Chicken and Mortadella Agnolotti Del Plin

Serves: 4 (as an entree)

Another brilliant pasta from the cookbook Saturday Night Pasta, served as I walked into the house this afternoon after a few meetings in the city.

What a treat!

This is one-hat pasta. And served with a cold Champagne, it’s wonderful one-hat.

Reasonably simple too: which the best pastas are.

I know that making fresh pasta is sometimes a bit of a hurdle, though it really does make this dish. Ditto the burnt butter.

And when combined with the wonderful chicken and pork mixture…

Just do it.

Ingredients

250gm chicken mince
150gm sliced mortadella
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra to serve
3 tbsp finely snipped chives
1 egg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour for dusting
1 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp salted butter, roughly chopped
10 sage leaves

Fresh Egg Pasta Dough

200gm (1 1/3 cups) flour plus extra for dusting
2 eggs, beaten
Good pinch of salt

Method

Fresh Egg Pasta Dough

  1. In fairness to the author of the book – Elizabeth Hewson – her description of how to make this basic dough is not only detailed, though provides the guardrails to make sure you would find it hard to stuff up. When to add water, when to…. etc.
  2. Nat loves making dough though she doesn’t have much time for it.
  3. So essentially, knead all of this into a ball. Nat used a KitchenAid and let it rest for an hour and if this doesn’t work for you, perhaps explore further on how to make pasta dough: it isn’t hard either way.

For the restPlace the chicken mince, mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano, chives, egg and a generous pinch of salt in a food processor and blitz until combined: set aside in the fridge whilst you make the pasta, or up to 2 days.

  1. Flour your bench and roll your pasta dough to about 1mm thick (setting 3 on a hand pasta roller). You want a long piece of pasta dough about 10cm in length.
  2. Lay the pasta dough on the dusted bench and dot half a teaspoon of the filling about 3cm apart in the middle of the pasta sheet. (See photo below to guide you.) Fold the pasta over and seal, squeezing out any air as you seal, ensuring the sheet evenly stretched over the filling.
  3. Trim and start pinching close the pasta, all the way down to the filling: and there you have agnolotti which should now be placed on a dusted tray ready for cooking. Get your water boiling and boil the agnolotti until it rises to the top and is ready.
  4. At the same time, place the stock, butter and sage leaves in a large, deep frypan and over a high heat bring to a boil. Burn as far as you want. Transfer the cooked agnolotti to the butter mixture and swirl. Serve with plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano and a good crack of pepper.

Spiced Tomato Bucatini with Panko Breadcrumbs

Serves: 4

One of the cookbooks we picked up this Christmas was Saturday Night Pasta by Elizabeth Hewson, a self-taught home cook.

Her passion is clear.

Flicking through around 100 pasta recipes, she provides a wonderful introduction and background to the recipe. Nat and I both sat in the kitchen eyeing each receipt off, reading the background and saying, “yep, this is the one” until we flipped the page and it all started over.

We settled on this particular pasta and it was excellent.

The subtle Indian spicing is of course completely unusual, though as Elizabeth puts it, “the lesson here is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”

True that.

Ingredients

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half to release its flavour
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tbsp salted butter
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp dry white wine
400gm can whole peeled tomatoes (I used cherry)
1/2 cup pouring cream
1/2 tsp caster sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

If making fresh pasta (Half the book is given over to pasta making techniques.)

Maccheroni a descita, Pici.

If using dried pasta

Gnocchetti sardi, Bucatini.

Method

  1. Heat a deep frying pan over a medium-heat. Throw in the cinnamon, garam masala and cardamom pods and toast for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the butter, 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the garlic and give everything a good stir for about 30 seconds to until the garlic is soft – you don’t want it to burn.
  2. Pour in the white wine and watch it bubble and drink up the flavours for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cream, sprinkle over the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Give everything a big stir, then reduce the heat to low and leave to bubble away for 30 minutes, allowing the spices to imbue their flavours and the sauce to thinking.
  3. Bring a large saucepan to the boil and salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until al denote. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  4. Heat a small frypan over a medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil and the panko crumb and cook until golden.
  5. When everything is ready, fish out the cinnamon stock and cardamom pods and throw in the drained pasta. Stir, adding a little pasta water if necessary.
  6. Divide into bowls, shower generously with the breadcrumbs and serve.

