Brrrrrr… Winter here you come! Personally I don’t mind the cold crisp mornings and the chill in the air when I manage to get on my bike for the morning belt to work, I always arrive sweating a tad less. Let’s not forget that it’s the season for the snow and if, like me, you like throwing yourself down a hill at breakneck pace, it’s definitely the time of year for you!
On the food front, it’s a chance to really indulge in the centuries old tradition of slow cooked meals and stews. Life is just rush, rush, rush these days and with a slow cooked meal you can prep it in the morning, whack it on for the day, and by the time you get home, all that’s needed is uncorking a great red wine to enjoy with it.
We’ll start today with a Beef Brisket to get a perfect Ragout. I love brisket because when it’s cooked slowly it will peel apart with a fork. Mmmmmm…
What you’ll need:
1 heavy based pot that can sit in the oven. 1.5kg/3lb 3oz of beef brisket cut into 4 large pieces 1.5 kg/3lb ripe tomatoes diced 4 brown onions diced 6 – 8 cloves garlic (crushed) 5 Eschallots diced (French shallots – the little brown ones) 50g/ 1 1/2 oz butter 1 bottle red wine 2 cups fresh beef stock
Pre heat oven to 150 degrees Celsius/300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Start by flouring your brisket with a mix of flour, pepper and salt.
Get your BBQ smoking hot (or a heavy based fry pan). Sear the beef on all sides until good and brown. Set aside.
Melt the butter in your pot or slowcooker, drop in the onions, eschallots and garlic and simmer until clear and soft. Drop in the chopped tomatoes with the wine and your two cups of stock, bring up to a simmer. Next place your seared meat in the pot with the onions and tomatoes. Make sure the meat is all well covered. If it’s not, reach for another bottle of wine and add until it is covered.
Cover and place in the pre-heated oven, and leave alone for 6 hours at the minimum. Check at 4 hours (if possible) to see where your liquid levels are, if you need more, wine is your friend. When you pull out to check, break apart the meat a bit by fork or ‘tearing’ away with tongs. You want the sauce to be a thick ragout with the pulled meat. At the last minute if you’ve still got a little too much liquid, take half a cup of flour and mix with some warm water until a thick paste. Spoon in a little at a time and stir through.
If you’ve got time to make fresh pasta, it’s worth it. All you need is one of those little pasta makers and small helper (a la Heckle) to turn the pasta machine as you feed your dough through. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in eating what they’ve helped make.
600g/1lb 6oz plain flour, preferably tipo 00 (the finely sieved flour the Italians use) 6 eggs Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into it and use a fork to beat the eggs until smooth. Mix together with the flour as much as possible so it’s not too sticky. Then flour each hand and begin to knead. Keep going until you get a smooth, silky, elastic dough. Wrap it with cling film and leave it to rest for about half an hour in the fridge before rolling and passing through the pasta machine.
Gordon Eckel, a foodie and (rock) wall climber extraordinaire. He worked in some of Sydney’s top restaurants, but decided that he liked cooking for his friends more, so ran away and joined the circus (aka managing Sydney nightclubs). Six years ago and after a few too many creamy pastas he weighed 105 kg with a ridiculously high cholesterol. He changed his eating ways, wore out a treadmill and dropped 25 kilos in three months. Now he is renown for cooking deceptively healthy food and for proselytizing about the marvels of the great Australian red.