[instagrammed] – Pork & turkey ragu

We all have our comfort foods. Those few dishes that never fail to make you feel better, the dishes that put a smile on your face no matter how rubbish your day has been.

Whilst most of my comfort foods are Malaysian/Chinese, I do have a few non-Malaysian ones – and ragu is one of them. My take on ragu is by no means authentic, but it is the way R and I like it. 🙂

Someone on instagram asked me for this recipe, so I thought I might as well post it here. A blog post is long overdue anyway!

I used a mix of pork & turkey this time around, but alternative meats include beef, lamb, wildboar, or even duck. I tend to use two types of meats, as I find it gives that little something extra to the dish.

Do note that this recipe makes a fair bit of ragu – I always cook with the aim of having leftovers (hello, packed lunch!), plus meat usually comes in 500g packs. The recipe is easily halved though. Also, amounts for seasonings are approximate: please taste as you go along!

Pork & turkey ragu
Serves 4-6, generously!

  • 500g minced pork
  • 500g minced turkey
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced finely
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, diced/sliced finely (optional) – sometimes I use carrots
  • 3 tbsp red wine
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use castor sugar)
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat some oil in a large pan (one that has a cover – you will need this later), over high heat. Fry the chopped onions and garlic for several minutes, until they become fragrant.
2. Add the pork and turkey mince to the pan, and fry until lightly browned.
3. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan (if using), and fry for a minute or so until they shrink slightly.
4. Add the red wine to the pan, and stir for 1 minute.
5. Add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce and chopped tomatoes to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil.
6. Once the sauce is bubbling, turn down the heat to low. Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pan. I’d advise underseasoning with salt/pepper at this point – it’s very easy to add more salt, but very much harder to save a dish that is too salty!
7. Cover the pan, and simmer on low heat for at least 1 hour, until the oils float to the surface of the sauce.
8. Taste and add more salt/pepper as needed. If the sauce is too wet for your liking, you can leave it to simmer for a further 10-15 minutes, uncovered.
9. Serve with a carbohydrate of your choice – pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, freshly baked bread… it all works! In the photo above, I served the ragu with some pappardelle.

Meatballs & the art of cooking in bulk

I have a friend (who’s from Somalia), and I realised that she would always leave a bit of food on her plate during meals. And being someone who tends to finish everything on her plate, I had to ask why. It turns out that in her culture, it’s considered polite to leave a small amount of food on a plate after a meal, especially if it’s a dinner hosted by family or friends. The reasoning behind this is that leaving a small amount means that the host has provided enough food for the evening – finishing everything on your plate means that the quantity of food has been insufficient. Very different from our Chinese culture where your aunty/grandma will get highly upset if you leave anything on your plate…. Then again, if you DO finish your food, more often than not you’ll find more food “magically” appearing on your plate.

I cook in bulk amounts on a regular basis. And when I say bulk, I mean bulk. There are only 2 of us at home, but I tend to cook for 4 on a regular basis. The main reason is that I have no ability to estimate quantities, and being a typical Chinese person, I tend to overcook rather than undercook. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as it means I have leftovers for the days when I’m too tired to cook dinner after a long day of work. Also, some food like stews taste much better after a day in the fridge!

Cooking in bulk is something I always do when it comes to meatballs. I tend to buy 1 kg of meat (sometimes I use a mixture of pork/turkey/beef), and make a shedload of meatballs so I have an emergency stash in the freezer. Believe me when I say it comes in handy after a long tiring day at work!

On this occasion, I served my meatballs in a tomato sauce, with some brown rice and rocket leaves. Speaking of which, I need to speak of this brown basmati, red camargue and wild rice mixture that I get from Waitrose. It’s a brilliant mix of grains – the nuttiness of the various types of rice work very well together, and give the perfect amount of “bite”. At £2 for a 500g bag, it doesn’t come cheap, but I allow myself the indulgence every now and again. (I tell myself it’s healthy and therefore it’s okay you see).

