Gnocchi with the Papas

What is wrong me ? Seriously. I have been looking back at photos on my computer this evening and it’s criminal the amount of things I have taken photos of, loved, absorbed as part of my very being, and then promptly forgotten to write about.

One such occasion was a couple of years ago in a small kitchen at my dear friend Alex and Linda’s place in Inglewood. When Linda’s parents announced that they would be making gnocchi. What this meant in reality was a full scale production that would take over the majority of the house and end up preparing enough food to feed a small army.

The menu was simple. Gnocchi, and red sauce. Now I’m not sure Italians are necessary well known for understatement, but “red” was by no means the defining quality of that sauce. Of course the people preparing the mean were no ordinary hosts. Italo and Grazia have a love of food and hospitality engrained into their very fibre. At home in Adelaide Italo makes his own sausages, grows every kind of vegetable under the sun in his backyard, and has a cellar full of wine that he’s made himself.

I was fortunate enough to be adopted into the family that day, as we fed mounds of freshly boiled potatoes through the ricer and Italo methodically worked in just enough eggs and flour for the mixture to bind into a light smooth dough. Then the real work began. As Italo rolled out long thin logs of dough and swiftly flicked off bite sized pieces for Alex, Linda, and I to roll down the back of the gnocchi board.

All the while Grazia stirred a giant pot of “red” sauce that constantly evolved with each thing added to it. First went in chicken drumsticks, then a rolled fillet of pork (maybe beef), then a deceptively simple rolled egg omelet, then a couple of rolls of thick slices of pig skin with a layer of stuffing on top made from breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and egg.

The sauce bubbled away for a couple of hours absorbing all the delicious flavours from the meat and then we gingerly slid the now multiple trays of pillowy gnocchi into another big pot of salty water. As they slowly started to float their way to the surface Grazia would scoop them out and into a large bowl ready to be mixed with spoonfuls of the sauce.

Italo fished out the meat from the sauce and sliced it all up and onto a platter. This would be the traditional style of eating, with the first plate being the gnocchi, and the second plate being the meat and a light salad.

I’m going to let the photos do the rest of the work because my meager superlatives can’t really do justice to just how wonderful this meal was.

To make this less of a gloat fest, I may as well include a recipe for the gnocchi themselves. Italo’s basic recipe for the gnocchi dough was 250 grams of flour to 1 kilo of potatoes, two eggs, and salt. Boil the potatoes and then feed them through a ricer, before very gently mixing the flour, eggs, and salt in. Try not to overwork the dough as the more you activate the gluten in the flour, the harder the gnocchi will become. When the dough is smooth and firm, roll it into small logs and cut into bite sized pieces.

The gnocchi board isn’t essential, you could just use the back of a fork if you wanted to. The idea is to give the gnocchi some texture that the sauce will grip onto, but I think most sauces do a pretty good job of gripping on their own.

Most importantly, invite some good friends to help you, don’t attempt it on your own or you’ll wonder what the hell you’re going to all this effort for. Food as good as this deserves great company.


Rabbit ragu with pappardelle

Rabbit ragu with Pappardelle

This is going to be another post for the eyes. Where words take a backseat to the photos. This is mostly because it’s freezing at the moment, and my frozen fingers are less inclined to sit here tapping away than they are to be wrapped around a mug of something warm. So click the images below to make them big and feel the warmth radiating back at you.

Home made parpadelleHome made parpadelleRabbit raguRabbit ragu with parpadelle2007 Chard Farm 'Finla Mor' Pinot NoirRabbit ragu with parpadelleRabbit ragu with parpadelle

I made this dish a few weeks back after Domenic, man of the land, hunter, and all round nice guy, brought me a couple of rabbits that he’d recently caught while on a farm down south. I’m not entirely sure what it says about me that I get most happy when friends bring me dead animals as presents, but the sight of a freshly killed rabbit was a beautiful thing.

Bunny lovers beware, you’ll find no sympathy on this site. Wild rabbits in W.A are very much in the unwanted visitors category, having been introduced by English settlers a couple of hundred years ago who wanted to bring a touch of the English countryside to Australia and carry on with their Sunday afternoon hunts. The result of which was a massive population explosion that has led to significant loss of native plants, and a large contribution to erosion of top soil from the land.

Not that I need to justify anything, because the only real reason to eat rabbit is that they’re delicious. When the meat is fresh and the rabbit is young there’s a gamey sweetness that you can’t help but appreciate. And so my great rabbit ragu plan was hatched.

