Idle hands and duck ragu

According to Bunnings commercials, long weekends are the perfect time to get things done around the house. I wholeheartedly agree, if by ‘get things done’, you mean ‘take a nap every day, eat cupcakes and watch a whole season of Grey’s Anatomy’. That’s how these things work, right?

With a very busy week under my belt and a flu-ravaged boyfriend, a quiet weekend was in order. Except it turns out, there’s only so much nothing you can do. After two solid days of couch time and the relentless screams of whoever it was Blair was killing in Battlefield 4, I went a little stir-crazy. Kitchen therapy was the only way to go – obviously – and I wanted something worthy. I wanted something special. 

The deal was sealed having never cooked with duck, and knowing the result was going to be rich and comforting. Fear not, the recipe is still easy, you’re just slow cooking meat. There’s no real technique required (oh god, I have to stop watching MasterChef); and if cutting up a duck is out of your range, use one duck breast per person, which is totally what I did. Because, who has two thumbs up and didn’t know that you can’t just buy a whole duck on a public holiday Monday? This chick.

What are you loving now that the winter weather has kicked in? Do you have a favourite recipe for when you’ve got some time up your sleeve?

Duck Ragu

From Taste Magazine

1.8kg duck
100g diced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
250ml pinot noir
2x 400g diced tomatoes
250ml chicken stock
3 rosemary sprigs
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
110g pitted green olives, chopped
Cooked pappardelle pasta, to serve
Shredded parmesan, to serve

 

Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut along both sides of the duck’s backbone, and discard. Quarter the duck, and season with salt. In a flame and oven proof dish, cook the duck in batches, skin side down over high heat until golden, around five minutes. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes, then transfer to a place.

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Heat the oven to 130*C. Cook the pancetta, onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves for 8 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.

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Add the wine and stir, scraping and brown bits from the bottom.  Add the duck, tomato, stock, rosemary and Chinese five spice. Cover, place in the oven and bake for 2 – 3 hours or until the duck is tender.

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Once cooked, remove the duck and set aside on a plate. Simmer the liquid over medium heat for 20 minutes or until thickened and reduced by a third. Carefully remove and discard the duck bones. Shred the meat and return to the sauce with the olives. Season to taste. Serve with pasta and parmesan.

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Dinner in a brisket

I’m going through a phase. We all go through them. Sometimes it’s a black lipstick and creeper shoes-wearing thing. Or bad boys with leather jackets and motorbikes. Scuba diving. Knitting. Dance classes, because you marathoned all of the Step Up movies in a weekend, and you can totally do that.

At the moment, I’m obsessed with Jewish cook books. The transition into winter is probably the catalyst, following on from all the Lent-inspired recipes. Jewish cooking looks so comforting. If any kind of food felt like a warm hug, it’s definitely this. A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Feast Goes on. I liked it so much, I immediately picked up their other book. We’re going to come back and talk about this another day, but the important thing to note is: brisket. These books love brisket. I was immediately inspired.

Brisket, if you’ve never come across it before, is cut from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. It’s a tough piece of meat which benefits from some super slow cooking to render it tender and melty. I picked mine up from the magical team at Gingin Beef at the Subi Farmers Markets. Ask your local butcher for it, because you won’t find it at Coles or Woolies.

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Now I know what you’re thinking. This looks like a lot of work. I mean, brisket sounds fancy and complicated. But fear not! It’s incredibly simple, I promise. Would I lie to you?

The barbecue sauce is made up from stuff that you’ve probably got in your pantry. The spice rub is super easy to throw together, but if you’ve got a pre-made rub in the back of the cupboard, feel free to use it. Mac and cheese can be thrown together is 10 minutes. The recipe can even be doubled, or tripled, and divided up and frozen for future can’t-be-assed-cooking nights – and with the impending cold weather, we all know there are plenty of those comin’.

Now. The recipe that follows serves 6-8 people, so feel free to halve it all. The piece of brisket I used was 900g, which was a touch small for 4 people, so maybe aim for 1.2kg for 4 people.