Meatballs in tomato sauce

For the meatballs:

  • 500g pork mince
  • 500g turkey mince
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • pepper & salt, to taste (I usually use about 1 teaspoon’s worth of each)

1. Whizz the garlic, thyme and rosemary in a food processor (or in my case, a mini food processor). Alternatively, chop finely with a knife.
2. Put the pork and turkey mince in a large mixing bowl, and add the garlic & herb mixture, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Use hands (or a spoon) to combine the ingredients. It should form a mushy, sticky mixture.
3. Form mixture into 2-3cm balls, depending on how large you like your meatballs.
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
5. Whilst waiting for the oven, heat a pan over medium high heat, and brown the meatballs. This should not take more than 2 minutes per meatball.
6. Bake meatballs for 15-20 minutes in the oven, until cooked. (I play a guessing game when it comes to this, but 20 minutes is usually more than enough for my meatballs)

Note: You can freeze the meatballs after step 3, which is handy to have for a quick weekday dinner. (I tend to do this as 1kg of meat does make a significant amount of meatballs!) A good tip is to arrange the meatballs nicely on a tray before freezing them, as it means you get to have individually frozen meatballs (rather than a “clump” that becomes tricky to seperate once it’s frozen). I hope I’m making some sense here!

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (I use chopped tomatoes with garlic and olive oil – any brand will do)
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1. Mix all the ingredients in a pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil.
2. Once the sauce starts to boil, add the cooked meatballs to the tomato sauce, and stir to coat the meatballs.
3. Serve the meatball/tomato sauce mix with brown rice & some rocket. Or you could serve it with pasta. Or some freshly baked bread. Anything goes really!

Having fun with turkey leftovers

I have a confession. I cook turkey for Christmas so I can have tons of turkey leftovers. You see, I think there’s just something so enjoyable about coming up with new dishes from something old. 🙂

As most of my friends have either left London or were not here over Christmas, it was just R and I trying to eat a 5kg turkey. (I did try to look for a smaller turkey, but that was the smallest one they had in store!) But I wasn’t complaining, as it meant I would have lots and lots of leftovers to play around with!

One of the dishes I made was a turkey leftovers pizza. This was inspired by a pizza feature in one of the issues of Donna Hay magazine… as you can see, I am easily swayed by good looking food. Although I’d never tried anything like this before, I decided to just go for it as I figured it would be hard to go wrong when it came to pizzas.

I made the pizza bases with wholemeal flour as I had run out of plain bread flour, and I must say I could hardly tell that it was wholemeal. In fact, I might start using a mix of plain/wholemeal flour for pizzas in the future. For the fillings, I used all the leftovers from the dinner (except the gravy) – turkey, brussel sprouts, stuffing, potatoes and even the cranberry sauce!

And despite the fact that this was a very ‘thrown together’ (or as we Malaysian’s would say – “rojak” style) dish, both of us really enjoyed it! Though to be fair, it’s hard to not like pizzas. 😛 I do wish that I had rolled out the dough to make thinner pizzas though. I should also seriously consider getting a pizza stone…

I also made some Asian inspired turkey ‘salad’ , which I also made last year. This is a Jamie Oliver recipe, which I originally thought was no longer available online. (I have since found the recipe here). As I didn’t have a recipe at the time, I decided to just work from memory. What I like most about this is that the turkey becomes really nice and crispy – slightly reminiscent of crispy duck. When eaten with the crunchy cashews and sweet cranberries… yum. We had the salad with a hoisin based sauce, smeared on a homemade tortilla.

The last thing I made with the turkey leftovers was a turkey and leek fusilli. This was a very simple dish, tossed together in a matter of minutes. Rather terribly, I had leftovers from this dish itself, so baked it with a mozzarella topping the following day – and I have to say it tasted better baked. Or maybe it was all that cheese….

I really enjoyed our turkey leftovers this year, and am already counting down to the next time I get to do this all over again. So if you ever are faced with tons of leftovers, just remember that there is always a good way to use them! 🙂

Turkey leftovers pizza

For the pizza dough:
Recipe from Donna Hay magazine, issue 47

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour (I used wholemeal bread flour)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Place the sugar and water in a bowl, and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the sugared water, and leave for 10 minutes until bubbles appear on its surface.
2. Place the flour, sea salt, and olive oil in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture, and mix using the dough hook on slow speed until a dough is formed (this normally takes me 7-10 minutes). The dough should be soft and elastic.
3. Divide the dough into (roughly) equal sized balls – you can make either large or small pizzas, depending on what you prefer. Cover with a teacloth or clingfilm, and leave to rise for 30 minutes, or until it doubles in size.
4. Press each dough ball into a round, and roll out to the desired size. The pizza dough is now ready to use.

For the toppings:
I don’t have a proper recipe for this, but I used the following ingredients, and just randomly threw them onto the pizza bases. 😉 Quantities don’t really matter as it really depends on how much of each you have available.

