mini portions. This is the dogs whatsits on a drizzly winters day with garlic bread, wine and crap telly. Oh, and obviously a good amount of cheese, parmesan preferably.

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So my version goes like this, it made us two batches and some portions for Bodes:

1 pack of stewing/casserole beef – approx 500g

Glug of olive oil

1 pack of bacon lardons, preferably smoked

Couple of pork sausages if you’ve got them, chopped up in rough chunks

1 onion chopped

1 carrot, diced as finely as you can manage.

Couple of handfuls of chopped mushrooms, leave these out if you’re not a fan

At least 2 cloves of garlic, depending on how much you love the stuff. Add more if you like.

500g carton of passatta

A generous glass (half bottle) of red wine

Basil (fresh if you’ve got it) or a good shaking of the dried stuff

Oregano, same as the basil.

Pepper, be generous again.

Splash of balsamic vinegar, this is like the Italian version of Worcester sauce.

Couple of tablespoons of tomato puree

Fry off the onions in the olive oil on a medium heat until they start softening, then add the garlic, beef, bacon, sausages and carrots and brown this all off. Chuck in the red wine and let it reduce down for a bit and then put it in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients and set it to a low heat and leave for at least 3 hours or until you can take out a bit of beef and it’s tender and delicious and falls apart.

Give it all a good mix to break up some of the beef and other bits and pieces and serve with fresh pasta if you’ve got it, and a really generous sprinkling of parmesan. Mmmmmm.

A bit like lasagne, this is really good left until the next day.

We love it, add your own tweaks… and let me know your thoughts.

Buon appetito!

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