Beef Brisket and Mac and Cheese

From Daily Life

Beef Brisket

A piece of brisket, about 5kg

Barbecue Sauce
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
500ml tomato sauce
100ml Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp chopped thyme
Spice Rub
2 tbsp each chilli powder and mustard powder
1 tbsp each paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground black pepper, castor sugar
1 bay leaf, crushed

To make the barbecue sauce, cook the onion and garlic in the oil, in a large fan over medium heat. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and blend with a food processor to form a smooth puree.

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Heat the oven to 150*c. Mix all of the spice rub ingredients together with a good pinch of salt, then rub all over the brisket.

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Add the sauce and two cups of water to a roasting tray, pop in the brisket, then cover tightly with baking paper and then foil. Place in the oven and roast for at least 4 hours (maybe 5 if it’s a big piece), until it’s fork-tender.

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Once it’s done in the oven, grill the brisket in a hot frypan for a couple of minutes each side, until lightly charred. Cut into thick slices and serve.

 

Mac and Cheese

500g macaroni
olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
4 rashers streaky bacon, diced
600ml cream
150g grated aged cheddar
350g grated gruyere
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp seeded Dijon mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
100g  breadcrumbs

Place the pasta in a large pot boiling salted water, and cook according to packet instructions until al-dente. Drain well and set aside.

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Heat some oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then cool the onion and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon is golden. Remove from the pan and leave to drain on a paper towel. Return the pan to high heat and add the cream, brining to a boil. Lower the heat and add the garlic, mustard, paprika and cheese.

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Simmer for 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and sauce thickens. Return the onion and bacon to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
In a large baking dish, add the pasta and sauce, stir until the pasta is coated, then top with the breadcrumbs and parsley. If you’re prepping the mac and cheese in advance, refrigerate until the brisket comes out of the oven, turn up the heat to 200* and cook until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

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In the interest of your arteries, serve with some kind of token salad. It definitely cancels out.

Better than IKEA

For very brief, fleeting moments this week, it actually felt like Autumn. As a firm lover of blankets, pajamas and generally looking like an Eskimo, you can bet your ass I was excited.

It’s a widely accepted truth that everyone loves IKEA. Even if you hate it, there’s a perverse pleasure of being there, hating everything and everyone and coming out with 14 bags of Diam (which, by the way, is like crack). I, for one, love IKEA, and am the kind of person that can’t go unsupervised. Mostly because I need someone to remind me that I don’t need coat hangers/toys/500 picture frames and a whole new book shelving unit.

Of course, IKEA is also famous for it’s food court. It’s the cheapest feed in the world, why wouldn’t you eat your body weight in meatballs and mousse while you’re there? You’re going to need all the energy you can get when you’re at home and 4 hours into the most confusing bed assembly in the universe. The problem is, you can’t really go there for a meatball fix, lest you come home with a shelving unit, the temptation is far too great.

So here we have it, folks. The recipe that’s going to make your life just that much better. It’s perfect winter comfort food, and it’s also pretty damn easy.
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Better Than IKEA Meatballs

Adapted from The Londoner and Jamie Oliver

a handful of mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley or chives
300g minced pork
300g minced beef
1 large egg
100ml milk
75g dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground allspice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1tbsp mustard
1-2tbsp Worcester sauce
1tsp honey
300ml double cream
Salt n pepper

Roughly chop the fresh herbs. Set aside a pinch for garnish, and then place the rest in a large, deep mixing bowl, big enough for you go get your hands in to. Add the mince, egg, milk, bread crumbs and all spice. Season with salt and pepper, then mix and scrunch together with your hands until thoroughly combined. Roll the mixture into meatballs, place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for an hour to firm up.

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Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the pan and brown all over, about 10 -15 minutes. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a plate and set aside.