  • torn pieces of leftover turkey
  • sliced leftover brussel sprouts
  • sliced leftover potatoes
  • 2cm cubes of leftover stuffing
  • mozzarella, torn
  • cranberry sauce

Turkey and leek fusilli

  • 500g fusilli
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and chopped into ~2cm pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can chicken/mushroom soup (I used Campbell’s chicken soup)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook the fusilli in a pot of salted boiling water, for about 7-10 minutes, or until it is cooked al dente. Drain the fusilli and set aside.
2. Heat some olive oil in a pan over high heat. Fry the garlic for 1 minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
3. Add the chopped leeks, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the shredded turkey, followed by the can of soup. Turn down the heat, and leave to simmer for 1 minute.
5. Toss the fusilli with the sauce, and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you wish, grate some parmesan to serve.

*Alternatively, cook the pasta as above, top with torn mozzarella and put in the oven until the cheese melts to become a yummy gooey mess.

Asian inspired turkey ‘salad’
Inspired by this recipe from Jamie Oliver

For the turkey ‘salad’:

  • 2 cups brown turkey meat
  • 1 cup  cashew nuts
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons ground five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey

For the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons plum sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • pinch of brown sugar

1. Put a pan on medium high heat, and shred the turkey meat into the pan using your fingers.
2. Add the cashews, dried cranberries and five spice powder. Stir till all the ingredients are well mixed, and let it toast whilst you make the sauce.
3. To make the sauce, just mix all the ingredients in a bowl until they’re well combined.
4. Smear some sauce on a tortilla, top with the turkey ‘salad’, wrap – and serve!

Note: I also served my tortillas with (leftover) potatoes and stuffing.


If you’re interested in making your own tortillas:
Homemade tortillas
Adapted from this recipe from Cooking Mexican Recipes

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons corn oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water and oil to the flour mixture, and mix with the dough hook attachment until a dough is formed. (This took about 7 minutes for me.) If your dough is too sticky, add more flour 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach the right consistency.
2. Divide the dough into equal sizes (mine were probably 30-40g each), and leave to rise for a few minutes.
3. In the meantime, heat a pan (nonstick or cast iron) over high heat.
4. Flatten the dough rounds (on a lightly floured surface), and roll them out into rounds roughly 4-5 inches in diameter.
5. Place the rolled out tortilla in the heated pan and cook for 30 seconds until brown spots appear on its surface. Flip over, and cook for another 30 seconds on the other side. Be careful to not overcook the tortilla as it becomes very hard and crunchy if you do so – I made this mistake with my first tortilla, but I can’t say I was complaining as I thought it tasted like a healthier version of Doritos! 😛

Of turkey, cranberries, and the end of 2009.

I still remember the first time I had a proper Christmas dinner with roast turkey – it was in my third year of university, where my flatmates and I decided to take the plunge and cook a turkey for the first time ever. And it turned out pretty well! I have fond memories of that dinner, mostly because I spent a fair bit of time decorating the table, and was really pleased when it turned out nicely!

My first ever Christmas dinner!

Since then, I’ve tried to cook a Christmas dinner every year. It’s lots of fun, and it creates a lot of leftovers – which I love.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the food channel, and I watch as many Christmas specials as I possibly can. 😛 My favourites are Nigella (because she’s Nigella), and Jamie Oliver. Rather dissapointingly, Nigella didn’t have a Christmas special this year, but thank goodness for reruns!

I normally cook the turkey in the traditional way – butter on the turkey skin, with some herbs stuffed in the cavity. However, Jamie had this interesting method of cooking his turkey, what he called the “self basting turkey” method. This simply meant he stuffed butter under the turkey skin, which helps to crisp the skin as well as keep the breast meat nice and juicy. What was even better was the fact that he used flavoured butter – which I thought looked amazing.

The bad thing about stuffing butter underneath the turkey skin is that the areas with the flavoured butter looked darker (and “dirtier”), due to the herbs in the butter. It still tasted delicious though, and the skin was amazingly crispy – the crispiest skin I’ve had on a turkey to date.

And of course, what turkey is complete without some stuffing? I like cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey, and usually cook them in individual “meatball” sized pieces. This year, I decided to do something different, and cooked it in a loaf pan – which made it look a bit like meatloaf! There are cranberries and walnuts in addition to the sausagemeat, which I enjoyed as they provided a nice contrast of textures.

