Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Did you know the average length of a piece of spaghetti is 10 inches? It’s just enough to wrap a few lengths around your fork.

They also say you can use a strand of uncooked spaghetti as a bookmark in your cookbook while you cook. The strangest use of spaghetti I’ve even seen was at a pub in Townsville. They deep fried the raw strands and used them as quirky garnishes on top of a meal. Visually striking; challenging to chew.

And while we’re reciting useless but interesting facts here, this one IS useful. Carbonara sauce doesn’t have cream in it. At least the traditional Italian version doesn’t. Cream is an American addition to the dish. Carbonara gets it’s silkiness from egg yolks which are added to the steaming hot pasta and tossed through at the last minute.

Meanwhile, the classic, spaghetti Bolognese, or spag bol as us Aussies like to call it, turns out it isn’t so classic after all. Just when I thought I knew a dish inside out, I didn’t. “It’s never ‘spag bol’ in our house”, one of my Italian workmates says, ‘……it’s pork ragu.”

And so the debate begins. What meat should you use? What makes a good Spaghetti Bolognese? Is there an ‘authentic’ recipe? The sauce originated in Bologna in the North of Italy, and about the only thing I can find in common in the many recipes I’ve looked at, is that it has meat and tomatoes in it. There are so many variations – from the meats used, to the type of wine, stock, chicken livers, mushrooms – take your pick! The recipe has simply gotten a life of its own since spreading around Italy itself and the world.

So there was only one way to find the answer to this soul searching quest for a good ragu (meat) sauce.  Survey all my Italian friends. Most Aussies like to stick with a big batch of beef mince. Being a big beef producing nation, it feels like a safe choice, doesn’t it? But as lot of top chefs, friends, and my workmate point out, there are plenty of other meats to choose from.

Louise likes a cut of beef, sliced very, very thinly (never minced), Tanya prefers pork. Ena and Sam like veal and pork mince together. I’ve adopted the mixed meat idea too and prefer a mix of beef and pork, with a dash of cured meat such as prosciutto. Sylvanna likes straight beef mince, but says the key is “lots of garlic. I use a whole head of garlic fried off in lots of butter before adding the meat.”

Seems a load of garlic is quite universal amongst my friends. Ena also opts for ‘an entire head of garlic’ and a jaw dropping “five or six onions for 500g of meat.” She quickly follows this sentence “but this isn’t the kind of sauce you make while you wait for the pasta to boil, it takes 6 or 7 hours, and the onions turn sweet.”

And the controversy doesn’t end there. Giovanni reckons you can use tinned tomatoes and lots of herbs simmered for a while, while Ena says the key is “fresh tomatoes, red wine, and quality beef stock and tomato paste. That gives it a good colour and flavour.”

The addition of other vegetables to the mix is also a hot topic. Mushrooms or no mushrooms? “Sam’s family add peas – the sauce is riddled with peas!” I’m with you on that one Ena.

I’ll tell you a funny story about eating at Sam and Ena’s place. They’re Sicilian. Sicilians can smell a stench a mile off. So we sit down at the dinner table and the first thing Sam and Steffi (their daughter) do is sniff their plates. You see, they have this theory that if you don’t cold rinse a plate after it’s had egg on it, it stinks. So even when it’s on the table fresh from the dishwasher, he can still smell if the plate has had egg on it, and promptly cold rinses the plates. I have to admit, once it was actually pointed out, I could actually smell something and cold rinsing the plate does take the smell away.

But at least the type of pasta you use is slightly less controversial because it does actually follow some kind of rule. Traditionally, the runnier the sauce, the more you’d be inclined to use a cup shaped pasta to catch the sauce, where as thick rich sauces, like ragu, work best with spaghetti, linguini or papparadelle.

With all this uncertainty, how can one be certain about anything? Well I do know one thing for sure – it’s still one of my favourite dishes.

Awesome spag bol. It even has the tick from my Italian friends!

Awesome spag bol. It even has the tick from my Italian friends!

Fettuccini all’uovo e ragù alla Bolognese

You’ll need:

A pasta roller if you’re making the pasta from scratch. You’ll also need a few spare hours, a glass of wine, and some opera to complete the scene.

 

(egg fettuccini in a meat sauce Bolognese style AKA ‘Spag Bol’)

For the pasta

Ingredients:

2 cups of plain ‘00’ flour

3 eggs

A little oil

Method:

On your kitchen bench, place the flour in a mound. Create a well in the centre. Crack one egg into the well, kneading thoroughly with the surrounding flour, then crack the remaining eggs one at a time and mix well. You may need a little oil to bring it together, depending on how big your eggs were.

Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic when turned out. This will take around 10 minutes of solid kneading. The gluten in flour is a bit like a muscle – you have to work it.  It’s hard work; don’t be tempted to give up too soon! Once done, drizzle a little oil over the dough, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for half an hour. Now that you’re ‘muscle’ has worked, it’s time to let it rest.

Flour your bench top. Take a portion of your dough and roll it into a cylinder, then flatten it out slightly. This helps achieve a nice shape once it starts going through the roller. Progress the dough through the rollers, starting at 1 and going through until 5. Then pass it through your linguini, fettuccini or spaghetti attachment. Then I hang mine over a broomstick handle set up between 2 chairs if I’m not going to use it fresh.

Use the same method to process all the dough. If you don’t use all the pasta, leave it to completely dry. Then it will be storable in an air tight container.

For the ragu:

Ingredients:

500g beef (minced, if you prefer)

500g pork(minced, if you prefer)

3 rashers of bacon, rind trimmed off

100g prosciutto

butter

400g tin diced Italian tomatoes

6 tomatoes

1 capsicum

1 head of garlic

2 red onions

1 carrot, grated

2 sticks celery, finely diced

1 brown onion, finely diced

Pinch of nutmeg

Olive oil

100g tomato paste

150mL red wine

2 teaspoons each dried rosemary, basil, oregano and sage (you can use fresh herbs, but dried herbs are much stronger and more readily available)

Cream (about 100mL)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Chop the tomatoes, capsicum and red onion into rough chunks. Season with salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of sugar. Drizzle in olive oil and toss well. Cut the end off the clove of garlic (this makes it easier to get the cloves out later) and set in the roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast vegetables in the oven until tender, about 1 hr.

Once cooled a little, pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins. Using a stick blender, process the tomatoes, capsicum, onion and the garlic cloves until roughly combined, leaving some small chunks.

For the beef and pork, pulse through a processor until roughly minced; not too finely but not large chunks either.

On a high heat, fry the bacon and prosciutto in a good lug or two of butter until some of the fat releases. Then add the carrot, celery, brown onion, and nutmeg, frying until cooked through. Add the beef and pork, breaking it up with the back of a wooden paddle so no large lumps form. Once cooked through for about 5 minutes, add the wine, canned tomatoes, tomato mix from the oven, tomato paste and dried herbs. Mix well and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered for 1.5 hours.

At this point you can check flavour of your sauce and add more tomato paste, wine, salt and pepper or herbs if you desire. Then continue to simmer for another half an hour uncovered. Add more wine if it’s drying out too much.

Too cook your pasta, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Once boiling, add salt to taste. Don’t add it before it comes to the boil; salted water takes longer to boil. I learnt in pasta making school that your pasta water should be half as salty as sea water – so pretty salty! I worry about my arteries getting clogged and usually add a more conservative amount! But Italians love their salt and tend not to like low sodium dishes.

Add your freshly made pasta (or packet pasta if you’ve skipped that step). Cook for about 1 minute if using fresh pasta, or for about ¾ of the recommended time if using dried (packet) pasta.

Using tongs, take your pasta out of the water and add to the ragu and toss through. You want your pasta to absorb some of the lovely flavours of the ragu and finish cooking in the sauce. Don’t be fussy about draining all the water off the pasta when transferring it.  Never rinse pasta; it removes the starch which helps it to cling to the pasta, making every mouthful tasty.

Now add the cream and stir through. The addition of cream (as well as the sugar you added earlier) helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

Now you’re ready to plate up and top with shaved parmesan and enjoy it with a good red.

There are a couple of things the Adeladians do very well – coffee, wine and gourmet goodies. I go there for a week every year to see my friend and discover something new in ‘Radelaide’ as she calls it.

the Adelaide Markets are listed as one of the top Australian experiences repeatedly in the Queensland Sunday Mail newspaper - go and you'll see why!

the Adelaide Markets are listed as one of the top Australian experiences repeatedly in the Queensland Sunday Mail newspaper – go and you’ll see why!

Adelaide is full of quirky side streets like this

Adelaide is full of quirky side streets like this

the Adelaide Botanic Gardens - worth a trip!

the Adelaide Botanic Gardens – worth a trip!

Adelaide – a small city filled with parks, streets packed with coffee shops from one end to the other, valleys and hills covered in grape vines, long windy roads (not good when you get car sick) and hidden foodie nooks. One such hidden gem was an unassuming place we discovered last year simply called the ‘Woodside Providore’, nestled in the Adelaide Hills. It was more than a café but not much less than a restaurant with the owner being a friendly chef who also took the orders. I arrived starving and wasn’t disappointed. The tasting tray, which was more than enough to feed two people, was amazing.  It was the stand out of the entire trip last year.

