it’s ragu weather

A few weeks ago I was really craving a hearty slow cooked meat sauce for pasta- one of those blip away on the stove for hours, make the house smell amazing and be rich and rib stickingly delicious kind of sauces.  Well I found the recipe,made it, froze leftovers and we ate them too over the following weeks.  And it’s in this gloomy, wet, grey and frosty Melbourne weather I’m craving it again.  Glass of red here wouldn’t go astray either!

Ingredient wise it’s not crazy or out there- I opted to grind the meat myself and the only thing you may need to hunt for at a deli would be dried porcini mushrooms and flat pancetta- but if you couldn’t find those things I think you could just sub in dried shitake mushrooms and just your ready sliced pancetta- easy!

Surprise surprise the recipe was from gourmet traveller.  Ragu alla bolognese- it’s straightforward really, brown the minced chuck and pancetta, toss in the veggies (usual bolognese suspects carrot, onion and celery) add the stock and cook it down.  It’s the small additions to this recipe that make it stand out.  Like sprinkling the butter over the meat to melt in, the earthy mushrooms, bitey sage and stirring through a dollop of cream at the very end.  Just writing about it is almost making me dribble onto the keyboard!

First things first- grind the meat (if you don’t buy it ground already).  I use the grinding attachment that I have for my kitchen aid and it is the best thing ever- and actually really well priced in comparison to some of the other attachment bits.

Chop the pancetta into small cubes and brown it with the beef in a really big heavy based pan- I used big blue, my gorgeous big big big Le Creuset.

From this point is just a case of  adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot in a couple of stages and then gradually reducing and cooking down the liquid until you’ve got a lovely rich and thick ragu. The recipe said to cook for about 1.5 hours but I was probably just nudging over the 2 hour mark.

While it was bubbling away I also made some fresh pasta- it was pretty tasty but my only complaint was that I didn’t roll it out thin enough- always time for more practise in the future!  Thanks to the number of egg yolks it was the most glorious yellow colour.

When you’re just about ready to roll stir in the cream… 

Toss with the hot cooked pasta- pile into bowls, Parmesan if you please and enjoy…

This sauce is meaty and rich in flavour- very different to your stock standard spag bol where it’s a much more tomato flavoured and much lighter on in flavour.  With the cold weather well and truly at our doorstep set some time aside on the weekend and let this bubble away- even better you’ll have lots of leftovers for other chilly nights.

not a make again ep1

I haven’t got many pictures for this post because I wasn’t originally planning on sharing it.  However given how terrible it was I feel obligated to. 
So here was dinner on Friday evening, pumpkin gnocchi with sage & pinenut burnt butter- looks good right?

Beautifully plump gnocchi covered in burnt butter, crispy sage, toasty pine nuts and then sprinkled with Parmesan- heavenly… well that’s how it should have been.

Making gnocchi from what I’ve found is a fickle beast (apart from ricotta gnocchi it’s super simple and really hard to muck up) and I respect that, there’s a certain art to it.  

So how did this start?  I could blame costco and wonder why I purchased a whole pumpkin when I just needed about half but I thought no no I’ll put it to good use.  I pondered for a couple of days and then thought, huzzah pumpkin gnocchi what a great idea! So of course naturally you start googling recipes.  

Before I get into the pumpkin version here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt from plain old mr potato gnocchi….

* Keep the potato as dry as possible, any liquid is the devil.  Hence why baking (and then ricing the potato) is a preferred method.

* Keep use of flour to a minimum otherwise it ends up in rubbery bullet like gnocchi.

Two simple and very sensible guidelines, two guidelines I knew about and completely ignored on Friday.

I looked for a few recipes and they advised minimal flour, yes I thought make sense keep them light and delightful.  Another recipe roasted the pumpkin and then squeezed the flesh in a tea towel to remove the excess liquid, again I thought how smart, yes this will keep the pumpkin nice and dry and pull together a nice dough.

Did I listen to any of this?  No. I decided to go with another recipe which used heaps of flour (wrong) and kept the pumpkin wet (wrong again) and why did I do this?  Because this recipe added ricotta as well so I thought that made it different, and that it would be different and end up amazing, even though deep down I knew that wasn’t quite going to happen.  

Wrong wrong wrong, in hindsight I knew they would suck but I thought hey this is different, it’s a recipe from a respected (sort of) publication and maybe just maybe the ricotta makes a difference?!

So granted when rolled out (after roasting pumpkin, pureeing it and mixing with Parmesan, ricotta and a crapload of flour) you end up with fairly decent looking gnocchi…

These were boiled until floating, panfried in olive oil and tossed in burnt butter, sage and pinenuts, drizzled with lemon and sprinkled with Parmesan.

Let me just say that the sauce was great, to be honest you can’t ever really go wrong with butter so that was a delight.

But.. on the first bite I just had to say to monkey out loud- ‘this is shit’ and he wasn’t quick to disagree… I didn’t finish all of my diner and that rarely happens….. seriously. As a judgement of nice food it should be possible to open your mouth whilst chewing, your food shouldn’t stick to your mouth in that way…

But these things happen, not every meal is going to be amazing, and I’m not upset at all that these could have ended up being deadly weapons when dried and thrown at people (we also thought it might make a makeshift wall putty due to the nice gluey consistency) but what I’m actually annoyed about is not listening to myself.  I knew that these were wet, and I knew that it used too much flour but for some reason I had convinced myself that because it was a recipe it must be right.

Recipes are great in particular for things like cakes (always need precision) but when you think something isnt’t right change it and try something different, because seriously it couldnt’ be anything worse than what we had on Friday.

Always trust yourself- and it’s ok if it doesn’t go to plan, just hope you can figure out why it didn’t…

PS used packet spaghettini for dinner tonight tossed with white anchovies, tomoto, butter and crispy garlic breadcrumbs for dinner it was delicious- so all is well in the world again.

PPS- I’ve titled this ep1 because I know that in the future there will be a need for further episodes.

PPPS- I’m sorry costco it wasn’t your fault, I’ll visit you again next weekend xxx