The turkey “meatloaf” stuffing

There were also dishes served on the side…

Roasted potatoes with a twist – inspired by this recipe by Martha Stewart. There was just the right amount of lemony-ness in the potatoes, which I absolutely loved. I also liked that I got to use olive oil instead of something more sinful like goose fat. All I can say is, if you’re a fan of lemons, you’ll love the taste of these potatoes!

Brussel sprouts, with pancetta and chestnuts. This dish was inspired by the one and only Nigella – she cooked this on her show, and I thought it sounded really interesting. It turned out well, and I really enjoyed the various textures in the dish: the crunchy brussel sprouts, salty pancetta and sweet chestnuts. Can’t say I’m a fan of brussel sprouts though – I’ll eat it but I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant, let’s just say.

Cranberry sauce, a necessity for a Christmas meal (to me anyway!). This was cooked with orange peel and and a touch of cinnamon, which gave it a very nice “festive” feel. I didn’t like how bitter the cranberry seeds were, so decided to run the sauce to a sieve – and the sauce became much sweeter. 🙂

In all, I must say that I really enjoyed my Christmas dinner – and I still have some leftovers in the fridge, which is brilliant. I’m one of those people who enjoys turkey leftovers more than the actual meal itself, as it gives me the chance to create new dishes!

On another note, I can’t believe it’s already New Year’s Eve. Time has really flown by, and I can hardly believe how much has happened in the last year. I won’t go into it all as it would be a really long post, but all I can say is that I’ve enjoyed 2009 immensely.

So, here’s wishing all of you a very Happy New Year. May 2010 bring joy, good health and good food to you all! xxx

Roast turkey
Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe

  • 5 kg turkey
  • 2 clementines
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary
  • 200g butter
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary (chopped finely)
  • 2-3 sprigs lemon thyme (chopped finely)
  • 2-3 bay leaves (chopped finely)
  • rind of one clementine

1. Make the flavoured butter: Mix softened butter with the grated clementine rind, chopped rosemary, chopped lemon thyme and chopped bay leaves. You may add dried cranberries to the butter, but I left this out as my stuffing already contained this.
2. Preheat your oven to as hot as it can go (for me, this was 220ºC).
3. Get your turkey, and use a spoon to work your way between the skin and the breast meat. Take care when doing this as you do not want to break the skin. Stuff the butter into the cavity you have just created. Rub any remaining butter all over the turkey.
4. Halve 2 clementines and pop them into the cavity with a few sprigs of rosemary. Jamie says that this is so the fruit will steam and flavour the turkey.
5. Put your turkey into the preheated oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 180ºC.
6. As a rough guide, each kg of turkey will need 35-40 minutes to cook. That said, each turkey and each oven is different, so just check on your turkey every 30 minutes and keep it from drying out by basting it with the juices from the bottom of the pan.
7. When the skin gets golden and crispy, the turkey should be done. To check on this, gently pull the drumstick outwards – if the juices run clear, the turkey is done. Alternatively, it is done when a meat thermometer (inserted in the thickest part of the breast) reads 65ºC.
8. Move the turkey to a platter then cover it with a double layer of foil to keep it warm while it rests for at least 30 minutes.

Cranberry and walnut sausagemeat “meatloaf” stuffing
Inspired by this recipe

  • 400g dried cranberries
  • 150g walnuts, chopped
  • 1kg sausagemeat
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 bunch sage, finely chopped
  • 3 slices of proscuitto

1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
2. Mix all the ingredients (except the proscuitto) together, using either a spatula or your hands. Make sure all the ingredients are mixed up evenly.
3. Put the sausagemeat mixture into a loaf pan. Top with proscuitto slices.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until cooked through.

Cranberry sauce

  • 500g fresh cranberries
  • 400g sugar
  • rind of 2 clementines (I simply peeled the rind off, there is no need to grate it)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • splash of red wine (ideally I would use port, but I only had red wine to hand)

1. Heat all the ingredients (except the red wine) in a pan over medium high heat. Once it reaches a boil, add the wine.
2. Turn down the heat, and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
3. If you like, you can sieve the mixture to get a silky smooth cranberry sauce.

Brussel sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts
See this recipe by Nigella – I followed it pretty closely (by my standards anyway!). Only changes I made were using red wine in place of marsala, and omitting the parsley.

Roast lemon potatoes
See this recipe from Martha – Only change I made was to use fresh herbs (which I used for the turkey) instead of dried.

* I’ve only posted the links for the last two recipes as there would be too many words in this post otherwise! 😉