SUMAYYA’S GO-TO RAGÛ SAUCE
On a trip to Italy once, my mother insisted that one of the flavours she could taste in the dish she was eating wasn’t oregano or basil, but ajwain (carom seeds), which we use a lot of with fish, chicken or vegetables in the Indian sub-continent. So to this day, in every ragû or white sauce I make, I chuck in a sparing amount of this slightly oregano and anise-flavoured spice, known to have many health benefits, from curing tummy aches to making hair shine. This is my go-to sauce to serve with pasta or perhaps even just with some mash. Before a trip away I often put some in the freezer for my daughter, who loves it. And when my Italian au pair remarked that it was one of the best ragûs she’d tasted; well, I didn’t require any further approval. Pakistanis have a tendency of adding spices to things, and I am not an Italian cook, so this recipe isn’t very authentic – but as I always say, authenticity is in your own mind. I do use a tip I picked up from Italian-born cookery writer Marcella Hazan, which is to add milk to cut through the acidity of wine used. Even if you don’t use wine, the milk helps accentuate the meatiness of the sauce, and I never leave it out. 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Knob of butter 1 large onion 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 fresh bay leaves ½ tsp ajwain (carom seeds) or ½ tsp dried oregano 300g minced beef 50ml white wine (optional) 150ml whole milk 400ml passata or tinned chopped plum tomatoes Heat the oil and butter in a heavy based saucepan, once hot; add bay and ajwain then onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes – do not allow to brown. Add the minced beef and seal. Allow all the moisture to dry. Add wine if using, allow to evaporate before adding milk. Now add milk. Once the milk has been absorbed, add the tomatoes or passata, bring to a bubble, turn down heat, cover the pot lightly. Leave to cook until the tomatoes reduce and the oil rises to the top: about an hour or so. Turn the heat off and allow to cool before freezing or enjoy hot with pasta or mash.