or, as it’s known chez us, ‘Italian pot roast’.
The beauty of this dish is that it really is p*ss easy to make and yet so very splendid that you could honestly serve it next time the Queen drops in for supper.
The recipe is a classic from my mother’s home region of Piemonte, though the actual recipe I use is from the fabulous The Food of Italy by the incomparable Claudia Roden, which I’ve had in my collection for years and is to my mind one of the very best books out there on Italian cooking.
Roughly chop an onion and three-ish carrots and crush a couple of cloves of garlic. My mother (and Claudia Roden concurs) would also chop and add a couple of stalks of celery. However, since I consider cooked celery to be the work of the devil it is resolutely lacking in my version.
Saute’ the chopped vegetables in a tablespoon or three of olive oil until soft. Then add a sprig of rosemary and a big lump of beef suitable for potroasting. My beef lump was labelled ‘chuck’ and ‘ideal for pot roasts’ in my US supermarket. I’m not sure what the UK equivalent would be. The most important thing is that it comes marbled with fat, as in the magnificent specimen above.
Brown the meat on all sides and then throw the meat, vegetables and rosemary in the slow cooker. If you don’t have one of these, this can also be made in your finest Dutch oven/casserole dish.
Then add a PINT of red wine. Barolo – the magnificent red wine of Piemonte – is recommended, but it is also fiendishly expensive, so probably best reserved for when you actually do have the Queen coming over. I referred myself to Google for the best substitution and was pointed in the direction of either a cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel. I used a nice-ish Californian zinfandel for my version – the wine is quite prominent in this dish, so you may want to take a step up from really cheap supermarket plonk. I also add a tablespoon of tomato puree/paste at this point, because my mother would, but Claudia doesn’t and you don’t have to.
And that’s pretty much it. Cook for 6-8 hours on LOW in the slow cooker, or 2-3 hours in a casserole dish, or until the meat is meltingly tender.
When it’s done hoik out the meat and rosemary and whizz the juices and vegetables together with your hand blender to create a smooth unctuous deeply flavoured sauce. Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly ground nutmeg to taste.
I like to serve this with some mashed potato to which a little truffle oil has been added and some carrots, which have been sliced thinly and gently sauted in olive oil and garlic for about 20 mins until soft and browning at the edges. This is the way Italians cook carrots and is by far my favourite way of preparing them.