Italian, Pasta, Vegetarian

Penne Pasta in Creamy Vodka Tomato Sauce with Mushroom (Pink Sauce)

Serves: 4

We live in Cammeray in Sydney and there has been this hole-in-the-wall pizza joint here since I was a kid catching the school-bus past many, many years ago.

Brick facade, large pizza-oven style window out the front, dark inside.

Until we moved to Cammeray, I had never been into the pizza place though I had always wanted to. Old-school pizza places are the best.

Our first meal there was memorable and for all the right reasons.

And it turns out that the place has been there since I was a kid, run by this Italian who cooked pizzas every night for 40 years or something.

Sadly, he passed away a year ago, though he left the restaurant to his nephew, who, when we arrived, was still finding his feet: cash only, several items on the menu not available, the poor guy cooking and serving and cleaning up.

But wow, his pizza and homemade pasta was just awesome.

And $50 with no corkage.

A real win.

Half-a-dozen visits since and he has found his feet, though the important elements remain. A dark, cosy, pizza restaurant with locals handing over cash for excellent pizzas. There is a second guy in the kitchen and a young girl taking orders and delivering the pasta.

We have mixed it up every time we have been there and last time we had a pasta similar to this one; mushroom spaghetti in a pink sauce: essentially half cream, half tomato.

I didn’t ask for the recipe though I found this one online and it is pretty much on the money.

Ensure you cook the alcohol off and you are left with a really wonderful dinner: pretty much what you would expect from a local, 40-year-old pizza joint that only cooks 6 pizzas and a rotation of the same number of pastas.

Do this some Saturday night and put your feet up.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomatoes (400gm)
¾ cup vodka
½ tsp chilli flakes
Handful fresh basil, torn
½ tsp dried oregano
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup cream
¾ tsp salt
500gm penne (we used spaghetti)
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and then add the onion and garlic and slowly saute until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes, vodka, chilli flakes, basil and oregano. Break up the tomatoes if necessary.
  2. Bring the mixture to a medium-heat and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cream and salt and continue to simmer ensuring that the alcohol is cooked out. Season.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta, drain and add to the sauce. Mix through and season again if necessary.
  5. Serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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Italian, Poultry

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Serves: 4.

I had completely forgotten how good Chicken Cacciatora was until I did this number.

What a fool!

Seriously, this is so good. The richness, the warmth, the depth of flavour. And so easy.

This is a Jamie Oliver version and served with some Italian potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts, it was just glorious.

And served on some toast the next morning for breakfast?

You would have a queue at your cafe if you simply did that. Genius.

I substituted chicken thigh for the whole chicken simply to make things easier; if we were entertaining, the whole chicken would have been the go.

Either way, do this old-fashioned Italian dish and you’ll be a hero.

Ingredients

1 x 2kg chicken, jointed (or 1kg of chicken thigh)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 clove of garlic peeled (1 crushed, 2 sliced)
½ bottle of Chianti (the other ½ is for you, my friend)
Flour, for dusting
Extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
A handful of green or black olives, stoned
2 x 400gm tins of tomatoes

Method

  1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and put them in a bowl. Add the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs and the crushed clove of garlic and cover with the wine. Leave to marinate for at least an hour and preferably overnight in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c. Drain the chicken reserving the marinade and pat the chicken dry with paper towel. Dust the chicken with flour and shake off any excess; especially important if you are using thigh meat only.
  3. Heat a large saucepan, add a good splash of olive oil, fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over and set aside.
  4. Place the pan back on the heat and add the sliced garlic. Gently fry until golden brown and then add the anchovies, olives, tomatoes and chicken pieces together with the reserved marinade. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours.
  5. Skim any oil that has collected at the top of the sauce, remove the bay leaves and rosemary stalks, season and serve.
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Italian, Side, Vegetarian

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves: 4 – 6

Haven’t brussel sprouts come into vogue?!

They’re the go to as a side in every second Sydney bistro at the moment, especially the sauteed kind with any number of accompaniments including bacon, pistachios, cranberries and of course, lots of garlic.

See you later rocket, pear and shaved Parmesan salad!

This simple take on them is as good as anything you’ll get dining out.

Indeed, experiment with a few additions and make it lunch. Or as a simpler side to pretty much any chicken/pork/whatever dish and you really do have a winner on your hands.

Just make sure to give them the occasionally stir so they don’t char too much on top whilst cooking.