The basics of the dish are really very simple. Take one rabbit, separate the legs from the body, remove and debone the saddle, and cut it into pieces. Sear the rabbit quickly in a hot pan til it’s brown all over and set it aside. Make a mirepoix (onions, carrot, celery) and cook it down in olive oil and a little butter, then when it’s getting soft, turn up the heat, add a splash of wine (white or red both work), then put back the rabbit, a can or two of crushed tomatoes, a teaspoon of sweet paprika, a bay leaf, some thyme or rosemary, and enough stock to cover the meat (chicken or rabbit stock work well). Then put the lid on, turn the heat down to a simmer, and let it cook for a good couple of hours.

After that length of time, the meat on the legs should be falling off the bone, so take them out, put all the meat off and shred it up, then turn up the heat a little, reduce the sauce, and stir the rabbit meat back through.

The pasta I served this with was not the worlds greatest pappardelle, so perhaps use someone else’s recipe. My basic pasta making method is 200 grams of flour, 2 eggs, a splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon or two of water (if the eggs don’t give enough moisture). Then knead it all together into one consistent ball, flour up your bench and roll it out as thin as you can.

Home made Pappardelle

Unfortunately my pasta roller is broken since I tried to take it apart and clean it last year (note to self, never take things apart), and so I was left to do it Nonna style[1] with an olive oil bottle as a rolling pin . I didn’t get it to quite the thickness I was after, but otherwise it tasted fine. After flattening it out into sheets I just rolled it into a tube and used a knife to cut thick slices out for very “rustic” Pappardelle.

Then cooked it for a few minutes in salted water and tossed it through the rabbit ragu at the last minute. A little fresh parsley and a glass of pinot, and the result was one of the best meals I’ve cooked all year.


[1] I’m not assuming all (or any) Nonnas still use an olive oil bottle to roll out pasta, I’m sure many of them have machines to do that.

Fettucini Amatriciana

Fettuccini Amatriciana

The alternative title to this post is “I can’t believe it’s not Adelaide”.

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon. You’ve slept in well past the time where it’s even remotely acceptable to have breakfast (and you don’t have any milk for cereal anyway). But now there’s is a rumbling in your stomach that’s sending all the dogs in the neighbourhood mental, expecting the next earthquake. A quick glance into the pantry shows pasta… this is a good sign. A check of the fridge shows half an italian sausage, some tomatoes, and most of an onion. You’re in business.

The sweetener in this scenario for me, is that I also found a small jar of olives. Made specially by local olive nut and wild food lover Kamran of Fiori Coffee. I won’t give away all the secrets, but suffice to say, there is a lot of food around if you’ll willing to look for it. These little gems have been marinaded in oil, and are delicious on their own, but also add substance and depth when added to pasta and other dishes. A wonderfully complex saltiness that really gives it a lift.

Now bearing in mind that I cannot guarantee that this dish can be legally called Amatriciana (or if I’m even spelling it right), here is my version of the ultimate quick and easy dish. It really doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Fettucini Amatriciana

  • 1 Italian sausage (mine was hot cacciatore)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Tomato passata, or lots of fresh tomatoes, or a can of crushed tomatoes
  • black olives
  • a splash of red wine
  • Fettucini

How I saved Saturday

Slice the sausage up into thin pieces on an angle, and the slice those slices into mini slices. Then slice the slices of slices … actually no, that’s enough. Chop up your onions and mince the garlic, then fry all of that in a bit of olive oil, and splash over the red wine at some point for tasty goodness. Add the tomatoes / passata to the pan and stir the mixture through well, letting it simmer away nicely and reduce a little.

While you’re doing all this, cook your pasta. I cook mine in as big a pot as I can find, with a little olive oil, and intermittently with a pinch of salt. I’m not sure whether that makes any difference, but it feels right… so I go with it.

Once the pasta is almost al dente, take it out and drain it. Then add a little more tomato passata to the pan, add the olives, stir them through well, and then toss the pasta through. Give it a minute or so for the pasta to absorb a little of the sauce and soften up a bit until it’s just the texture you prefer, then serve it up.

Suddenly Saturday is starting to look a whole lot more productive :)

Coda Alla Vaccinara (oxtail stew) with Olive Fettucini

Coda alla vaccinara  with olive fettuccine

Coda Alla Vaccinara is one of the great Italian peasant dishes. It originates from the slaughter houses around Rome, where the oxen were sent after retiring from their lives ploughing fields. The vaccinari (slaughtermen, from the word vacca, meaning cow), who were responsible for turning the oxen back into meat, were paid for their labours with the skins, horns, offal, and that modern day sexy cut of meat that is the oxtail. This created a style of cooking associated with the neighbourhood where the slaughterhouse and tanneries were located, and the vaccinari developed their own particular style for turning this once unwanted by-product into a delicious rustic meal.

Traditionally coda all vaccinara is served as a soup, often left for a day or two before being eaten, as the marrow in the oxtail enhances the flavours with time. If any was left over after the first serving, it was often used as a rich sauce to go with fettuccine.

