Wednesday 29 April 2015

Sugo Al Ragu - Slow Cooked Oxtail Ragu Pasta Sauce

Ragu seems to be the 'flavour of the month' so to speak. It's all over Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules and what all the celebrity chefs are talking about. As an Italian (Sicilian) we never actually called this simple pasta sauce a ragu, to us as the children, the Aussiefied version was just chunky meat sauce. We had this discussion around the dinner table not too long ago about all the trendy terminology that has been picked up and is now in everyday vernacular. If I had a dollar for everytime my Nonna said that a 'latte' literally translates into milk and how absurd it would be to order a large milk from Gloria Jeans, I'd be a rich lady! So is similar with ragu... "what's this ragu?" she says, you would have never seen that on a menu 30 years ago. Well I'm certainly glad things have changed and we are seeing this delightful dish more and more.

This particular dish brings me back to some of my earliest memories. My Dad has always taken great pleasure in watching the infants in our family suck on a big juicy bone (like a puppy) and get a lovely big sauce moustache after having pasta with sugo al ragu.

Like a lot of Italian cooking, it's very hard to place quantities on ingredients and such, since Italians are BAD with recipes, everything is by look and feel, which is kind of beautiful too. Although this forever means that nothing is ever as good as Nonna's!

With this recipe anything goes really, so if you have pork use that, if you have lamb use that, spice it up and use a combo if that's what takes your fancy, whatever your taste buds desire will be perfect!

Watch the tutorial...

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Sugo Al Ragu - Slow Cooked Oxtail Ragu Pasta Sauce
A delcious, full-bodied, melt in the mouth pasta sauce. Perfect comfort food!
  • 2kg Oxtail
  • 1 Diced Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Red Wine
  • 400g tin Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 x 700g bottles Passata
  • 2+ litres Water
  • 2 Bay Leaf
  • 1 stick Celery
  • 1 Carrot
  • 500g Tomato Paste
  • Salt, Pepper, Herb Seasoning
  • 1 tblsp Sugar
  • 1 knob Butter
  • Dash Milk
1. Heat a large pot on the stove covering base with olive oil. Once warm add onion and garlic.2. Add oxtail or preferable meat to the pot and seal until lightly caramelised.3. Add in red wine.4. Add passata, tomato paste and diced tomatoes to the pot followed by the water. At this point the sauce should be quite thin and liquidy (see video).5. Throw in celery stick, whole carrot, bay leaves and seasoning followed by milk, butter and sugar.6. Allow sauce to simmer on a medium heat for 3-4 hours stirring constantly. Keep tasting to see whether more seasoning or water is needed.7. Nonna says when you start to see the dark oil on top of the sauce, it's ready. So once ready, serve on top of your favourite pasta.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield:

Monday 27 April 2015

Homemade Spaghetti: Pasta al' Uovo (Fresh Egg Pasta)

Now correct me if I am wrong, I may be making a huge generalisation here, but I would say pasta is one of those go-to staple dishes for people to fix up in a hurry. Boil the pasta, make a quick sauce and Giuseppe's your uncle no? For the most part I agree, but there is something uber special about a pasta that has taken hours of preparation and cooking, with recipes that have been found and passed down. 

As a child home-made pasta was a big treat, my mum and Nonna never really made it and it was normally Dad's aunty who would send some down for us. I loved it, it was smooth and velvetty and it just tastes different without being so different from store bought pasta if that makes sense. As you probably know cooking with Italians is not for the faint-hearted. One weekend last year Mum and I decided to make pasta and when Italians cook they can't just seem to cook for one meal, we had to make pasta for the WHOLE family including a batch to freeze and let me tell you, when you're using a rubbish manual pasta machine - Barilla wins everytime... hands down. Since getting my gorgeous KitchenAid I have been looking up all the different gadgets and accessories and before the mixer had even arrived I had the pasta attachment in my hot little hand, all automatic, pasta in less than half the time? Sold! 

Last weekend my Nonna and I decided to give the pasta attachments a go and see what all the fuss was about, oh there was a fuss! My Nonna, bless her cotton socks is quite the food judge but as those silky strands came out she even stated in her little accent how beautiful they were. Now I know what you're thinking, it is not all about the machine, and you're absolutely right, the machine means nothing unless you have a good recipe to go with it, well rest assured I think I have found the best! I had my 28 years of pasta experience and my Nonna's 79 years and we're pretty sure this is the one and only pasta recipe you need. I found the recipe in the most beautiful cookbook we had at home affectionately called 'Mangia, Mangia.' This book is like the bible of Italian food, so it's definitely a good one to have at home. 

