Mission Accomplished – Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe

10 Oct

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Yes … I have made this! Believe it or not!

Wish I’d got to taking photo’s of this marathon. In the end it was an extremely rewarding & insightful experience!

Please Refer to Kok Robin’s Blog for a fantastic  Pictoral Post and her story of complete Heston’s recipe.

Apologies to Kok Robin for not crediting this properly initially. Kok Robin’s blog is well worth checking out, it has beautiful pictures and well written recipes from a person that clearly has a passion for food!

A bit of Background to Heston Blumenthal:

For those of you who haven’t heard of Heston Blumenthal, he’s a creative guru of the molecular gastronomy ilk, who, backs his cooking with a heap of science. That doesn’t mean tweed jackets with elbow patches. He really takes things to the next level, aiming to create complete sensory experiences. He often uses his creative skills to take his customers back to some of the fantastic moments of their childhood through his food.

If you’ve ever watched one of “Heston’s Feasts” you’ll understand what I’m getting at. He has a fantastic sense of whimsey.

Although he’s not formally trained, he’s managed to stay at the top of the World’s gastronomy scene for near a decade. His restaurant the Fat Duck in Bray, Berskhire, England, has been at the top of the list of World’s best restaurants during that time, including several years at #1. My sister had the great fortune of experiencing a degustation at his restaurant. Check out her video of an incredible sensory experience at the Fat Duck.

Heston’s recipies are notoriously complex, often taking days of preparation and requiring specialised equipment and chemsitry not typically available to the home chef.  In his series “In Search of Perfection” he travelled the world looking to take culinary classics to the ultimate level of perfection, whilst, at the same time looking to design recipes, that, we, the home cooks of the world could make in our very own kitchens.  There’s great background to the history of each recipe in his book. He dished up the Humble (or not so humble in Heston’s case) Hamburger, a succulent T-Bone cooked at 50C for 24 hours, Fish ‘n’ Chips and Peking Duck, which naturally required a research visit to a restaurant in Beijing that had served over a million ducks to hungry customers  (Duck Gland Throbbing in the back of my neck as I type).

My choice for my first ever ‘go’ at cooking one of Heston’s recipes, the old staple of many a batchelor – Spaghetti Bolognese. You can check out all of Heston’s books on his website.

The Slightly Modified Spag Bog Recipe – from “In Search of Total Perfection” by Heston Blumenthal:

If your a fan of all things edible and their history, his book explores the history of pasta, different interpretations of Ragu, options for different meats and other ingredients, how he looks to build depth and complexity of flavour and so much more, including visits to some Italy’s finest restaurants.

So here it is, including my modifications & comments in italics. Like Kok Robin, I recommend dubbling the quantites & freezing portions to make the most of your efforts.

For the Sauce Base

  • 1 Star Anise
  • 125ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Large Onions (about 450g) finely sliced – to be cooked one way
  • 2 Large Cloves of Garlic
  • Another 2 Large Onions to be included in the Soffrito
  • 3 Large Carrots (about 400g) finely diced
  • 3 Cellary Stalks (about 125g) finely diced.
  • 250g Pork Shoulder
  • 250g Oxtail, boned and minced
  • 375ml Oaked Chardonnay
  • 250ml of whole milk

For the Tomato Compote

  • 1.1kg of Vine Ripened Tomatoes
  • 1tsp table salt
  • 200ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Large Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Large Onion (about 225g) finely diced
  • 1 heaped tsp Coriander Seeds
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 3 Cloves
  • 4-5 Drops Tabasco
  • 4-5 Drops Thai Fish Sauce
  • 2 Tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 heaped tbsp Tomato Ketchup (I know but it works)
  • 30ml Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Bouquet garni (7 sprigs of Thyme and 1 fresh Bay Leaf)

For the finsihed Spaghetti Bolognese

  • Reserved Tomato Compote
  • 100g good-quality Spaghetti per person
  • Sherry Vinegar to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1 Bouquet Garni (in a sheet of leek, wrap 6 Tarragon Leaves, 4 sprigs of parsley and the leaves from the top of a bunch of celery)
  • Unsalted butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Table Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preparing the Sauce Base

  1. Place a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat for 5 mins. Crush the Star Anise & bag it up in a square of muslin (I just chucked ’em in & removed them at the appropriate time). Add this to the pan, along with 25ml oil & the sliced onions. Cook for 20mins, or until the onoins are soft & caramelised, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  2. At the same time pre-heat another large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over a a low heat for 5 minutes. Mince the garlic. Pour 50ml of oil into the pan, then tip in the garlic, onions, carrots & celery & cook this soffritto over a medium-low heat for about 20min, or until the raw onion smell has gone. Transfer the soffritto to a bowl and wipe clean the pan. I needed to do this in batches given the quantity, size of my pan and heat available from my burners, just deglaze after each batch if you need to do this.
  3. Place the pan over a high heat for 10mins. Pour 50ml olive oil & wait until it starts smoking: it must be hot enough so the meat browns rather than stews. Add the cubed pork and the minced oxtail. For the Meat, I replaced the Oxtail with ‘Mouse’s Ear’ a single muscle section from the gravy beef that my butcher, Brenta Meats, separated for me & I then finely diced. It’s a cheap cut, full of flavour and rewards long slow cooking. I also replaced the pork with my butchers excellent pork & veal mince. You might need to do this in multiple batches to ensure the meat is getting properly browned. Deglaze the pan with a slug of white wine between batches reducing it a little. Transfer the meat into a larger pot (in preparation for 8 hours of simmaring).
  4. Remove the Star Anise from the caramelised onions, then tip them into the pot containing the meat. Add the remaining wine to the onion pan to deglaze it. Reduce the wine by half & pour it into the pot with the meat. Add the soffritto.
  5. With the meat pot over a very low heat, pour in the milk and enough water to cover the mix and simmer very gently without a lif for 6hrs, stirring occasionally. Make sure the mix stays covered with liquid, adding water as necessary. The milk will go chunky but it doesn’t effect the final product.

