This recipe is inspired by my aunty claire, who just a few days ago made the best ragu i’d ever tasted. Slight lie, as, of course, only your own mothers homemade ragu or lasagne is the best, but, my aunty's came closely behind. When we asked her her secret, she said ‘cumin’. When we nodded and continued eating she added ‘and high percentage dark chocolate’. That stopped us in our tracks, forks just inches away from our mouths. We pondered it for a moment and then decided, yes, wow, how genius is that, it really works. We loved it all the more once we knew it had chocolate in it, and i immediately wanted to get home and master a recipe for cacao mince - my own dairy-free, superfood take on a traditional dish (not sure what the italians would have to say about that though).
Ragu is the ultimate comfort food. I remember when i first moved away from home i would make myself vegetarian ragu at least once a week. It was easy, quick and is so warming in winter months. The flavour the cacao adds to this recipe is a deeply comforting one. It adds a unique richness to the meat, and although you wouldn’t expect it to work with a sauce of tomatoes and red peppers, it really does. It somehow disappears amongst the other ingredients, bringing all of the flavours together to make a dark, creamy sauce, filling it with unique flavours. Cacao has the ability to bring out the true flavours of foods that it is combined with, which is what makes this dish different to just about any other dish you have ever tried.
This recipe is fairly straight forward, however I would advise you take quite a bit of time over it, giving it your full concentration in order for it to become as delicious as it can. It will only take you about forty minutes to perfect the meat, but the longer you leave it to cook and simmer, the more the meat will absorb all of the important ingredients. And if, like me, you are going to go all out and make an entire Burrito Spread, allow another hour or so to prep the sides, and really excel in the buckwheat burrito department.
3 Tablespoons Cacao Powder
1 Tablespoon Cumin
10 Medium Tomatoes
2 Pointed Red Peppers (Bell Peppers will work well too)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
4 Tablespoons Water, as and when
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Handful Fresh Basil Leaves
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Tamari
1 Tablespoon Onion Seeds or 1 Onion, diced (I don’t like onions but there’s no reason why you can’t chuck some in to increase the flavour)
1 Teaspoon Sumac
3-4 Sage or Bay Leaves
1/2 Cup Shaved Broccoli
2 Large Handfuls Spinach Leaves
3 Cloves Garlic
400g Good Quality Organic Minced Beef or Turkey Meat
1 Teaspoon Oregano
1 Small Glass Red Wine
1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock (I personally think the nutritional yeast does the job of a stock cube, so this isn’t essential).
Pour the olive oil into a large pan and add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, broccoli, salt, tamari, nutritional yeast, onion seeds, lemon juice, spinach and chopped peppers, and simmer for 20 mins on a medium heat. Remove from the heat, let cool momentarily and then transfer into a blender. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes, until more or less smooth, then return to the pan. Add the mince, cumin, cacao powder and all of the other ingredients and simmer for 30-40 minutes on a medium to low heat. After about 20 minutes, place a lid covering the pan 2/3 of the way and continue to simmer until the meat has absorbed most of the liquid.
+ You can make this more quickly if you are in a rush, and can merely simmer the sauce with the mince until the meat if cooked through. However, the longer you leave it, the more flavoursome the meat will become, and the less runny the sauce will be.
Buckwheat Burritos (Below)
Olive Oil and Lime Guacamole (Below)
Fennel, Spinach and Kale Salad (Below)
Solid Coconut Milk (Instead of creme fraiche)
Cauliflower Rice (Below)
Courgetti, Black Bean Spaghetti or Gluten Free Pasta
Plain Quinoa or Buckwheat
+ Save any leftovers in the fridge to take for lunch, adding to a salad or enjoying with quinoa and avocado.
Burritos are an incredible invention. They make it acceptable to have a million forms of carbs in one meal, as well as, for that matter, a million types of food in one meal. You can literally add anything to a burrito, the same way you can with fajitas. The wonderful thing about a tortilla wrap is that you can pile on as much of absolutely anything you like and tailor it to your needs. Burritos also bring out a sense of certainty in a person. No matter how much you manage to fit into your wrap and no matter how creative you get, you will, with great determination, be able to eat it. Whether it is in a dignified manner, well, that’s another story.
My version of a burrito is much lighter than one you might find at a street food vendor, and doesn’t leave you feeling positively comatose or full of regret upon completion. I have replaced the refined ingredients with, of course, natural ones which promise to love and nourish your insides, and consequently your outsides. You won’t feel bloated, and you won’t be prone to developing greasy, spot-studded skin after just the first bite. I have replaced white rice with cauliflower rice, and refried beans with tahini puy lentils or black beans. I have included one of my favourite guacamole recipes and a simple salad full of flavour and texture - but not too much to take the attention away from the meat. You can add whatever you like to yours, and you can experiment with your own fillings, but the essentials are of course the meat, the rice, the guacamole and the refried beans. Oh, and the sour cream, but we’ll use Coyo for that…