Chocolate and Strega Tiramisu

Serves: 6

I love an old school Tiramisu, the more traditional – the better!

Its important to dial up the alcohol so you have that warming hit with every spoonful.

This recipe is from Ellen Beerworth’s famous cookbook and I can’t wait to try it tonight (its currently setting in the fridge)

By Nat x

Ingredients

3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup caster sugar
250g cream cheese (at room temperature
1 cup thickened cream (not light!)
1 1/2 Tbs cocoa + extra for dusting
1 c espresso (2 Tsp instant coffee mixed with warm water)
2 Tbs dark rum (I have a whole bottle here if anyone ever wants to borrow some)
250g Savoiardi biscuits

Method

  1. Beat the egg yolks and 1/4 c of the sugar until thick and pale (about 7 mins). Mix in the cream cheese and combine well (if its lumpy at this point the cream cheese was too cold, put over heat and beat until it smooths out).
  2. Wisk the cream with the remaining sugar (1.5 Tbs) until soft peaks form.
  3. Add the whipped cream to the egg and cream cheese mixture and divide evenly into two bowls.
  4. In one of the bowls sift 1 1/2 Tbs cocoa and stir until its combined.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
  6. Divide the egg whites between the two bowls and fold in until combined.
  7. Mix the espresso with the dark rum in a shallow bowl. Dip in the biscuits for about 20 seconds so they are really soggy and make layers of biscuits, plain mascarpone, biscuits and chocolate mascarpone.
  8. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

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Potato Focaccia

Serves: 6

If there is a gap in my cooking, it is baking.

Especially bread.

Enter Nat.

This focaccia is just a cracker and supplied as a recipe from my mother.

It is just wonderful. Focaccia usually is, though warm and home-cooked?

Call me!

Ingredients

200gm floury potatoes
3 tsp dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
200gm flour
100gm strong flour
Olive oil
10 cherry tomatoes, halves
2 tbsp marinated olives, chopped
2 tbsp chopped rosemary (and/or fresh oregano)
Sea salt

Method

  1. Microwave the potatoes until soft, put through a ricer and allow to cool.
  2. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 125ml water, mix with a fork and allow to froth.
  3. Mix together the flours, add the potatoes, yeast, 50ml olive oil, and enough water to make a dough that isn’t sticky.
  4. Either knead by hand (boring) or use a dough hook to knead for 5 minutes.
  5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place for an hour of more until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220c and liberally oil a 28cm round pan.
  7. Place the dough in the palm add 1tbsp of olive oil on top and stretch it to fit to fit the bottom.
  8. Press the tomatoes into the surface, scatter over the olives and herbs and sprinkle with salt.
  9. Bake for 25 – 35 mins or until golden.

`

Justin Smille’s Chicken Thigh Ragù with Pappardelle

Serves: 6

Justin Smille is a New York Times three-star chef and this genius chicken ragù is total proof. Bold, rustic, slow-braised wonderfulness when you want a ragù that isn’t pork or beef.

The chicken doesn’t overwhelm the light tomato and olive sauce and my goodness.

It is a bit of a labour of love, though worth every step.

Lock in Saturday afternoon and live the good life. Champagne from 3pm will make it go faster (and I know this from experience)!

Ingredients

20gm dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp sugar
2 red onions, chopped
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250gm pancetta, cut into 1cm dice
1kg skinless chicken thighs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tbsp finely chopped sage
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 c sherry vinegar
3/4 c dry white wine
2 c chicken stock
1 c pasata
1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
750gm fresh or dried papardelle
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serv
ing

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the porcini mushrooms and sugar, cover with hot water and let the mushrooms soak for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms have soften. Drain discarding the water and chop.
  2. Meanwhile, in the food processor, combine the onions, fennel, celery, carrot and garlic and pulse until finely chopped.
  3. In a large, heavy casserole pot, heat the oil over a moderate heat. Add the pancetta, stirring until browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside.
  4. Season the whole chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the casserole. Cook over a moderately high heat until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a platter.
  5. Add the chopped vegetables, a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to the casserole. Cook over a low heat until the vegetables are softened, the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables are just starting to brown. Stir in the rosemary, sage, tomato paste and porcini.
  6. Add the vinegar and cook over a moderate heat until almost evaporated. Add the wine and cook, stirring until reduced by half. Add the stock and pasta and bring to the boil.
  7. Return the chicken thighs to the casserole. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender: about an hour.
  8. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let cool slightly. Shred the chicken and stir into the sauce with the olives and pancetta. Season and reduce until you have a ragù consistency.
  9. Cook the papperdelle al dente, drain well and toss gently with ragù. Serve with the freshly grated cheese.
  10. Enjoy.

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: