Melbourne has had such a cold winter this year. I used to complain endlessly about the weather when I worked in an office full time, but that was probably because I was up and out the door so early in the day and back so late when the dark winter evening had set in. This year, to my surprise, I have been enjoying the cold weather, maybe because I have spent much of it indoors, writing recipes for my next cookbook Adriatico and shooting the food photos. The grey skies have given a wintery and dark tone to the food photos, and I have managed to catch the occasional bursts of sun when they filter through.
One of the most rewarding things to do in winter is to cook a hearty meal for family and friends, and then sit down and share the meal with them. This month I collaborated with Mutti to develop three “Winter warmer” dishes using three different Mutti products. Those of you who have been to my house and spent time in my kitchen during cooking classes will know that my kitchen is decorated with empty red and white Mutti Polpa tins; and one wall of my terracotta coloured terrace is lined with a row of succulents I have in old Mutti Polpa tins. You might say I am a little obsessed with Polpa, made up of finely chopped ripe and sweet tomatoes that taste like summer in a tin. I also use the Doppio Concentrato (tomato paste), as my Zia Dina in Italy uses it and buying the tube reminds me of being back there. I was therefore so happy to collaborate with Mutti since I have been happily waving their red and white flag (I mean Polpa tin) for a number of years.
I made a couple of my favourite tried and true dishes: a dish originally from Hungary but adopted by the Triestini over a hundred years ago – beef goulash and patate in tecia (smashed potatoes) using Mutti Polpa; and lasagne with simple mid-week pork and pea ragù using Mutti Passata. The third dish was a new one, at least for me as I had never cooked lamb shanks before – lamb shanks braised in red wine (and port) using Mutti Doppio Concentrato tomato paste served on soft polenta – and it made a perfect winter feast when a couple of good friends came over.
And before I get to the recipes, a couple of updates on classes and workshops:
– I have added a few more cooking classes for the remainder of the year. New classes include a Christmas biscotti class and advanced pasta-making (more complex filled pasta and multi-coloured pasta). Click here for more details
– I am really excited to be heading back to Italy in ten weeks. I will be attending the Puglia Encounter workshop in late October (how could I resist not returning to beautiful Puglia AND staying at Masseria Ponenti) then running my own workshop at the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily (and there are still a couple of places left).
– I will shortly be announcing an incredible food photography and styling workshop that I am will be part of (with several other lovely creative ladies) in the Byron Bay hinterland in March 2018. Stay tuned for further details.
– Next’s years workshop at the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School is being run at the start of summer, from 28 May – 2 June 2018. I am thrilled to be there in a different season, having late spring and early summer produce to play with. Click here for details
Beef goulash with smashed potatoes
To make the Beef goulash:
700g diced chuck steak
650g brown onions
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tin Mutti Polpa
2 tsps Mutti Doppio Concentrato tomato paste
To make the smashed potatoes:
700g Desiree potatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
200g brown onions
Peel and thinly slice the onions (using a mandolin if you can) and place in a large heavy bottomed lidded pot with the EVOO on low heat. Sauté for around 30 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are very soft and translucent (don’t let them brown).
Chop the beef into 8-9 mm dice and place in the pot with the cooked onion. Increase the heat to medium and brown the beef on all sides, stirring regularly. Once it has browned, add the two paprikas, the rosemary stalk and the bay leaves. Stir through and then add the tin of Mutti Polpa and Mutti Doppio Concentrato tomato paste. Stir, add salt to taste and simmer on low heat, covered, until the beef is tender (about an hour and a half to two hours). Adjust for salt and serve with a side of smashed potatoes with onion.
To make the potatoes, peel and chop into large chunks. Place in a medium sized saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. In the meantime, place the remaining thinly sliced onions in a small frypan with three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat. Cook the onions for about ten minutes, stirring regularly until translucent and starting to brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Allow the potatoes to cook until fork tender (the time taken depends on the size of your potatoes, start testing after ten minutes), then drain and return them to the same saucepan. Mash them roughly with an old-fashioned potato “masher” (or even the back of a fork), then stir through the previously prepared onions including the remaining oil in the pan. Add a splash more EVOO if they look a bit dry. Salt to taste.
Lasagne with pork sausage and pea ragù
To make the ragù:
500g pork and fennel sausages
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/3 cup dry white wine
¼ tsp cinnamon, powdered
¼ tsp chilli flakes
1 jar Mutti passata (400g)
¾ cup peas, frozen
To make the lasagne:
1 packet of lasagne sheets (375g)
10g butter, unsalted
60g parmesan cheese, grated
300g mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
60 ml cream
To make the ragù, remove the casings from the sausages and break up the meat into smallish pieces. Heat the oil on medium heat in a large frypan and add the pieces of sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes until the meat has cooked through, stirring every minute or so, then add the wine. Let that cook off, then add the cinnamon, chilli and the Mutti passata. Turn the heat down to low and allow the flavours to infuse as it cooks. After about 10 minutes, add the frozen peas and stir them through. Stir occasionally, adding a bit of water if it looks dry. The sauce will take another ten minutes to cook after you have added the peas. Adjust for salt and chilli and set aside to cook whilst you prepare the pasta.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Cook the lasagne in boiling water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and lay on clean tea towels. Pat dry.
Butter an oven-proof dish (mine measured 20 x 30 cm). Place a couple of spoonfuls of the ragù on the base of your dish, making sure it is well covered. Lay a layer of cooked lasagne sheets on the ragù, then scatter on some parmesan, a bit more ragù and a couple of teaspoons of the cream. Then add another layer of pasta, scattering more parmesan and thinly sliced mozzarella. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up by continuing to make layers. I like to put ragù and cheese on alternating layers, but you can make up the layers as you please. The top layer should be covered with mozzarella and parmesan.
Place the dish in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover in foil and allow to rest for another ten minutes before serving.
Lamb shanks braised in red wine
4 lamb shanks (about 500g each)
1 small onion (160g), peeled
1 small carrot (100g), peeled
1 small stalk celery (80g)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1 stalk rosemary
2 small bay leaves
1 carob pod
2/3 cup red wine
½ cup port
3 tablespoons Mutti Doppio Concentrato tomato paste
2 cups tinned chickpeas, drained (about 1 and a ½ tins)
Finely dice the onions, carrots and celery and place in a large heavy bottomed lidded saucepan with the extra virgin olive oil. Cook about ten minutes on low to medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the lamb shanks and turn the heat up to medium, browning them on all sides for about 5 minutes. Add the crushed cardamom pods, carob pod (broken into several pieces), bay leaf and rosemary stalk. Stir though then add the red wine, the port and the Mutti Doppio Concentrato tomato paste dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of boiling water. Stir and then cover the pot with a lid.
Allow the lamb shanks to simmer for about an hour on low heat, turning them over regularly. After an hour add the chick peas, stir and then cover the pan, allowing the dish to simmer for another half an hour until the lamb is cooked through, making sure you turn the shanks over every now and then. Taste and adjust for salt.
Serve the shanks on a bed of soft yellow polenta or potato mash.