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If ‘comfort’ could be manifested in a single bowl of food, this slow-cooked beef and porcini mushroom ragu might be that bowl. Simmered for hours in a stock spiked with umami-rich porcini mushrooms until the meat falls apart, the resulting sauce is rich, intensely savoury and vibrantly delicious.
Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water. Stir occasionally until rehydrated, then remove the mushrooms and squeeze any excess moisture from them (reserve the liquid). Finely chop the mushrooms and pass the liquid through a section of muslin cloth to remove any grit or dirt.
Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron pot (or similar large heavy-based saucepan) over a medium heat, and brown the meat in batches. Once all the pieces have been browned on all sides, remove the meat, lower the heat to low-medium, and add the onion, carrot and celery. Stir often and sauté until translucent- around 10 minutes- then add the garlic and cook for another two minutes.
Return the meat to the pan, increase the heat back to medium, and add the red wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has reduced by at least half, then add the stock, mushrooms and mushroom liquid.
Once simmering, reduce the heat to low, cover partially and cook for for 2-4 hours, or until meat is tender and sauce has reduced by half (alternatively, you could transfer the pot to a 160C oven at this point). Stir every 30 minutes, and add a little extra stock if the sauce reduces too much.
Remove the meat from the sauce and allow it to cool slightly. Pass the sauce through a mouli (optional) then return it to the pot and add the passata. Chop the meat into chunks and return it to the sauce, stir well and heat until simmering. Season well with salt and pepper.
To make the gremolata, combine the parsley, garlic, lemon zest and salt in a small bowl.
Serve the ragu with al-dente pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan and a sprinkling of gremolata.
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