W I L D B E E F B O L O G N E S E
Preparation time: 40-50 minutes
Cooking time: 4 hours
Season: All ingredients available year-round
2 largish onions
6 garlic cloves
150 g smoked streaky bacon
2 smallish (inner) sticks celery
1 medium carrot
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
450 g shin beef
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tblsp olive oil
Small knob of butter
400 g ripe tomatoes (plum if available)
1 1/2 heaped tsp soft brown sugar
3 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp brandy
1 scant tsp mixed peppercorns
2 tsp tomato paste
2 generous glasses Shiraz or other spicy, full-
bodied red wine
Peel and very finely chop the onions. Peel the cloves of garlic. Snip the rind from the bacon and dice it finely (use scissors). Wash, dry, and dice the celery. Peel and dice the carrot; wash the herbs and leave them to dry. Chop the beef into chunks about 2.5 cm. As it's very lean, you won't need to trim off much fat; you can also leave tendons, which after long cooking will add to the richness of the sauce. Season the meat lightly with salt and rather more generously with pepper.
Heat 1 tblsp of the oil over fairly high heat and sear the meat just until it is pale on all sides. Lift it out of the pan and put it on a plate. Leave any oil and meat juices in the pan.
Put the butter and another tblsp of oil into the pan, add the bacon and prepared vegetables and fry them over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until they are reduced in volume and the onions begin to change colour. Turn them from time to time for the first 10 minutes or so and more frequently thereafter; add a little more oil if the pan seems dry.
While the vegetables fry, peel the tomatoes (immerse them in boiling water for 30 seconds and their skins will then peel off easily). Chop them into smallish pieces and, unless they are the plum variety, which has very little core, throw away the hard centres.
When the vegetables are sufficiently cooked and reduced, stir in the tomatoes along with the sugar, whole garlic cloves, vinegar, brandy and peppercorns.
Set the oven to 150°C / 300°F / gas 2.
Put half the beef into the bottom of a small casserole. Add half the bacon and vegetables. Spread with the rest of the meat and finish with the remaining vegetables. Beat the tomato paste with a little of the wine and pour it in with the rest of the wine. Bury the bay leaves and lay the sprigs of thyme over the top. Cover with a close-fitting lid and bake for 2 hours.
Then turn down the oven to 120°C / 250°F / gas 1/2 and bake for a further 2 hours, by which time the meat will almost have disintegrated into the sauce. Remove the stalks of the thyme and serve on top of the gnocchi.