Alison Roman’s Caramelised Shallot Pasta

Serves: 4

No question, one of the defining themes of Covid has been food.

Cooking it. Eating it. Enjoying it with half a case of wine.

And repeat.

During lockdown, we had the time on our hands to experiment in ways we had never done. Indeed, given we couldn’t eat out, Nat and I would regularly recreate some of the most wonderful restaurant meals we had previously had.

I remember one meal where Nat recreated the incredible lobster and four-cheese Macaroni and Cheese from the best steakhouse in Honolulu – Mortons – and wow, looking back – at 1,570 calories a serve – Covid really did give us cover to do things culinarily that we wouldn’t otherwise do for a Monday lunch!

Of course, in Australia, we have moved back to relative normality which made it interesting to read the most popular recipes cooked the past year according to the NYTimes: America truly being the the opposite of our normality.

Like so much of our Covid, it kicked off with pasta.

Pasta that takes half an afternoon to cook.

A pasta that can – should – be cooked in pyjamas.

And a pasta that is on a whole other level of amazing.

Two-hat Italian amazing.

Slow-cooked onions always deliver though this is your case-in-point. Do this early afternoon, reheat when friends come around and blow them away.

(Ensuring all the bottles are in the recycling bin and the pyjamas are swapped for something a bit more acceptable.)

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 large shallots, sliced very thinly
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 can anchovy fillets (about 12 anchovies, drained though not rinsed)
170gm tomato paste
1 pack spaghetti

To serve
Good handful of parsley chopped
Grated Parmesan
Flaky salt

Method

  1. Open a good Pinot. It is a must.
  2. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over a low heat. Add the shallots and garlic, season and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots have become caramelised with golden-brown fried edges. The slower you can cook them, the better, though they will get there.
  3. Cook your pasta, remembering to reserve some pasta water: this is important.
  4. Add red-pepper flakes and anchovies drained straight from the can; there is no need to chop them as they will dissolve when cooked. Stir for two minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste and season again. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until the tomato paste has started to cook in the oil, caramelising at the edges and turning from bright red to a deeper, rusty brick colour: 2 or so minutes.
  6. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce pot and slowly start to pour some of the pasta water, combining the pasta with the sauce. Add small amounts of water at a time until the pasta is all coated. Add a little more for when the pasta and sauce cool.
  7. Plate your pasta and top with Parmesan, flaky salt and fresh parsley.

Pork Shoulder cooked in Milk

Serves: 6 – 8

As a teenager, every year for my birthday I would request my mother cook pork shoulder in milk.

It is a classic Italian dish and it cannot be beaten.

The milk keeps the pork incredibly moist and breaks down the meat. As it reduces, you’re left with a wonderful gravy.

It is also so simple to do. One pot, so little prep.

Served with some mash and some steamed beans then sautéed with some butter and toasted, slivered almonds.

Good Lordy.

This version of the classic dish I found online adds slices of lemon and genuinely, it is a world-beater.

Our kids could not believe themselves. They’ve asked several times since if I could cook it again.

It’s summer in Sydney so it might be a few months, though I cannot wait.

The first hint of cold in Autumn and this dish is back.

Ingredients

1kg deboned pork shoulder, rind scored
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, split in half horizontally
4 sage leaves
3 sprigs thyme
5 thin slices lemon, seeds removed
4 cups full fat milk
1/2 cup cream

Method

  1. Decant a good bottle of red. You’re going to need it!
  2. Dry the skin of the pork shoulder and dry well. Sprinkle with salt and leave in the fridge uncovered for a day.
  3. Heat the over to 180c. Heat a large, heavy pot/casserole over a medium heat, add some oil and crisp up both the skin of the pork and brown the pork on all sides.
  4. Place the pork skin-side up and add the garlic, sage, thyme, lemon and 3 cups of the milk ensuring that milk does not go on the skin. Roast for 45 minutes, uncovered, until the crackling is golden.
  5. Place the lid on the pot and cook for 2 hours 15 minutes, adding the additional cup of milk halfway through.
  6. When done, stir in the cream and season. Enjoy!
Sicilian Roast Chicken - As good as it gets

Nonna’s Rice-Stuffed Chicken

Serves: 4 – 6

This recipe by Mattel Tine of Bar Carolina in Melbourne, is a brilliant example of Sicilian home cooking.

