Big bold boar.
We’ve all done it, come back from the food shop with random things you didn’t plan on buying, only later to find yourself wondering “what was I thinking?”.
I’m guilty of doing it with odd cuts of meat I’ve rummaged out of the reduced section but have little chance of making a meal out of, tins of kimchi that if they weren’t fermented enough already they certainly will be by the time I get around to opening them, and (dare I admit it) the odd dried noodle snack that later makes its way to the bin in a fit of shame. And now I have a new one to add to my list…
The last time I was up close and personal to a wild boar was when I was chased by a small one in the Thai jungle one night (as you do). Seeing as I’ve given them a wide berth ever since I’m not sure what prompted the purchase of 2kg shoulder meat, but I found myself ordering it with a sense of urgency only to sign for it and stash it in the freezer until some inspiration turned up.
Cue the weekend, where we really get cooking and indulging ourselves in fodder that’s a little bit more special than the weeknight norm. The ideal time to face my fear! I would liberate the wild boar from the freezer and try my hand at an Italian comfort food classic — wild boar ragu.
If you like spag bol then this is for you — but don’t think of it as spag bol, think of it as it’s spag bols buff big brother. It’s intensely flavoured and altogether more grown up. Makes spag bol seem like a game of bingo to the wild boar ragu’s roulette.
Given its rich flavours you might be surprised that it has relatively few ingredients, most being found in any supermarket. And if you fancy going truly Italian with it, change your sauce to pasta ratio. We Brits love lavishing our pasta with lots of lovely sauce, but the Italians like it the other way — a good amount of pasta and just a light covering of sauce. And this is the perfect dish to do it with on account of the boars bold flavours — because a little goes a long way. A bit like the one that chased me all the way down that hill.
- 1kg wild boar stewing meat — I used diced shoulder. Order it from your butcher or buy it online as I did
- 1 old Parmesan rind - when I finish Parmesan I always keep the rinds whole in the fridge in a bag, they add amazing depth of flavour to all sorts of soups, sauces and ragus
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 2 celery sticks, peeled and finely diced
- 1 white onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 dried bay leaves or 2 fresh
- 1 tsp regular sugar
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 400g chunky passata
- 1/2 bottle of medium bodied red wine — Italian if you’re feeling authentic
- Plain flour for dusting
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- Olive oil and vegetable oil for cooking
- Pasta for serving, such as pappardelle as I used
- Cheese for serving, I used pecorino for its lovely sour and salty flavour, but Parmesan would work well too
- Preheat the oven to 150°C.
- Dust the boar with plain flour, salt and pepper and in batches fry in a very hot pan in vegetable oil (make sure the pan is sizzling hot before putting the boar in it otherwise it will stick) lightly browning all over. Set aside once all browned.
- In a large saucepan heat some olive oil and add the carrot, onion and celery and cook for about 7 minutes on a med-high heat.
- Add the boar to the pot along with any juices that have collected on the plate. Stir to combine and add the wine, passata, Parmesan rind, tomato puree, bay leaves, sugar and some salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and bring to the simmer — it shouldn’t boil but should simmer fairly rapidly.
- Leave it to cook uncovered for about 10 minutes like this, this is to start cooking off the alcohol in the wine. After this time take it off the heat and put the lid on, and place it in to the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours — stirring it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch and to keep checking the meat — you’re looking for it to break up easily when you press a piece of it with the back of a spoon.
- Once it’s doing this, remove it from the oven and test it’s seasoning, adjusting with more salt and pepper if needed, and put it back on the hob with the lid off so it can simmer gently, reducing the sauce a little more.
- Cook your pasta while this is happening then drain and mix the sauce in to the pasta pot, gently stirring through to coat all the ribbons.
- Serve with a grating of Pecorino and glug of your favourite extra virgin if you’re feeling extra luxurious.