It was going to be hard to top that experience. That was until we set foot into Mollydooker.

It was the second winery of our day. My friend Dale likes to ‘drop’ into the conversation that I worked in the wine industry. I think he gets a kick out of ‘mentioning’ it because usually we get to hear so much more about the technical side of wines, vines and he’s even scored he odd discount.  I think we all got more than we bargained for when we met Janet, who thrust out her left hand for a shake – turns out she is one of the owners.  And left handed shakes are what you do there, with Mollydooker meaning ‘left-hander’.

So we had the full tour, going this way and that with Janet, on top of vats watching dry ice being dropped into tanks; it was fascinating listening to Janet’s wine and vine knowledge. The only reason I knew the place existed was because I saw a wine news article on Mollydooker losing a whole crate of $180/bottle wine. I wondered what was so different about it and definitely wanted a taste. After building our way up to it, finally getting to taste it was like reaching the pinnacle of wine and my visit to Adelaide for the year. It was like your tastebuds threw a party with every sip in a celebration of wine making, grape growing technique and great company.  The other wines in their range are equally delicious and very reasonably priced at $25. In fact, their $25 Shiraz was nicer than the one I forked out $65 for…

your left hand is going to get a work out as you meet the crew from Mollydooker

your left hand is going to get a work out as you meet the crew from Mollydooker

After a pie to soak up the wine and with no advances on Mollydookers lingering taste, we rounded out our diet for the day with a visit to a microbrewery, where the resident dog plays fetch from the shed bar.

We ended up doing justice to the $65 bottle of wine. I made a fancy little dark chocolate raspberry tart with fresh, fat raspberries from the Adelaide markets, cream and Persian pistachio fairy floss, making extras and stretching the wine and goodies out over a couple of days.

simply melt dark chocolate and a handful of raspberries together, then pour into  bought pastry shells, top with a fresh raspberry and cream. Twirl a few wisps of fairy floss around and you're done!

simply melt dark chocolate and a handful of raspberries together, then pour into bought pastry shells, top with a fresh raspberry and cream. Twirl a few wisps of fairy floss around and you’re done!

Life’s an adventure: Go somewhere new. Try something different. Be surprised.

Oh and to Janet, Sparky and Sarah,  – I’m forever a fan. xx

After tinkering around with Chinese chefs on and off for a few years, Calum drew inspiration for this month’s recipe by fusing Asian techniques with the best of Aussie produce.

a pile of delicious!

a pile of delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

3 x 180g Yellow Fin tuna steaks

3 x U6 green king prawn

3 x 10/1 roe off scallop

50g snow peas

1 sliced red onion

½ red capsicum, julienne

1 clove of garlic

10g ginger julienne

2 tblspn lime juice

10g chopped Coriander

10g chopped dill

1 tblspn sesame oil

4 tblspn sweet chilli sauce

50g butter

2 tblspn corn flour

Handful of bean sprouts

½ bunch shallots

Salt & Pepper to taste

Sprinkling of Sugar

5g black caviar

3 tblspn peanut oil

1 tblspn Kecap Manis sweet soy sauce

 

METHOD:

Dust tuna in corn flour, fry in 1 tablespoon of hot peanut oil and butter. Sprinkle with dill and half the lime juice on both sides whilst cooking and season with a sprinkle of salt, pepper & sugar. Set aside.

Fry vegetables and garlic in sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Add ginger and 1 tablespoon of Kecap Manis. Stir through. Set aside.

Thread prawn and scallop onto a bamboo skewer. Fry prawns and scallops in 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, splash with 1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce and sprinkle coriander. As you turn over, squeeze over remaining lime juice. Cook for only one minute on each side.

To plate up, add 1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce and a dash of Kecap Manis to the side of each plate. Place vegetables in the centre, stack tuna steak on top, followed by the skewer. Sprinkle with fresh coriander. Place a small amount of black caviar on the side of the plate.

Thanks Calum and PFD for supplying the yummy seafood!

Calum whizzed past on his gold Harley and offered Helen a ride. The rest, they say, is history

Calum whizzed past on his gold Harley and offered Helen a ride. The rest, they say, is history

Calum met Helen back in 2001. Helen was standing outside the panel shop where she worked when Calum came whizzing past on his gold Harley Davidson, promptly did a u-turn, and stopped to ask Helen if she’d like to hop on. “I said, ‘nice bike, it’s a pretty colour’. I had a pushbike as a kid that was the same colour as his Harley, and my gold bike was the fastest in the street,” giggles Helen. And the rest they say is history.

