slow-cooked lamb ragu, pappardelle and gremolata

sideplateLast Saturday morning, I awoke to a forecast of 25 degrees C (77 degrees f). I excitedly hopped out of bed, put on a light long-sleeved jumper (I know that all of you northern hemisphere people will laugh at that, but I’m Australian after all) and headed to Perth City Farm for a long-awaited breakfast catch up with some university friends.

After toast and conversation, we had a wander around the sprawling market. I purchased a bunch of kale, organic shallots and tiny heads of garlic in a crinkled brown paper bag.

onions

After squirreling them home, I decided to make slow-cooked lamb ragu; mostly due to the fact that it was finally cool enough to use the oven without sweating. As Aaron was out for the day (helping some friends renovate their house), I spent six hours kneading, rolling, typing, slow-cooking and photographing to a mixed soundtrack created by the beautiful Ali from Milk & Cereal (thanks Ali!).

It was blissful. Creative culinary solitude. Wonderful in a way that only foodies will understand.

mixtape raw

Later that evening, Aaron arrived home in a tumble of dust and fatigue. Whilst he showered, I boiled the fresh pasta and grated lemon zest into a pile of gremolata.

We sat on the couch, balancing plates of rich lamb whilst watching a re-run of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Two hours later, with full bellies, we fell asleep.

pastamaking

This recipe makes a huge pot of delicious ragu. I estimate that with the pasta accompaniment, it’d serve six to eight reasonably hungry people (even more with a side of garlic bread).

Due to a recent obsession with my Marcato pasta machine, I made my own pasta; however for those less motivated (or more time-pressured) good-quality packet pasta is perfectly acceptable.

plateSlow-cooked Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle and Gremolata

Serves 6-8

  • 4-6 small lamb shanks (roughly 2 – 2.3kg bone-in weight = approx 1kg meat yield)
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • 8 small French shallots, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 4 slices rindless bacon or pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, diced into 1cm pieces
  • 2 sticks celery, diced into 1cm pieces
  • 1 cup fresh rosemary, thyme and sage leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) good-quality red wine
  • 2 cups (500ml) chicken or beef stock
  • 700ml bottle tomato sugo (substitute passata)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets in oil, minced
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved (optional)
  • 1/4 cup double-podded broad beans (optional)
  • 700g fresh pappardelle pasta (or 500g dried)
  • shaved Parmesan, to serve

Gremolata:

  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves, washed
  • finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees f). Coat lamb shanks lightly in seasoned flour (pat lightly with your hands to remove excess).

flour

Heat some oil in a large, heavy-based oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add the shanks in batches, making sure not to overload the pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until browned. Transfer to a plate, then set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the onions, garlic, pancetta/bacon, carrot, celery and herbs.  Cook until softened and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, sugo, wine and anchovies; cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and stir to combine.

cookbetter

Return the lamb to the pan and bring the mixture to the boil. Cover, switch off the heat and carefully transfer the pan into your preheated oven. Cook, turning the shanks over half-way through cooking, for 3-4 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Place the pan back onto the stove top over medium heat. Remove the lamb shanks and shred or break up the meat as desired. Discard the bones and add the meat back into the sauce with the kalamata olives, if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 30 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by one third. Stir through the broad beans, remove from heat and cover with lid/foil to keep warm.

pasta

Cook your pasta until al dente (I used fresh Pappardelle that I made whilst the lamb was cooking in the oven). Drain well, then mix with 1/3 of the lamb ragu sauce. Divide between plates and top with another spoonful of sauce, shaved Parmesan cheese and a generous sprinkling of gremolata (directions below).

*To make the gremolata: coarsely chop the parsley and add it to a bowl with the lemon zest and finely chopped garlic. Grind over some black pepper and mix well.

side2 skins

char-grilled vegetable and quinoa salad

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Yesterday morning, Aaron and I woke early to have breakfast with my beautiful mother at Perth City Farm. The day was cool and fresh, slightly overcast; a welcome change from the blistering temperatures of summer.