I used the recipe from Mangia, Mangia, but since I was feeling lazy I used my own method which involved far less kneading and still turned out fabulous! This time I have made a little video to accompany the post. Stay tuned for a post on the sauce - Sugo al Ragu. Enjoy and Happy Cooking!

Please see video above for method.

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Fresh Egg Pasta (Pasta al'Uovo)
Probably the best homemade pasta recipe ever!
  • 700g Plain Flour (preferably 00 flour)
  • 100g Semolina
  • 5 Eggs
  • Generous Dash Olive Oil
  • Pinch Salt
1. Place flour and semolina into a mixing bowl, combine and make a well.2. Add 5 eggs to the well followed by oil and salt and 1/2 cup of water.3. Mix on low speed until combined.4. Roll out onto a floured surface and knead for approximately five minutes or until combined and no longer sticky.5. Leave dough to rest for approximately 30 minutes.6. Run small amounts of dough through the KitchenAid lasagne attachment to flatten it out and make sheets. Start at number one which is the thickest, gradually thinning out to number four on the dial.7. Pass the lasagne sheets through the spaghetti or fettuccine attachment and allow to rest on a floured surface. 8. Cook until aldente or for approximately 5 minutes and serve with your favourite sauce.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8

Saturday 18 April 2015

Pretty Please with a Cherry on top - Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting and Chocolate Ganache

Well hello dear readers! It has been over eighteen months since I last posted, can you believe that?! Why has it been so long you may ask? Well after moving back home to Australia from the UK and jumping head first into my teaching job, I seriously haven't had time, not to mention the energy after the working week to bake, photograph, edit and write a post. I felt like I really needed the time to focus on my job and get my head in the right space and I know that this would mean doing a mediocre job in the baking and blogging world. 

It's my favourite season; autumn. The change in weather and the gorgeous scenery at the moment has really made me home-sick, well I guess my home-away-from-home sick. I am really missing Ol' Blighty. I miss rugging up and discovering new villages, pubs and tea-shops and having all the time to appreciate these things. When I thought more about why I have been missing England so much, it was also my fortnightly ritual of baking up something wonderful and new, staging props and photographing for the blog. I haven't done that since June 2013 and I have a virtual folder bursting at the seams with photos of cupcakes and sprinkles ready to grace the interwebs. 

Another reason which has brought me back to blogging is the release of Sweetapolita's book. Rosie Alyea was my inspiration for starting this blog many years ago and I was very excited to have received my copy in the post on Friday. Combine memories and nostalgia with a new baking book, a free Saturday night AND a new Almond Cream KitchenAid and voila - you have yourself a new post. Here's a new recipe to sweeten your Saturday. Enjoy, here's hoping it's not too long until I visit the lovely blogosphere again xxx

Don't they look darling? Almost like a old fashioned sundae. I thought it was very fitting to use a Sweetapolita inspired recipe so here are...

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting and Ganache
Recipe from Rosie @ Sweetapolita 

275grams or 2 ½ cups cake flour


100 grams corn flour
175 grams plain flour

1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup full cream milk
2 large egg whites
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
300grams caster sugar
115 grams butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and center the oven rack. Line 2 muffin/cupcake pans with your favourite standard-size cupcake liner, and put the first cupcake pan on a baking sheet. (You will place the second cupcake pan on the same sheet in the oven once the first tray is baked.)

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.

3. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment (I used the whisk), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and creamy, about 5 minutes.

4. With the mixer still on medium speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 dry additions, 2 wet), beating after each addition until incorporated. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes.

5. Divide batter evenly among your cupcake liners–about 2/3 full–and bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs only, about 16 minutes.

6. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool on wire racks. Repeat with second tray.

Strawberry White Chocolate Frosting

227 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
175 grams white chocolate
½ vanilla bean, seeded and scraped
Pinch of salt
375 grams sifted icing sugar

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 3-4 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.

2. Melt chocolate in microwave in a small heatproof bowl, or over a pot of simmering water on the stovetop, stirring often. Let cool.

3. Add melted chocolate to butter and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla bean and salt and mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Add sifted icing sugar, beating on low speed until just combined, increasing to medium speed until well combined. (I added some pink food colouring and strawberry essence to mine.)


260 grams dark chocolate 
1 cup double cream

1. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil (watching very carefully) then swiftly remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 1 minute and then whisk until smooth.

2. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a frosting. 

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