So true to form, I skipped the bits of the process that didn’t appeal and went straight to serving my dish over fettuccine. An olive fettuccine no less. Mangled together from some left over marinated olives and rolled into being by hand after my pasta machine decided to try my patience for the last time.

Olive pasta

Olive Pasta (Fettuccine)

  • 250 grams ’00’ rated pasta flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 g pitted olives
  • tablespoon or so of olive oil

So the pasta is as per normal. I’m sure there are a million home made pasta recipes out there, so I won’t feel offended if you go and find another one, I do it all the time myself just to keep things interesting.

For the olives, I pitted a whole bunch of marinated black olives I had lying around, and then threw them into the blender to disintegrate into tiny little olive bits. Then, not entirely satisfied with the level of evisceration I’d achieved, I put the blended olives into my mortar and pestle with a little olive oil, and crushed and ground them down further into what was now a kind of thick olive slurry paste…along the lines of tapenade perhaps.

So then the pasta is simple. Basically make a mound of flour on a clean dry surface, then make a little well in the middle. Crack your eggs into the middle of the well and start to work the flour into the middle by slowly incorporating the egg into it. Once its mostly incorporated, add the olives into the middle and work them all through so it’s an even distribution throughout the dough. Add a little more flour or water to the dough, depending on whether it needs it, and once its a firm ball, need it for about 5 minutes to make it quite elastic, before cooling it in the fridge for about 10-20 minutes.

Once you’re ready to go, pull it out of the fridge and onto a floured surface, and roll it out into thin sheets. Preferably in a pasta machine that will not send you to the brink of insanity by refusing the stay in one place while you try to crank the handle that refuses to turn no matter how wide you make the opening. I ended up giving up and using an empty wine bottle to roll mine out into something any Italian nonna would probably faint over… the fattest fettuccine in the world. But hey, it worked for me.

shabbily rolledcut and dried

Now to the main attraction…

Coda Alla Vaccinara

  • 1kg beef oxtail
  • 8 celery stalks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 150 grams pancetta chopped
  • handful or two of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine
  • 2 cans Italian roma tomatoes
  • water
  • 5 cloves
  • pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf

How I Made Mine

Firstly, rinse the oxtail under running water and get rid of any fat or gristle. The chop the celery,carrot, garlic, onion, and pancetta, and start to fry them in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Now add the oxtail to the pan and brown them all over. At this point, pour in your red wine, let it reduce a little, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and then add the cloves, bayleaf, (tied up in a beggars purse (bouquet garni style) if you like. If there isn’t enough liquid from the wine and tomatoes, then add water enough to barely cover the oxtails, then reduce the heat, put a lid on the pan, and leave it to slow cook for a couple of hours (more if you can).

This is not the quickest dish to prepare, but the slow cooking is so good for the oxtail. It’s a kind of meat that really appreciates taking the time so it can absorb all the flavours and the added marrow adds a soft melt in your mouth texture to it.

Once my dish had been cooking for a couple of hours and the meat on the oxtail was literally falling away from the bones, I carefully removed the oxtail from the rest of the stew and let them rest in a bowl for a few minutes. Then when they were cool enough to work with I pulled all of the meat away from the bones and got rid of any more gristle I came across. Then turned the heat up on the stew to reduce it down further into something thick enough for a pasta sauce. Then added the oxtail meat back in, stirred through a little nutmeg and some more seasoning, and it was all done.

Onto a plate with a little more freshly chopped parsley over the top of my olive fettuccine.

Coda alla vaccinara  (the start) Coda alla vaccinara  (3 hours later)

Coda alla vaccinara  with olive fettuccine

The flavours in this dish are sublime, but the star of the show is the oxtail. I can not recommend slow cooking highly enough. Take your time… have a glass of wine…or 3… eat some cheese if you’re peckish, and wait for the luscious flavours to develop. You will not be sorry (unless of course you manage to burn it somehow, which would be bad).

Apologies to any Italians I may have offended during this post. I love you all.

Italy Home Made

Italy Home Made - North Perth

At a recent Perth blogger meetup I ran into Kay, who raved in a nonchalant but cooly excited way about Italy Home Made, a little pasta bar on Charles St in North Perth.

I know the place pretty well, although in its former incantation… Poppies. Poppies is a cute little cafe tucked into a small group of shops, along Charles St in North Perth, a few streets before you get to Scarborough Beach Rd. We used to duck in there for late breakfasts and early lunches on the way back from the city on a Sunday afternoon or morning, and always managed to find a decent coffee and tasty meal.

Well Poppies is still there, but they have now extended the shop out to twice the size, and turned one half of the place into “Italy Home Made”. Basically a DIY pasta bar whose main angle is that all the pasta is made fresh on the premises daily.