Ingredients

1 kg fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half (or quarters if sprouts are large)
6 garlic cloves, rough chopped
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180c.
  2. In a baking dish, carefully combine all the ingredients and shake the dish until the brussel sprouts are even.
  3. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes.
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Healthy, Italian, Salad, Side

Italian Coleslaw

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Just wonderful; creamy thanks to the parmesan; hot thanks to the chilli oil.

Italian Coleslaw

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a really sophisticated little number I pulled from Gourmet Traveller.

It speaks of the thinly sliced, super-fresh vegetables and herbs you throw in and with the parmesan, chilli oil and some seasoning, wow.

We had it with a glazed pork chop and some braised beans it was wonderful; it is hot, fresh, soaked up the rest of the plate and stood its own as a side. The next lunch served with a rare BBQed eye fillet and some hand-cut chips, it got even better.

Slaw is always good and this is a wonderful version of it.

Ingredients

180gm peas (de-thawed peas are fine or if using podded peas, start with 500gm )
¼ white cabbage, thinly sliced
Fennel bulb, thinly sliced
½ Spanish Onion, thinly sliced
3 radishes, thinly sliced
½ cup each (loosely packed) basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley, coarsely torn
¼ cup (firmly packed) watercress sprigs
1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
40gm parmesan, finely grated
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp chilli oil
2 tbsp lemon juice

Method

  1. If using podded peas, blanch peas in boiling salted water until tender (1 – 2 minutes), fresh and drain. If using frozen, de-thaw completely.
  2. Combine in a large bowl with cabbage, fennel, onion, radish, herbs, watercress, capers and parmesan and toss to combine.
  3. Just before serving, add oils and juice, season to taste and toss lightly to combine.
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Beef, Italian, Pork

Spaghetti & Meatballs #3

Spaghetti & Meatballs #3

Serves:8 – 10

When we asked Oliver what he wanted to eat for dinner on his 9th birthday, I’d hoped he would say a veritable Greek feast complete with a BBQed leg of lamb, marinated in red wine, lemon juice, oregano and olive oil; or Zha Jiang Mian, a dish otherwise known as Chinese Bolognese with a touch of salt or sweet.

Or a burger he had never tried, a salmon Wellington, a bowl of coco pops, a more interesting take on meatballs.

Anything… but spaghetti and meatballs.

Because it isn’t that I don’t love a good spaghetti and meatballs.

It is just that this is the third recipe I have typed up on account of spaghetti and meatballs being his favourite dish. And on account that I am always wanting to try new recipes.

Dilemma, though the kid wants meatballs, then meatballs he will have.

This is another great recipe, tried and tested on Oliver and his brother Thomas who gave it a glowing review. They prefer shaved cheddar to Parmesan and hold the parsley, though otherwise, this hit the birthday-dinner spot and is definitely a comfort-food, no-friends-lost dinner you should try.

Plenty of time for lobster tet-a-tet on the weekend I guess. When it is meatballs time, best do them right.

Ingredients

Meatballs

8 good-quality pork sausages
1 kg beef mince
1 onion, finely chopped
½ a large bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
85gm Parmesan, grated
100gm fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten with a fork

Olive oil
Spaghetto to serve

Sauce

3 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 x 400gm cans chopped tomato
125ml red wine
3 tbsp caster sugar
½ a large bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
A few basil leaves

Method

Meatballs

  1. Heat the oven to 200c.
  2. Split the sausage skins and squeeze out the meat into a large bowl. Add the mince, onion, parsley, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, beaten eggs and season well. Mix together well.
  3. Roll the mince mixture into golf-balls. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread out the meatballs. Drizzle with a little olive oil, shake to coat and roast for about 20 – 30 minutes until browned.

Sauce

  1. Cook the spaghetti.
  2. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, sugar, parsley and season well. Simmer for 20 minutes or more until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the basil leaves.
  4. Spoon the sauce over the spaghetti, combine slowly and add extra Parmesan and basil leaves.
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Italian, Lamb, Pasta

Slow braised Shoulder of Lamb Ragù with Gnocchi

Slow braised Shoulder of Lamb Ragù with Gnocchi

Serves: 6 – 8

A few weeks back, we slow cooked a wonderful lamb shoulder for lamb, cumin mayonnaise, braised onion and rocket rolls.

As with pretty much any slow-cooked meat – stuffed in a baguette – it was a pretty amazing treat.

Though – as happens with a 2kg piece of lamb shoulder – there was plenty of shredded lamb left over.

So we borrowed from this recipe by James Martin, a talented British chef I’ve followed, to make this equally amazing ragù.