These days the pair are the faces of fresh produce, bring everything from seafood to soup to St George and the West  via their recent business venture – PFD. “As a chef previously myself, it’s given me a good understanding of  the food service industry – when chefs need it now, they really need it. I’ve run out of things half way through service myself. I try to provide the service I always wanted when I was cooking.”Starting out washing dishes at an a-la-carte restaurant, Calum gradually moved up the food chain, working with chefs in high volume clubs, Chinese restaurants, and eventually run his own kitchen in a pub. “I remember working in the club with 300 meals to go out. We had them from clean plate to a waiter within seven seconds.”

Performing under pressure for the thrill of the crowd is nothing new. “I worked as an entertainer and front-man in bands (as a singer and bass player) for years before I started cooking. I get the same thrill from doing a good performance as I do putting out a good meal. It’s not a thankless task. People genuinely  appreciate it. That’s what it’s all about.”

The lure of Chinese cuisine remained and Calum was afforded lots of insights into Asian cuisine. “It’s just such a different way of cooking, from knife skills to the way they prep the food. And the sauces – they are the flavours in Chinese cooking.” But the secrets he learnt will forever remain secrets. “They always say after they show you something special – ‘if anyone asks you, you don’t know anything!’ “

“With Chinese, everything is cut to be eaten with chopsticks. They like everything to be cut uniformly so it cooks through the same. I watched the chefs cook for the restaurant and then do their own stuff for their family afterward, which is a bit different to Australian Chinese cooking a bit. Australian Chinese is made to be done really quick and fast, whereas they’ll cook pork belly for their family all day.”

One of Calums key tips to any dish is seasoning. We hear a lot about seasoning with salt and pepper, but Calums experience with Asian food brings a new perspective. “ We’ve all heard the saying ‘a teaspoons of sugar makes the medicine go down’. So when I say seasoning, I mean salt, pepper and sugar. It’s an Asian trick. Asian food is all about balance. Sugar balances out salt and adds an extra big of flavour. It also helps caramelization.”

Check out Calums recipe: Tuna Steaks with Prawn and Scallop Skewer

Sometimes it’s the simplest of ingredients that make a dish really shine. I’m a fan of butter and you’d be surprised what a knob of butter here and there can do for a dish, particularly when added to a sauce.

Butter has great memories for me. I’ll never forget the first time I tasted carrots at my aunty’s place in Victoria. They were simply steamed carrots with a knob of butter thrown through. I wanted mum to cook carrots like that every night!

My nanna from the other side of the family was a bit partial to lemon butter. It was never missing from the fridge. She’d often lather a slice of bread with lemon butter.

I haven’t quite developed Heston Blumenthal’s addiction to spiced butter with Worcestershire sauce and Marmite in it, but it’s getting close! He puts this butter mix in everything that resembles stews and mince including chilli con carne – along with star anise. Sounds like a crazy combination and I can’t wait to try it when I have a weekend spare. ( All his recipes are quite time consuming!)  He also has a popular recipe of sea bass with vanilla butter.

Aside from being that magic addition to chocolate to make is super glossy, butter is also a handy kitchen tool. Did you know if you’re cutting something sticky – like dates, toffee etc – you just smear your knife with a little butter and it will slice straight through without sticking to your knife? Sticky date pudding just got a whole lot easier! Make your cheese last longer by rubbing the edge you cut with butter, which helps stop the mould. Ok enough of the Martha Stewart like household tips. But just one more:  Butter will even take the squeak out of your door….

So when I found a recipe this week for a flavoured butter to drizzle on charred lettuce – yep – lettuce of all things, I thought I’d give it a crack. (I tried charring the lettuce – didn’t work for me)  I used the rest of the butter dressing/sauce to drizzle on fish as the recipe also said was worth a try. WOW! It was great! The addition of lemon and anchovies gives the butter a spectacular kick.

Since I didn’t use it all, I let the ‘dressing’ set back to a solid in the fridge and used it the next day just like normal butter with salmon on crackers as a quick snack, which was also pretty delicious.

 

RECIPE: Lemon and Herb Butter

Want a quick week night meal? Grill some barramundi (or fish of your choice), chop a fresh salad and drizzle a little of the butter over the fish.

1/3 cup salted butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped pine nuts

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

3 tablespoons lemon, frozen whole then grated (or add more to your taste)

4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

 

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. I like to let them very gently simmer for a few minutes to really infuse the flavours together.

 

 

you'll be using this very yummy little butter everywhere!

you’ll be using this very yummy little butter everywhere!

Going Greek

To find out what this very delicious Greek dish is, and more about my shooting Home Economics teacher at school, check out Dana’s Knife and Cork August edition.

House of Certain Views - 2010 Barbera

This is seriously the most interesting, yummy wine I’ve tried in ages. A real standout!