Sixpenny’s Mushroom Lasagne

Serves: 8 – 10

Sixpenny is a Sydney institution – 3 hats no less – and their head chef Dan Puskas is clearly a genius.

We have only eaten there once, though it was an entirely memorable and particularly impressive meal.

So when the head of Sixpenny puts out a lasagne recipe and it is based on mushrooms with a celeriac thrown in, time to listen up.

Simply put, this is mushroom greatness.

Yes, being a lasagne helps, though the mushroom is is the clincher. It is so moorish, so satisfying, so endless, it’s as I said, mushroom greatness.

I was wrong footed on the porcini powder, though simple blitz dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder and voila.

Also, I used instant lasagne sheets which seems to me a fine cheat. No doubt, fresh would be even better and the next time I do this dish, I’ll make the effort.

Live like they do at Sixpenny and mushroom it up the next cold Saturday night you can.

Ingredients

50gm dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1kg button mushrooms, finely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
100gm butter
1 medium celeriac, peeled, coarsely grated
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp coarsely chopped sage
1/3 c porcini powder
100gm tomato paste
200ml red wine
4 c vegetable stock
Lasagne sheets

Béchamel sauce

125gm butter
125gm plain flour
5 c milk
165gm Parmesan, finely grated
1 1/4 tsp white pepper
1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Method

  1. Soak porcini mushrooms in 3 cups boiling water until soft (30 minutes); drain, reserving liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, working in batches, use a food processor to finely chop the button mushrooms.
  3. Heat half the olive oil in a deep frying pan over a high heat. Cook half the button and porcini mushrooms, stirring until browned and tender; transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms. Set aside with the cooked mushrooms.
  4. Add butter to the pan, reduce heat to medium and use a wooden spoon to scrape the pan of any caramelised bits. Add celeriac, celery, carrot, onion, sage and porcini powder; cook, stirring until softened. Add the tomato paste and mushrooms and mix well. Add wine and simmer until almost evaporated.
  5. Add the reserved porcini liquid and 2 cups of the stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until well reduced. Add remaining stock and simmer until the consistency of a meat sauce.
  6. To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add flour and stir until bubbling. Remove from the heat, gradually whisk in milk until combined. Simmer over a low heat stirring until thick and smooth. Add 125gm of the Parmesan, pepper and nutmeg. Season with salt. Set aside until needed.
  7. Preheat oven to 180C. Great a large ovenproof dish. Spread 1/4 of the mushroom mixture in base of the dish. Top with pasta sheets and then a layer of béchamel. Repeat, finishing with béchamel. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden and bubbling.

Antonio Carluccio’s Salsa di Funghi (Mushroom Sauce)

Serves: 4

How good is Northern Italian food?

And how good is simplicity?

Which when combined, begs the question, just how good was Antonio Carluccio?

I absolutely love mushrooms and cooked down slowly, with just a bit of olive oil and rosemary; the addition of the porcini stock, butter and then Parmesan. My word.

Toast me something and pile those mushrooms on that! Polenta equally so!

Again, it’s simple, though cook those mushrooms as slowly as possible and live the Northern Italian life.

(We did the white sauce… which is not what you might expect.)

Ingredients

25gm dried porcini mushrooms
150ml water
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
400gm fresh mushrooms (mix it up!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan to serve

For white sauce

15 butter

For red sauce

2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp tomato pulp (passata)
1 tbsp tomato paste

  1. Soak the dried porcini in tepid water for 30 minutes and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquor.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the rosemary and garlic for 20 seconds. If you are making the red sauce, add the extra virgin olive oil at this point. Add the fresh mushrooms and soaked dried mushrooms and continue to slowly cook for no less than 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. (I cooked for 45 minutes and wow!)
  3. Cook your pasta, reserving a small amount of pasta water for the sauce.
  4. For the white sauce, stir in the soaking liquor and the butter and cook for another 15 minutes. Add some of the pasta water and check the seasoning.
  5. Serve with the pasta and a good amount of Parmesan.

Method

Antonio Carluccio’s Gnocchetti Sardi Con Broccoli (Sardinian Gnocchi with Broccoli)

Serves: 4

The first post I did for robbydogcooks.com was an Antonio Carluccio dish.

His pastas are always unique, always simple and always 1-hat. We can never fault them, especially the fact that you can start cooking at midday and serve lunch at one.

This pasta is wonderful.

And absurdly simple to make.

With a green salad and a glass of cold vino, it really doesn’t get better.

I have slightly adapted this recipe.