One of the best chicken dishes ever. Blow-away good.

Cooked by Nat last Sunday night, this was just genius. I literally sat back and watched and wow, was I impressed.

With all of the fresh herbs and the lemon, it is such an aromatic dish. The risotto – especially the risotto dumplings – are amazing. And despite my misgivings about roast potatoes, they just work in this dish.

Line this up for Sunday night. Open a Pinot. Dim the lights, put on some music and enjoy the Covid lockup in style.

Ingredients

1.8kg chicken
100ml olive oil
1 cup each courses chopped flat-leaf parsley, rosemary and sage
Juice of two lemons
5 roasting potatoes, peeled and quartered

Rice Stuffing

60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300gm ( 1 1/2 cups) quality risotto rice
600ml chicken stock
80gm (1 cup) Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, finely grated
50gm (1/2 cup) fine breadcrumbs
1 egg
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp each finely chopped oregano and flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. For rice stuffing, heat oil in a casserole over low-medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir until translucent and aromatic (4 – 6 minutes). Add rice and stir (1 minute, then add chicken stock and cook stirring continuously, until rice has absorbed the liquid and is al dente (6 – 8 minutes; you want the rice to be undercooked).
  2. Spread the rice over a tray to cool (15 minutes). Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
  3. Preheat over to 200C. Stuff rice stuffing into chicken cavity to fill completely, then roll remaining stuffing into walnut-sized balls.
  4. Combine oil, herbs and lemon juice in a bowl. Season to taste. Place the chicken in the baking dish and then place the potatoes and dumplings around the chicken. Brush the chicken all over with the herb dressing. Pour 5mm of water into the pan and roast until the chicken is cooked through (1 1/2 hours). Set aside to rest (30 minutes) then carve and serve.

P.S. This post is dedicated to Alexa Donovan. I’ve known her since she was born, I’ve watched her grow up into a wonderful, thoughtful young woman, she has babysat my three kids plenty of times… and she can cook. (And cooks (or at least reads) this blog. I’ll see if she can do a guest post!)

Spaghetti Machiavelli

Serves: 4 as an entree

Machiavelli’s – a Sydney lunchtime institute for as long as I can remember – is one of our favourite restaurants.

Full of men in suits – with walls covered in photos of famous men in suits – Machiavelli has plenty of appeal to us. It’s underground and a great place to hide; we get to watch bankers and lawyers and important women and men lunch whilst we spend the whole time talking about our kids and planning our next holiday.

The service is on-point. The food is excellent. There is a real excitement about the place.

Being a business restaurant, the food flies out.

We always order the calamari and gamberi fritti to start and I swear it arrives before the waiter has punched in the order.

Then it is on to the signature dish: Spaghetti Machiavelli.

Which is one of my top 5 favourite pastas ever. And the only main I have ever ordered at Machiavelli’s.

Butter. Fish Stock, Prawn. Chilli.

Stop it!

A few weeks back, we had an Italian cook off at my parent’s house. I found the recipe for the Spaghetti Machiavelli at the back of the Internet and boom.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Spaghetti Machiavelli.

And let me leave you with this:

My mother – who is my cooking inspiration – said it was the best pasta she had ever had.

What are you waiting for!

Ingredients

160gm prawn meat, rough chopped
100gm button mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp fresh garlic, crushed
1 tsp Thai red chilli, chopped
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
300gm Spaghetti
300ml fish stock

To Serve

4 tsp butter
2 handfuls of basil leaves0
Salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Saute the prawn meat, mushrooms, garlic and chilli in the oil until the prawns are half cooked through.
  2. Cook the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the prawn mixture.
  3. Add the fish stock and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Toss the butter and basil leaves through, season and serve immediately.