We chatted and laughed, feasting on free-range eggs, organic sourdough, grilled tomatoes and lemony smashed avocado in the dappled shade. Between sips of coffee, we sampled spinach from the farm’s own garden before discussing family foibles, travel plans and (mostly) the 2014 Western Australian Senate (re)election.

Before leaving the farm, Aaron and my mother perused the Farm’s art exhibition while I chatted to some friendly Armenian growers at the Organic Market. I left with an armload of fresh produce including Armenian cucumbers, fresh zucchini, homegrown kale and tri-colour capsicums from their bio-dynamic garden.

vegetablebox

That afternoon, I snacked on torn bread and babaghanouj (made with their organic aubergines and home-pressed olive oil) whilst making the grilled vegetable salad below. My mother stayed for some quality mother-daughter time; we drank tea, laughed, took photographs and reminisced about old times.

That evening, the sky grew dark and cold. Aaron and I had a picnic in the park with our best friends, sharing stories over paper plates, grilled chicken and homemade empanadas. Whilst chewing a forkful of homegrown zucchini, I felt truly blessed and grateful; for farmers, fresh vegetables, weekends, warm jumpers and quality time with those I love the most.

bowl

Thanks to all who travel through this life with me. In particular, my family, who embrace me despite weaknesses and always love unconditionally.

I’m grateful. I always will be.

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Char-grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

Adapted from this recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 6 as a side dish or 4 as a light meal

  • 190g (1 cup) royal quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 small capsicums (bell peppers), preferably mixed colours
  • 200g sweet potatoes
  • 1 zucchini, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 Spanish (red onion) sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 cup washed, picked herbs (I used parsley and mint), coarsely chopped
  • 100g goats feta, crumbled
  • finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, roasted and crushed
  • olive oil, to cook

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper

Place the rinsed quinoa into a medium pot with 500ml (2 cups) of water. Bring to the boil, then replace the lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is translucent. Place into a large bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil and add in the lemon zest. Mix well, then set aside to cool.

Cut the sweet potatoes into a medium (2x2cm) dice. Steam or boil until just tender. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then set aside.

Preheat a char-grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut the capsicums in half and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Brush the skins with oil, then char-grill them skin side down until the skins blacken and blister. Turn and cook for an extra minute to allow the inside to steam.

cookingcaps

Place into a sealed bag, covered bowl or airtight container and leave at room temperature until cool (the steam will help the skins to loosen, making them easier to peel).

bowlbase

Brush the zucchini and onion with a little olive oil, then add them to the grill pan with the sweet potatoes. Cook until soft and lightly grill-marked. Add the grilled vegetables to the same bowl as the quinoa.

Peel the capsicum halves and slice them into long, thin strips. Add them to the salad bowl with the chopped fresh herbs, walnuts and feta.

capsicumsliced

To make the dressing, place the oil, mustard, sugar, garlic and vinegar into a small bowl. Whisk until well emulsified. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

mustard

To serve, pour over the dressing and mix gently with a spoon or salad tongs. Place onto a platter and garnish with more herbs if desired.

This salad is wonderful as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fish. It’s also a nutritious light meal, embellished with some plump black olives and served with some fresh bread and butter.

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EAT. DRINK. BLOG. conference, perth 2013

edbsign

Last weekend, I was privileged to attend the fourth annual Eat Drink Blog conference at Perth City Farm in East Perth, Western Australia. Spanning an entire Saturday and half of Sunday, the conference included nine learning modules, a fully sponsored Saturday night pop-up dinner and three half-day elective masterclasses, all of which required huge amounts of pre-event organisation.

So, before I write about anything else, I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated, ever-smiling committee who organised this generous event for Australian bloggers. None of this would have happened without you.

bags

Saturday 09/11/2013: EAT DRINK BLOG Conference

Perth City Farm is a lush, green oasis situated by the scattered grey landscape of Health Department buildings on Royal Street in East Perth. Built on the remnants of a former scrap metal yard, it now incorporates a sprawling community garden, urban farm and organic cafe, the latter of which stocks organic artisan bread from Loafers.