So one afternoon last week I happened to be driving by and thought… I must just try this new place that Kay was raving about. Never one to turn down a good recommendation (until the day someone recommended Fasta Pasta to me that is), I decided to head in and check it out again.

Pasta Maker

So basically you choose the size of the pasta you want. Small, Medium, Large, Jumbo

Fresh Pasta

The you choose the type of pasta you want. Fusili, Linguini, Fettucini, Spaghetti, etc

Pasta Fillings

Then you choose what you want to have on it. I chose Atlantic, which was a creamy sauce mixed with smoked salmon and capers.

Pasta Sauces

Then the dude goes away and collects all the bits he needs, drops the pasta into some water and puts the sauce and toppings into a pan, and then combines it together. Toasts some little bread rolls for you and puts some grated parmesan into a little cup.

It was pretty quiet when I went in, and I had my meal (which was a large, and there was a lot in there) in around 10 minutes, which is pretty good for food of that quality. The pasta was nice, the sauces complimented well, and the fillings were very tasty.

I’d still like to know who decided that smoked salmon and capers were the perfect combination for each other though. I’m imagining some big conference where all the foods get together and have some kind of speed dating face off to work out who should is right for one another… Salt and Pepper clearly hit it off, Olive oil and balsamic vinegar were drawn together by their differences, and poor little Anchovy sat alone in the corner, in a pile of his own salty tears.

But I digress…

Italy Home Made is a great cafe with top food that will serve you well for a quick lunch, easy dinner (they are open in the evenings til quite late and are BYO wine with no corkage), or “I can’t be stuffed cooking but don’t want some crappy fried chicken type meal” takeaway solution. Check em out.

Italy Home Made
Shop 1 & 2, 299 Charles St
North Perth
(08) 9328 6350


Beef & Red Wine Ragout: Video Vanity

So for now here is the next episode in the egotistical world of my video blogging adventure.

Feel free to skip watching the video, as it’s basically 5 minutes or so of me cutting up vegetables and then throwing them in a pan. For those less inclined to listen to direct requests, or who have a particular love of 90’s French house music… then play on !

Here’s some photos in the meantime.

Family dinner

Beef & Red Wine Ragout

Beef & Red Wine Ragout

Fancy Aglio Olio

Fancy Aglio Olio

Some days laziness pays off. It was late, I was tired, Sharon was tired, the fridge was basically empty except for a few slightly mouldy looking vegetables and the cupboard was bare ( and so the poor dog had none ).

So I starting my normal routine of sifting through the usable ingredients from those that would be best confined to a hazardous materials containment area. What I came up with was.


  • Pumpkin (over 75% of usableness)
  • Spices (lots of, to roast the pumpkin with)
  • Basil (wilting, but still flavoursome)
  • Pasta (dried :( )
  • Chorizo (didn’t know I had any, but cured, so should still be good)
  • Cherry tomatoes (the ones at the bottom were all smooshed, but the ones on top were still good)
  • Olive oil (I have lots of it now… which i’ll be writing about soon)
  • Garlic (enough to scare off a coven of persistent vampires, always handy)

I started by peeling and chopping the pumpkin, then covering it will all the spices I could find (ok, not all of them, but a few), which was coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried chilli, salt, pepper. Then drizziling them in olive oil and roasting them on a tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes or so.

I then chopped the cherry tomatoes, chopped some garlic, mixed the garlic and tomatoes together with lots of olive oil and the chopped basil, started frying to chopped up chorizo, and then added the tomato mixture. Let that all soften up a little and then threw in the pasta (which had been secretly boiling in a large pot with a little salt and olive oil the whole time). Stir it all around, add lots more olive oil, some crushed garlic, the roast pumpkin, and some more olive oil for good luck.

What you get is fancy aglio olio (garlic & oil) :)

Spiced Roast Pumpkin Pasta with Chorizo

Just the thing to hit the spot after a hard night of lying of the couch, playing video games, watching downloaded episodes of Little Britain (Computer says no…), and generally mooching about. Sharon gave it the thumbs up and so I have another quickie to throw into the repetoire.

5 things to always have in the cupboard for gourmet emergencies

  1. Dried Pasta
  2. Canned Tomatos
  3. Risotto Rice
  4. Sea Salt and Black Peppercorns
  5. Liquid chicken stock

5 things to always have in the fridge for gourmet emergencies

  1. Milk
  2. Fresh basil and spinach (if not in the garden)
  3. Chorizo (Or equivalent pork based sausage product)
  4. Onions & Garlic (my garlic actually lives on my bench)
  5. Fresh Parmesan Cheese

Let me know if you can think of anything to add to those lists.