Nat and Rob’s Long Lunch

Serves: 30

Last Saturday, Nat and I finally did it.

We got married! In Palm Beach. In front of our family and very closest friends.

It was a close to eloping as Nat’s mother would allow.

Here we are:

And our three monkeys, Oliver, TT. And Max:

Rather than a traditional wedding – which neither of us wanted – we based the whole thing around a long lunch (with a very short wedding to begin). Because long lunches we do, weddings much less so.

Six courses. And plenty of champagne and wine.

My mother Ellen was a genius planning the menu, a process that took weeks and weeks to refine, test, refine and debate. We really would not have gotten there without her, especially the part where she cooked 20 duck confit two nights beforehand.

Hats off to Nat too: she sliced 16 kilos of onion, made 4 litres of corn stock, cubed 5 kilos of snapper, cured a salmon and reduced 10 litres of cream and fish stock two, one and zero days to the d-day. (These are qualities anyone should look for in a wife!)

And so it’s on the record, firstly, thanks to everyone that helped on the day…

Ellen: the menu, cooking half the food, looking a million bucks on the day:

Court: planning, support and advice for the day as well as cooking a cookie for the cookie course… and setting up and cleaning up after:

Bec, Woodles and Lob: for their amazing contribution to the cookie course.

(And Woodles again for her beautiful, off-the-cuff speech that could have dissected me, though instead just reinforced what a beautiful person Nat is…)

Sare Bear: for her incredibly generous contribution of the flowers and photography. We owe you big time.

Rob A, Greg and Sean: for being the logistics backbone of the day: hauling up wine and champagne, setting up in the rain, cleaning up in the pouring rain the next day.

Rob A (again) and Deb: for running around for weeks beforehand helping organise things and always asking what more they could do… the best parents-in-law anyone could ask for:

(And thanks for the cracker speech Rob. Unusually light on me! And Deb’s toast: Mazzeltov!)

Bill: for his really moving speech… it is clear how much he loves Nat and there wasn’t anyone that wasn’t really touched by the end of it:

Giles: my best mate and someone who can be relied upon to have a brilliantly funny speech up his sleeve for any occasion, even if I still can’t understand a word!

Oliver and Tom: these young men delivered two wonderful speeches that were as touching as they were funny. The entire house was in tears:

Brooke: for the beautiful bouquet:

Christian (The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay), Laura (Palisade) and Vincenzo (Appetito, Rockpool in Perth): the best trio of cooking and waiting we could have ever asked for. Serious professionals:

Daniella: our always dependable friend who can help out with our kids on a Saturday night, plate 31 snapper pies, speak Italian and flip our AirBNB whilst we are in the Maldives.

Secondly, for everyone that asked, here are the dishes we served on the day:

#1 Soup and Sandwich

#2 Cheese and Salad

#3 Duck and Cherries

#4 Snapper Pie

#5 Mexican Wall

#6 Cookies and Cream (a shot of Baileys):

– Cookie 1 – Lobba’s Choc Chip
– Cookie 2 – Court’s Peanut Butter-Stuffed Cookies
– Cookie 3 – Woodle’s Butter Cookies
– Cookie 4 – Bec’s Hazelnut Cookies

Thirdly, here is the shortlist of photos from the day.

And the photos from our guests.

And finally… thank you to my gorgeous wife and best friend. Thank you for agreeing to marry this old dog.

I promise I’ll make it worth your while NB:

Court’s Peanut Butter-Stuffed Cookies

Makes: 12

My sister-in-law Court is a foodie like we are.

She and her husband Greg both are:

They cook great food. We share recipes. We promise to try restaurants.

They have Margarita Saturday’s. So do we.

I love my sister and brother in law on many levels, though let’s start with food. (Because this is a food blog.)

Which means these cookies Court made for our wedding – course #6/#6 – are predictably amazing. The sort of cookies you know not to eat except for special occasions like a wedding.