On Saturday mornings from 8am – 12 noon, the Farm plays host to a market full of small-batch cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, biodynamic meats, homemade soaps and unrefined honey. Keen crowds mingle with passionate growers and producers in a happy dance, often to live bands or acoustic guitar.

rooster2

Upon arriving at the Farm, I immediately felt lifted by the smell of fresh apples and citrus bathed in soft morning sun. As I wove my way through groups of sticky children to the rear function room (a.k.a timber shed), I spotted a few people snapping photos of crusty bread with DSLR cameras. Bloggers? Quite possibly.

No, probably.

sign

The shed entrance was bordered by smiling fruit vendors who seemed slightly amused by the trickle of camera-wielding food bloggers who soon disappeared within. As I descended the stairs to register, I was greeted by the smile of an amiable volunteer. Lanyard, check. Program, check. My feet gravitated towards the steam rising from the 5 Senses coffee machine.

The first two meters of conference space were cluttered with slightly apprehensive, disquieted individuals who were assumedly attending a blogging conference for the first time. Their expressions mimicked the butterfly ramming the wall of my gut – excited, in a trapped kind of way.

As a fledgling blogger of eighteen months, I was completely unaccustomed to seeing groups of food bloggers (and their cameras) in a single confined space. Glazed pastries from Jean Pierre Sancho, Australian pears and ice-packed yoghurt from West n’Fresh were surrounded by a wall of bloggers searching for the best camera angles. I took some quick snaps before continuing my quest for coffee.

yoghurt pears

My coffee order was scrawled onto a paper cup by one of the deluged-but-smiling baristas at the 5 Senses coffee area. The air in the shed was hot due to external humidity and incessant sunshine, only slighty offset by oscillating fans.

I waited in the crowd, checking each appearing cup for the inked version of my name. Thankfully, the order was completed just before the official conference ‘welcome’ began. I squirreled myself, coffee cup in hand, into a nearby seat between Andrea from Noshbites and Jamie from Gourmet Male.

I sat, sipping thoughtfully as the beautiful Ai-Ling from Blue Apocalypse introduced the program for the day. Unfortunately, I remember very little apart from the toasty, rich, delicately floral coffee in that paper cup. Coffee can do that to you (thank goodness for paper programs).

coffee

The rest of the day was a haze of learning modules, panel discussions, food breaks and practical demonstrations including an interactive coffee workshop from Charles Stewart and Jeremy Hulsdunk (barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy) and a breakdown on mobile blogging and social networking issues by Thang Ngo (blogger and food writer at Noodlies, see his presentation and the results of his conference survey here).

The official program is available here, incorporating relevant topics such as working with media and Public Relations, ‘sponsored posts’, ethical and legal issues within the world of copyright, blogging and photography. The speakers were dynamic, varied and utterly enthusiastic (despite the heat and huge amounts of sleep-inducing food) including:

  • Adam Roberts – cookbook author, food writer and United States blogger at Amateur Gourmet
  • Ed Charles – internet consultant, journalist and blogger at Tomato
  • Jeremy Hulsdank – above mentioned barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy
  • Russell Blaikie – head chef and manager of MUST Wine Bar in Mount Lawley and Muster bar and grill in Margaret River
  • Michael Tucak – arts lawyer from Creative Legal
  • Cynthia Chew – food writer and blogger from The Food Pornographer
  • Phil Lees – social media manager and food writer from The Last Appetite
  • Max Brearley – freelance journalist and blogger at Pub Diaries
  • Emma Galloway – cookbook author, ex-chef and blogger at My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • Sophie Budd – chef at Taste Budds caterers and cooking school
  • Anthony Georgeoff – editor of Spice magazine, blogger at Manthatcooks
  • Simon Park – photographer and blogger at The Heart of Food
  • Thang Ngo – above mentioned food writer, commentator and blogger at Noodlies
  • Paul Kilmurray – founder of Urban Locavore (project involving WA artisan producers, delivering fresh produce to your door)
  • Kiren Mainwaring – head chef from the incredible Co-Op Dining restaurant in East Perth

If you’d like to peruse some of the very worthy write-ups from other attendees of the event, please follow the media link here. There are also some incredible photo diaries such as Rachi’s snapshots on Le Bon Vivant.