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Add the flour to the remaining oil in the pan and stir until it makes a smooth paste. Add the stock and simmer, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (you want this, they are delicious). Leave to simmer and thicken for a couple of minutes, then add the Worcester Sauce, honey and mustard. Give a good stir, then add the cream. Stir again, then add the meatballs to the pan, and turn to coat. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

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Serve meatballs and sauce over your favourite carb – this is amazing with pasta, mashed potatoes, couscous or polenta. Sprinkle with reserved herbs.

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If you’re a little on the lazy side, or pushed for time, you can use your favourite flavoured sausages – just remove the meat from their casings, and roll into balls. The flavouring is already in the meat, so you’re good to go!

I’m trying to kill you

Today, I want to share with you a recipe that doesn’t belong here.

February, in all it’s summerbodycleaneatingpaleofreshseasonalhealthy glory, is not the place for what I’m about to present to you. But you know what? Bollocks to that. Some days are hard. While I believe that you should try and remove negative stuff from your life, you certainly can’t go around pretending everything is peachy. You’re tired, things go wrong, you’re unwell, whatever. If you’re having a particularly bad day, you’re allowed to feel it. Screw the positive mind-set rubbish, and go wallow.

I’m not going to lie, this dish is probably going to kill you. There is nothing even remotely good for you here, and that’s pretty much why I love it. Because if you’re having the kind of day where you hate life and everything in it, why the hell would you worry about where or not stuff is good for you?

If you’re not having the kind of day where you hate life, make this anyway. It’s comfort food central, made up of stuff that you probably have in your kitchen already. It’s super kid-friendly, wintery cold weather-friendly, Friday night and can’t be bothered-friendly. It’ comes together in 20 minutes, and is incredibly moreish. It is, as the new Cookie Monster says, definitely a sometimes food, but why can’t sometimes be today?

Cheesy Sausage Tortellini

From Kevin & Amanda

2 tbsp olive oil
450g sausage (I used kransky), sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato pasta sauce
1/2 cup cream
250g tortellini
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan with deep sides until hot. Add the sliced sausage and cook for 4 minutes each side, or until browned. Add the garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring, until fragrant.

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2. Add the pasta sauce, stock, cream and pasta to the pan, and give a good stir to combine, then bring to a almost-boil.

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3. Cover the pan and simmer for 12 minutes on low, until the pasta are tender and plump. Serve with cracked black pepper. And maybe a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I’m not going to judge you.

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Everything you see, I owe to pasta.

I mean, who’s going to argue with Sophia Loren?

There is no magic in this world quite like pasta. A staple of the family dinner table; the quickest dinner in any of our repertoires; the first thing we learn to cook. For something so simple (eggs, flour, salt, traditionally), you could go your whole life without making the same recipe twice.

Although I eat very little pasta in my day to day life, I get a kick out of making it when cooking for others. I weirdly feel the need to prove myself, that I can make more than mac and cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with mac and cheese!), or fusilli with a jar of pasta sauce and tinned tuna; my go-to uni student meal.

This is total restaurant quality stuff. It’s incredibly flavourful and moorish, and a great thing to plate up when you’re wanting to impress someone. Yeah, I’m calling it. Date food. Write it down.

Beef Short Rib & Mushroom Orecchiette

From Delicious

20g dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup sunflower oil
2.5kg beef short ribs (I only used 1.5kg)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
400g orecchiette
20g butter
200g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
Parmesan, to serve

Heat the oven to 180*c.

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2/3 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, keeping the liquid, and halve the mushrooms if they’re large.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large flame proof and oven proof dish. Season the ribs really well with salt and pepper, then add to the dish and cook for 12 minutes, turning until well browned. Place the ribs on a plate and set aside.

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Add the carrot, celery and onion to the dish and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until soft.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic and thyme. Cook for a minute, stirring, until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, cooking for a minute.

IMG_7997Add the wine, stock, bay leaves, porcini and the reserved liquid. Add the ribs and resting juices to the dish, then bring to a simmer. Cover the dish and place it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.

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Remove the dish from the oven, and remove the ribs. Leave them to one side to cool slightly. Place the dish over medium high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens a little.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in a pan of salted water. Drain.