Two points to be made.

Firstly, in the lamb shoulder we cooked for the lamb rolls, we used currants, orange rind and verjuice whereas this recipe calls for a much more traditional thyme, rosemary, red wine sort of combo. After all is said and done, you’ll be left with a rich, soft lamb either way. Yes, there will be nuances depending on how you cook your lamb though they’re nuances you’ll soon get over.

Do it either way or then some.

Secondly, we used some frozen gnocchi we had left over, using the amazing Anne Burrell gnocchi I have previously typed up. I have typed up James Martin’s gnocchi because it is quite a cool approach and no doubt it is very good knowing him, though if you get a chance, try Anne Burrell’s go at it. It is sublime.

This is rich, screw-you Sunday cooking at its best.

Ingredients

Slow-braised shoulder of lamb

1 tbsp olive oil
1 x 2kg shoulder of lamb
1 bulb garlic, skin left on, cloves separated
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
4 sprigs rosemary, chopped
200ml red wine
200ml lamb or beef stock

Ragù

200gm pancetta, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
400ml can Italian tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
175ml red wine
500ml lamb stock (we used chicken stock)
6 tbsp fresh basil, torn

Gnocchi

4 medium potatoes
200 – 300gm salt
75gm plain flour plus extra for dusting
50gm grated Parmesan
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

150gm Parmesan, freshly grated to serve

Method

For the lamb

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Rub the oil into the lamb shoulder and season with salt and pepper. Place the lamb in a deep baking tray and surround it with the garlic, herbs, red wine and stock and roast in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat the 120c, cover the lamb with the aluminium foil and continue to cook for 4 ½ hour. Remove and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle, shred the meat.

For the ragù

  1. Heat a large casserole pan until hot, add the pancetta and fry for 3 – 4 minutes or until the pancetta softens and the fat begins to melt. Add the olive oil and then the garlic and onion and fry gently for 1 – 2 minutes until softened. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another minute or two.
  2. Stir in the shredded meat and then add the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, breaking apart the tomatoes.
  3. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for a further minute. Add the red wine and simmer until the volume of the liquid has reduced by one quarter. (At this stage I also had a red wine and reduced it by one quarter.)
  4. Add the stock and return the ragù to the boil. Season, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes or until the ragù has thickened. Finish with the fresh basil.

For the gnocchi

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Lightly score or prick the potatoes. Spread out the salt on a baking tray to make a bed of salt and sit the potatoes on top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until tender.
  3. Allow the potatoes to cool until comfortable to handle. Cut in half and spoon the cooked potatoes out of the skins. Finely mash the potatoes or put through a potato ricer. Add the flour, Parmesan and egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Keep mixing until the potato forms a dough.
  4. Working on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into four. Roll each quarter into a sausage shape around 20cm long and cut into 2cm pieces. Shake off any excess flour.
  5. Heat a large saucepan of boiling salted water and add the gnocchi; cook for 1 – 3 minutes or until they start floating on the top of the water; drain and drizzle with a little olive oil.

To serve, stir the ragù through the gnocchi and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on top.

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Curry, Italian, Poultry, Uncategorized

(Not) Butter chicken

(Not) Butter chicken

Serves: 4

The last ‘generic’ curry I I typed up, I commented that I had always steered clear of the Indian take-away favourites – Rogan Josh, Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken – because, well, they’re the sold-out, hardly Indian curries. 

In fact, butter chicken was the worst of the lot.

Often a flavourless, nuclear yellow/orange goop, I literally only entertain it because the boys will eat it: validation that it must be bland. (Sorry boys).

So by typing this up, you must have guessed it.

This is a seriously good curry. A seriously good, rich, flavoursome, moorish butter chicken, so much so, that you’d say it isn’t butter chicken.

So maybe after-all I haven’t cooked butter chicken.

Either way, you will love it. Just tell them it’s not butter chicken.

Ingredients

1 kg chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 bsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 stems, curry leaves
1 red chilli, chopped including seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 x 400gm can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
165ml coconut cream
1 tsp golden syrup
½ concentrated chicken stock cube

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Season the chicken thighs well and add to the pan; cook until golden brown. Set aside.
  3. Add the butter to the pan and when heated, add the onion and cook cover a medium heat until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and add the curry leaves, chilli and spices and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and coconut cream; add the golden syrup and stock cube and stir to dissolve.
  5. Return the chicken and cook on a low heat for at least an hour; several more if you have the time.
  6. Check the seasoning and serve garnished with the fresh coriander and steamed white rice.
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