Sauce à Pâte de Hubert Laurent

Hubert Laurent’s Sauce for Pasta

Hubert Laurent devotes his life to cooking and skiing. He is the chef at the small friendly hotel that his parents started a generation ago in the village of Ste Eulalie in the shadow of the Gerbier de Jonc.

The boom in skiing during the last decade has brought visitors back to these alpine villages of the Haute Ardèche, so the Hotel de la Poste is far busier in the winter than in the summer. Yet the early summer can be enchanting. Behind the hotel, in the meadow that slopes down to the burbling Loire, I counted twenty-four different wild flowers in bloom one June morning. And the bees from the blue, yellow and red painted hives on the far side of the meadow were foraging this paradise from dawn till dusk. The village is gloriously peaceful all summer until the second weekend in July when possibly the most ancient flower festival in Europe, la Foire de Violettes, is held. From all over the continent visitors come to buy the dried flowers. Pharmacists, scent and pot-pourri makers, herbalists and holiday-makers throng the long central street and surrounding meadows. Most people eat en plein air but those in the know eat at the Hôtel de la Poste which specializes in the good cuisine bourgeoise that Hubert learnt from his mother. His meat sauce for pasta is closely related to a bolognaise but I find the addition of quatre-épices transforms the flavour in a very Gallic and harmonious way.

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Ingredients

  • 15 g(½ oz) butter
  • large onion, very finely chopped
  • 100 g( oz) lean beef, very finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 litre( pt) chicken stock or water
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 225 g(8 oz) tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
  • bouquet garni of thyme, bay leaf and parsley
  • salt, milled pepper
  • a good sprinkling of quatre-épices

Method

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the onion until golden and transparent. Add the beef and cook, stirring now and again, for 7–8 minutes. Stir in the flour and gradually add the stock, the garlic, tomatoes, bouquet garni, salt, pepper and the quatre-épices and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to 570 ml(1 pint). Serve with pasta. If you prefer a smoother sauce, purée briefly in a blender or processor before serving.