Preparing the Tomato Compote

  1. For the Compote I started with 1 and 1/2 litres of home made passata for a double batch, so used this as the base for the compote. I used about 2kg of saucing tomatoes sliced in half seasoned with salt and pepper and a little oregano with a Spanish Onion, a couple of cloves of garlic & a red capsicum, partially dried in an oven at 150 Degrees C for first 20 mins and 120 Degrees C for a further 30 mins, then passed through a sieve. The drying / cooking enrichens the passata, you can peel the skins away from the capsicum before passing through a sieve. I’m sure the Italian Mama’s would use a machine for the job or at least a Moulie food mill. Check out Kok Robins blog for details of making the Compote from scratch.
  2. Like Kok Robin, any time it stated in the Recipe to use muslin for a spice mix going into liquid, I used a tea ball.  It’s a lot easier than fluffing around with muslin. Local Chinese grocery stores usually stock these pretty cheap. Get as big a one as you can find or even a couple to allow you to spread the flavour through a big pot. Crush Corriander, Star Anise and cloves, placein a tea ball and this to a pot with the passata in it.
  3. Add the Tabasco, Fish Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Tomato Ketchup and Sherry Vinegar. Drop in the Bouquet Garni and cook over a low heat for 2 hours. This mix of ingredients sounds over the top, but, they really add depth, savouriness and complexity to the sauce.
  4. I skipped a step designed to add a roasted note (already achieved in making the passate) and extract a compote flavoured oil.  Again – Check out Kok Robins blog for details of this step. The passate already had a roasted note from the slow cooking of the base ingredients in the oven.

Cooking the Spaghetti Bolognese

You’ll probably feel a little knackered by now, but, you’ll be on the home straight.

  1. Add the tomato compote to the pot with the meat sauce in it & simmer over a very low heat for another 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Before taking the Bolognese sauce off the heat, check the seasoning & add some sherry vinegar (tasting as you go) to balance the richness of the sauce. Add a generous grating of Parmesan (taking care not to add too much as it can make the sauce overly salty & remove the sauce from the heat. Remove the original Bouquet Garni and Tea Ball of spices. Repalce these with the Tarragon Bouquet Garni, stir in 100g of unsalted butter & let it stand for 5 minutes. This last step adds richness with the butter & gives the sauce a fresh lift from the Tarragon Bouquet Garni.
  3. Now to the pasta. Although I often make my own I went for dried Spaghetti from Martelli. Check out Martelli’s website for more. It’s an artisan pasta made in Lari, a small medieval village near Pisa. It is expensive at $13 a kilogram, but has an amazing texture and flavour, after all the effort making Heston’s sauce, it’s worth the expense! 100g of pasta per person in salted water. If you want to go the fancy presentation finsish check out Kok Robin’s blog. If not you can just present as you wish. I strain the pasta return to the pot & add sufficient sauce, giving it a toss through over the heat & then serve.
Martelli

Picture from Martelli’s website.

It’s a very sexy Spag Bog with great depth & complexity of flavour, make sure you eat it with a bottle of Filthy Good Vino! Something Northern Italian, a Barbera, Barolo if you can afford it or Montepuliciano would work well. Kok Robin’s call of a white could be a bit of fun with this too! A Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi would work with its extra bit of phenolic texture.

I’ve since used the spices & the array of sauces from this recipe to varying degrees & successfully built depth & complexity of flavour in other Ragu’s & Tomato based meaty dishes.

Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese

Picture of the final product from Kok Robin’s blog.

 

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  • Batrick_Pateman

    Nice write up; I just finished watching the YoutTube video. One correction in your blog post: It’s “Spag Bol,” not “Spag Bog”… as in Spaghetti Bolognese

    • Glad you enjoyed it. You’re spot on. In Australia as usual we’ve bastardised it and most people refer to it as “Spag Bog”, just our quirky sense of humour. Not sure of the origin.

  • Tracéy Tracy

    Hi Paul, I watched Heston’s video and found your recipe.
    Finally took the plunge & cook it according to your recipe. Despite all the hard & sweaty work, it was worth it. My family loved it and I must say that the sauce is something I never had before.
    I took Heston’s recommendation and went with Rustichella’s fettuccini but am hunting for Martelli to give it a comparison.
    Since it was given the thumbs up, I’ll be cooking it again very soon 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your experience & tips.

    • Congrats! Cooking it was a great learning experience for me. Build depth of flavour by cooking the same ingredients in different ways and adding even small amounts of a few of unami / savoury sauces to add complexity. I used to do the same thing when I made Champagne, adding a couple of drops of a few “secret ingredients” to each bottle. Amazing the difference it made.

      Did you try anything different?

      • Tracéy Tracy

        “Secret ingredients”, huh? Care to share so that I can incorporate them in my next cook?
        I actually followed your recipe to the t, didn’t want to risk it turning out differently, especially since it was my first try.
        Will check around to see if there’s anything else can be done to up the taste. As for the umami items, I believe everything has been thrown in, except maybe kombu or dried mushrooms?
        Secret ingredients in champagne… hmmm… very interesting….

  • John

    Hi Paul ,I too spent all afternoon over the stove and used pork shoulder and chuck steak for a more pulled meat look and made my own spaghetti other than that I keeped to Heston’s recipe. OMG the family loved it and was worth every second.

    • Nice work! It’s got amazing depth of flavour!