Firstly, there is something quite sophisticated about them. They look the part.

Secondly, technique is clearly involved in their manufacture. In the same way none of us know how chocolate-covered ice creams are made, how does one get the peanut butter mixture inside the cookie? (I believe it has something to do with freezing the peanut butter mixture prior to baking so that the peanut butter doesn’t melt…)

Thirdly, is the taste. Substantial to hold – sort of like a dessert itself – this cookie is awesome. Think Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups meet cookie!

I ate three and I would have eaten more if I could have found them.

Ingredients

For the filling

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup icing sugar

For the cookies

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  1. Make the filling: in a medium bowl, combine peanut butter and icing sugar and mix until smooth. Scoop into small balls (about 3.5cm) and freeze until ready to use.
  1. Make the cookies: in a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter and sugars and beat with a hand mixer on medium until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined, then add flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined.
  1. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the cookie dough and flatten into a pancake-like circle. Place the frozen peanut butter ball on top. Bring the edges of the dough around the peanut butter ball and pinch the edge together to seal, adding more dough if necessary to cover the frozen peanut butter completely.
  2. Roll stuffed cookie dough ball in sugar and place on baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used, spacing the cookies about 5cm apart.
  3. Bake until the cookies are golden on the bottom; 12 – 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Neil Perry’s Roast Duck with Cherries

Serves: 4

We don’t cook duck enough. None of us do.

Because every time we cook it. And eat it. We tell each other just how much we love it.

And how far too little we cook it.

We then promise to cook it much more.

And then we don’t.

And the cycle repeats.

In this Neil Perry recipe, I have omitted how to roast the duck; Neil’s recipe asks for two whole ducks, though you can just as easily get duck marylands – even duck confit – from good supermarkets.

The trick is to shred the duck, removing any fat and skin.

This recipe – we called ‘Duck and Cherries’ – was course #3 of #6 we served at our Long Lunch/Short Wedding and many guests said it was the standout:

The cherry sauce can be made beforehand and reheated with the duck. Serve with a salad of baby leaves and a garnish of finely chopped parsley and this would be a wonderful starter or main at any dinner party.

No question, it is a quacker cracker.

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
500gm cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen, which we used)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Baby leaves
Continental parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. Place a pan over a medium heat and add the oil and butter and cook until foaming; add the cherries, sugar and salt and cook for about 15 minutes until soft and fragrant. Remove from the heat and give a really good grind of pepper.
  2. Places heap of the shredded duck meat onto each plate. Spoon over the cherry sauce, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and add another grind of pepper. Garnish with the parsley.
  3. Serve with baby leaves at the side.

Casarecce with Pork Sausage, Cavolo Nero and Chilli

Serves: 4 – 6

It has been a busy couple of months for us.

Moving house, overseas, work, kids, weddings, kids and more kids.

We’ve also been super calorie focused, with no meal exceeding 300 calories. No kidding!

But now we’re done.

And with a new courtyard, a new kitchen and Spring finally feeling like Spring, we’re back into cooking wonderful weekend lunches.

Like this one, which is as good as you would get in a restaurant.

It is surprisingly light, with the garlic, chilli and fennel creating a really sophisticated base. The casarecce is a great pasta (found at Harris Farm) and the cavolo nero (kale) fills the whole thing out in a really clever way.

This is definitely a pasta you should try and one that we would cook again.

9 out of 10.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
6 thick pork and fennel sausages, skins removed, broken into bite-sized pieces
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 cups (firmly packed) roughly torn cavolo nero (1 bunch)
500gm dried casarecce (or penne or rigatoni)
50gm finely grated Parmesan plus extra to serve
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a large casserole over a high heat, add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until well browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic, rosemary and spices to the pan, season to taste and stir for a minute or two until fragrant. Deglaze with the wine and reduce until almost evaporated, then return the sausage to the pan together with the stock and cavolo nero. Cover with a lid and cook until the the cavolo nero is just wilted.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Toss with with the sausage sauce, Parmesan and parsley, season to taste and serve, topped with extra Parmesan.
  4. And wine.