It’s one of those rainy periods in Buenos Aires again – and today is the kind of day that greets you with looming clouds that don’t seem about to go away anytime soon.
The weather forecast is a picture of grey, gloomy skies and we’ve been told that this week will be one of heavy showers intercepted only by lighter drizzles.
And as always, with rain, my mind somehow finds itself straying to thoughts about life in general.
I woke up this morning to an email about being a person who follows through with my words – I rubbed the sleep from my tired eyes and within minutes of reading the email, I found myself in pensive contemplation mode – thinking about how I want to change the things I can change about myself, and my life.
At work, I found myself sifting through some of my favorite blogs (a lunch-time break relief) and came to the realization that the bloggers (and writers) whose work I am most drawn to are often those who have a vision and an image of a life that’s bigger than themselves.
Nicole Gulotta from Eat This Poem is one of my inspirations.
Nicole founded The Giving Table – a not-for-profit organization that supports campaigns and fundraising for selected funds. This year, she’s focusing on The Lunchbox Fund, which I mentioned in an earlier post about hunger.
It’s extremely humbling to see the efforts of a single fellow blogger channel the collective power of individual bloggers and focus it on raising awareness for the poverty in South Africa – a reality that most of us cannot even begin to imagine, but is the daily truth for so many children living there. It’s also breathtaking to know, that by being a part of the movement to beat hunger and spread the word, many children will be beneficiaries of the donations from Nicole’s noble cause.
Once again, and certainly not for the first time, I am astounded by the power of the written word.
The written word, when used rightly and for the greater good, can manifest in an improvement in the lives of people who we may never even meet. I am in awe of the fact that a story, when told with sincerity and truth, can touch the hearts of so many, and that it can spread to the masses because people want to hold onto hope, faith and love.
Talking Writing says it perfectly in the following quote –
“Great writing makes us want to sing or shout or argue.”
I want to create writing that evokes feelings in its readers.
Feelings strong enough to propel them to make a change in their lifestyles or mindsets. I want to leave a mark; create a dent; and leave people thinking long after they’ve read my message.
I think the intention is a good start.
And I have today’s rainy weather to thank for that. A pensive mind and rainy days also go hand-in-hand with comfortingly hot stews, so I think it appropriate that this beef ragu and creamy polenta makes for good company with my thoughts.
This is a dish that is great to cook when you’re in deep thought.
It requires very little attention, apart from the first twenty minutes of sautéing vegetables and browning the meat.
Once the vinegar and red wine and stock have been added, and allowed to simmer just a while, all that’s needed to do is to transfer it to an oven-safe dish, then let the oven work its magic, slowly but surely. In fact, the longer you let the beef ragu sit in the oven, the more melt-in-your-mouth it becomes.
So feel free to sit down and journal your thoughts in the living room as the stew cooks; take a stroll in the nearby park to get some fresh air, do whatever you need to think through your thoughts. When you come back, what you’ll get is tender beef that’s been cooking over low heat for a long, long time; and brimming with tastes of the vegetables it’s been stewing with (imagine carrots, onions, garlic, and celery that are both soft and flavorful).
Heap the beef ragu over a generous portion of polenta which is creamy, buttery and out-of-this world delicious. (If you’ve never tried polenta before, it’s basically cornmeal that’s been boiled into a porridge, with a taste that’s similar to mashed potatoes, only with a lot more flavor and texture).
There you have it. A tasty, hot meal to warm up a cold day; a meal that is made without haste, only well-deserved patience.
BEEF RAGU WITH CREAMY POLENTA (Serves 2 hungry eaters, or 4 light eaters)
Source: Whisking It
For the Beef Ragu:
1) 1 kg of beef, cut into small cubes
2) ¼ cup of flour (you can use either wheat flour or tapioca flour)
3) ½ tablespoon of dried garlic powder
4) ½ tablespoon of dried parsley
5) 4 garlic cloves, minced
6) 1 onion, peeled and diced
7) 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
8) 5 small celery stalks, diced
9) ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
10) 1 cup of red wine
11) 1 ½ cup of beef stock (or 1 Knorr’s beef stock cube dissolved in 1 ½ cup of hot water)
12) Chopped fresh parsley (optional, for garnishing)
For the Creamy Polenta:
13) 1 cup of polenta grain
14) 2 cups of water
15) 2 cups of milk
16) A generous shake of salt
17) 4 tablespoons of butter
18) 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1) Begin by mixing dried garlic and parsley into the flour, then toss the beef cubes into the flour mixture until they are completely and evenly coated
2) Brown the beef in a hot pan (with very little oil) for a couple of minutes, and then set beef aside to rest
3) Pre-heat oven to 180 deg cel
4) Meanwhile, mince the garlic, and dice the onion, carrots and celery, then stir-fry them in the same pan as before (you don’t even have to wash the pan!) until vegetables are slightly soft (this will take about 10 minutes)
5) Add the balsamic vinegar, and when it has reduced slightly, add in the wine
6) Pour in the beef stock and allow the mixture to simmer over medium heat for a few minutes before transferring to an oven-safe dish
7) Cover and bake in oven for 2 hours or until meat is tender
8) When it’s about 20 minutes for your beef ragu to be done, pour milk and water into a pot and bring it to a boil
9) When the milk-water mixture starts boiling, pour in the polenta grain in the form of a “rain shower” and whisk constantly so that no lumps will form (using a whisk is better than a spatula because it makes the polenta smoother) – you may have to stir about 10 – 15 minutes constantly
10) Add in butter and Parmesan cheese, and salt, and stir well
11) Serve beef ragu hot on top of creamy polenta, and garnish with chopped fresh parsley