Ingredients

500gm broccoli florets
60gm smoked, streaky bacon, finely chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
200ml heated milk
400gm Sardinian gnocchetti (I used Casarecce which seemed close)
A little hot water from cooking the pasta (this is important)
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the broccoli, drain and process in a food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.
  2. In a large pan, start to fry the bacon in the olive oil. Once it begins to brown, add the slices of garlic, which should not be allowed to colour. Add the broccoli and the milk and cook for 10 – 15 minutes over a medium heat, stirring every now and then. At the end of this time, the broccoli should be reduced to a creamy texture.
  3. Cook the gnocchetti until al denote, drain (reserving some of the water), then our the pasta into the pan with the broccoli mixture, adding the Parmesan, salt and pepper. Add a spoonful or two of cooking water so the mixture is creamy rather than stiff. Stir well over a moderate flame for a few minutes or so and serve.

Sean Connolly’s Crab Linguini

Serves: 4

Nat and I have a great tradition on those public holidays where the gathering of family isn’t a prerequisite: Labour Day, Queens Birthday, Boxing Day etc.

We lock in a babysitter for the kids and we have lunch at The Morrison, a Sydney-city institution by Sean Connolly.

Clean, crisp seafood. Great wine list. Great buzz looking out onto the street at all the trams going backwards and forwards.

The oysters are a must. The prawn cocktail is a must.

Though the biggest must is the Crab Linguini.

We order it every time and I know of at least one other mate that does the same.

And here is the receipe.

Simple as one would expect from a chef that heros simplicity.

To really go the extra mile, Nat made fresh linguini and my word, what an awesome dinner we had:

If you really want to bowl your guests over, this is how you do it!

Paired with Rodney Dunn’s Leaf Salad with an Anchovy Cream and a great bottle of Chardonnay, nobody ate better in our part of that night.

(And when this Sydney lockdown ends, book a table at the Morrison. It really is a fun afternoon.)

Ingredients

500gm thickened cream
300gm fresh crab meat
50gm unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp canola oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Handful mint leaves, torn
Handful of Italian parsley leaves, chopped

Method

  1. Heat the cream in a large pan, bring to a simmer and reduced until thickened.
  2. Remove from the head, add the butter and a pinmch of salt, combining vigorously.
  3. Once combined, return to the heat and add the lemon juice. Bring to a gentle simmer and reduce for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Cook the linguini al dente and set aside.
  5. In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and once hot, warm through the crab, chilli, and parsley. Add the parsley and then the cream sauce. Season, stir through the parsley and serve.

Crab and Preserved Lemon Risotto

Serves: 6 as an entree

Just before Sydney’s lockdown, Nat and I did one of the Sydney Seafood School classes: a well received Mother’s Day present.

At their best, these classes are a lot of fun. An hour in the auditorium watching the chef cook and then two hours cooking at a workstation with another couple, knocking over the various dishes.

Then it’s lunch with a glass of wine. (You can even order an additional bottle of wine which of course, I commend firmly.)

The Italian Seafood class we attended did not push us particularly in terms of technique or complexity, though Nat cooked one of her first risottos (I am the resident risotto cooker) and I cleaned a squid for only the second time. And hey, we had fun!

And of course, I only type up recipes that are great and genuinely, this risotto is great.

I overheard someone saying that the preserved lemon was a little overpowering and lemon zest would be better.

Wrong.

It works and if you love crab and/or preserved lemon, this risotto is definitely for you.

Ingredients

300gm raw crabmeat*
1.25 litres quality chicken stock
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion, chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper
250gm risotto (do not rinse)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and dried, skin only finely diced
50gm salted butter
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp snipped chives

Method

  1. Heat stock in a saucepan until simmering, then maintain at that temperature.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat, add onion and a good pinch of salt and fry until soft but not coloured.
  3. Add the rice and stir over a high heat until grains are well coated in oil and warmed through.
  4. Add white wine and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
  6. Continue until rice is tender, with a slight bite, and has a creamy consistency (about 18 minutes): you may not need all of the stock.
  7. Add a final ladle or 2 of stock, preserved lemon, crabmeat, butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until all the butter is incorporated and the grab has broken into thin wisps. The finished risotto should be quite soupy. (The Italians call it all’onde which translates to wave-like.)
  8. Taste, season, stir through chives and serve immediately on a flat plate, tapping the bottom of the plate to spread the risotto out.

* Look, maybe it needs to be said, maybe not. We need to be buying only local, sustainable seafood. Australian for me. The time is up on imported seafood, please.

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.

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.