I’d also like to echo the common thanks expressed by attendees to the incredibly generous food sponsors including the team at European Foods (the primary event sponsors) who created an incredible continental lunch spread with freshly-shaved jamon, Scotch eggs with truffle aioli, cheeses, antipasti, Baci chocolates and San Pellegrino drinks. Brownes dairy sponsored the venue whilst also providing creamy milk for coffees throughout the day (thanks again to the tireless baristas at 5 Senses coffee). Morning and afternoon tea cakes, tarts and other treats were provided by Littlesweet baking and Red Hot Spatula catering. We were well and truly spoiled.

littlesweetAfter the conclusion of the official program, we had just under two hours for drinks at the nearby Royal on the Waterfront before heading back to the venue for a Pop-up Twilight Market dinner. Thanks to Matt at Inspired Food, Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth, Jamie at Gourmet Male and Dianne at Travelletto for the ciders, laughs and perfect company. Two hours has never gone so quickly.

buttys

Saturday 09/11/2013: POP-UP Dinner

The air had cooled considerably by the time we made our way back to the urban farmstead. Shadows fell on the pavement in dappled forms as dry leaves crackled underfoot.

We wove our way through the front gates into the main courtyard of the farm, where food bloggers congregated around plastic tables. They sipped from mint-tinged cups of Jax Coco and crunched on crisp-fried empanadas from Marcelita’s Colombian foods. Music hummed in the background, setting a merry rhythm as vendors assembled their wares.

galafrey hall Matt, Jemima and I decided to share plates in an effort to sample everything in one giant hit (we were slightly unrealistic, as we were still defeated by Butty’s burger van).

Our first stop was Jax Coco for incredible coconut water cocktails followed by a glass of 2010 Tempranillo Shiraz from Mount Barker-based Galafrey wines. The latter was delicious; peppery and fruit driven, a perfect accompaniment to chewy, hand-stretched Old Lira pizza and succulent pork and potato empanadas from Marcelitas.

empanadasAfter crunching our way through an empanada each, we visited Bangkok Jump Street for crispy pork crackling salad and Pad Thai. The combination of flavours and textures in the salad was incredible; soft herbs and dressed greens with crunchy crackling and cubes of tender pork. Great food made even better by the friendly vendors serving it.

jumpstreetIn reflection, my very favourite food truck was the Jumplings dumpling van. Juicy, soft Japanese-style duck dumplings in ponzu sauce with chilli and coriander? My version of dumpling heaven. I’d encourage you to check their facebook page often so that you can stalk them every day of the week. On hot days, they also wear Chux wipes as sweatbands. I like.

jumplings

I failed to get a picture of the Delish Ice artisan ice-pops van, but I can assure you that those girls know how to make a delicious popsicle. I tried their wonderful passionfruit, mint and lime (as they had run out of the very unique basil and elderflower with gin syrup).

The popsicle was ice-cold, tropical and refreshing, like the best parts of a fruity mojito on a hot summer’s day, as was an ice-cold gin and tonic with West Winds uniquely Australian Sabre gin (unfortunately they had run out of Cutlass, instilled with coriander and bush tomato… I’m on the hunt to buy myself a bottle).

By the end of the evening, we were full of heart, mind and stomach, ready for sleep before the next day’s elective adventures began. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog Committee and all of the sponsors for an unforgettable foodie experience. I can’t wait for next year.

*Click here for my experience at Sunday 10/11/2013: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass at The Classroom

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