In a large frypan, heat the butter, then add the mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes until golden.

Remove the meat from the ribs, throwing away the cartilage and bones. Tear up the meat into small pieces, then add the meat and mushrooms to the sauce, along with the pasta. Toss together thoroughly, then season with salt and pepper.


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Semplice Italiana

When I first moved out of home, I didn’t really know how to cook.

I struck a deal with my housemate that he’d drive me to and from work, if I did the cooking. Sounded like a pretty sweet deal to me! Except for the whole cooking thing, due to the not knowing how. That was a pickle. So, I walked into a supermarket, I picked up a food magazine and chose an appropriately show-offish recipe. I labored over that meal for hours (I had zero knife skills), and at the end of it all, narrowly avoided giving my new housemates food poisoning with semi-raw chicken. Uh, whoops. Sorry team!

Let this be a lesson for all of you: Don’t run before you can walk. Basics are basics for a bloody good reason.

Less food poisoning, mostly.

Even now, I find myself realising that while there are many things I can do (yay me!), I know very little about the basics. They’re worth knowing.

So here we are, at Italian. Namely, carbonara. Turns out, it’s nothing like that gluggy, clumped together mess that you get served in all of those restaurants along the cappuccino strip in Fremantle. It’s silky, delicate, and actually cream free, if you do it right. Today’s recipe isn’t super traditional, there is cream in the mix, but there’s nothing wrong with breaking from tradition. If you want the whole experience, try this.

If you’re a champion multi-tasker, you can have this on the table in less than 20 minutes. Eat that, Jamie Oliver!

Spaghetti Carbonara

From Delicious Magazine

400g pasta of your choice
1 tbs olive oil
200g bacon or pancetta, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
100ml thickened cream
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to instructions.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a pan, and cook the bacon or pancetta for a couple of minutes, stirring. Toss in the garlic and stir for a further 30 seconds, then set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, extra yolk, parmesan and cream and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, return to the pan and then quickly pour over the egg mixture.

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Toss together with the bacon and parsley, and serve.

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Advice for those playing at home: Keep the sauce off the heat when you’re mixing it with the pasta. If you cook the sauce too much, you end up with scrambled eggs, and that’s just not cricket.

It’s cold outside…

I regularly joke with a friend of mine who lives in England that there’s little differentiating between his summer and my winter. And it’s true, with fine days that top around 18*, cold nights and occasional rain, we are about on par. When he announced he was coming to visit in August, my immediate response was “wait, no, it will be cold and wet and miserable… Wait, no, never mind. You’ll be fine. Pack shorts.’

When True Winter kicks in, I get a little carried away. The ends of my track pants are tucked into ugg boots or my ridiculous Peter Alexander bed socks and the biggest hoodie I own comes on. If it’s a weekend, well, if you’re going to attempt to pry me away from the nest I’ve built on the couch in front of a season of Bones… You better have a pretty sweet trade-off.

When the cold kicks in, I hit up the comfort food pretty hard.

Sausages are already perfectly flavoured for quick and easy meatballs. Pasta, tomatoes, and a sweet but acidic sauce are a perfect mid-week winter meal.

Sausage & Capsicum Ragu Mafaldine

From MasterChef Magazine

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
400g red capsicums, seeded, cut into strips
400g yellow capsicums, seeded, cut into strips
400g can cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
40g currants
4 thick pork & fennel sausages
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
500g pappardelle pasta
35g walnuts, roughly chopped
Grated pecorino, to serve

1) In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Soften the onion, chili flakes and garlic. Add the capsicum and cook for 8 minutes to soften.

2) Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and currents. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, and reduce the heat. Cook for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce and cook the capsicum.

3) Remove the sausage meat from their casings and roll into meatballs, roughly 16 of them. Add them to the sauce and combine gently. Cover the pan with foil and cook for a further 5 minutes or the meatballs are cooked through. Remove from heat and add the red wine vinegar, stirring.

4) Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Drain, and add to the ragu. Toss to coat the pasta with sauce and serve with pecorino.