Saturday 27 February 2010

A Lesson in Butchery at Allens of Mayfair

When I was invited to a butchery masterclass at Allens of Mayfair, I was slightly scared. I am ever so slightly squeamish and I haven't done much butchery aside from hacking hungrily at a freshly roasted chicken. I don't think that counts. I burst into the shop, flustered and windswept and was greeted by a beautiful octagonal butcher's block and hanging carcasses. I gulped my nausea down.

David, the co-owner, was hosting the class. He explained to us that the purposes of putting these classes on were for people who really appreciated food, to show the skill of butchery and how much work is put into those lovely, well-presented morsels of meat in restaurants. He knows what he's talking about too; Allens is London's oldest butcher, and they supply meat to many of London's restaurants like Le Gavroche. He then deftly showed us a whole lamb butchered in about 5 minutes flat; it was seriously impressive. It was all about the skill in knowing where to cut and where to make precise incisions, moving the lamb around him as he worked his way round. Myths of butchery being a macho, testosterone-fuelled muscle competition were debunked when David told us not a lot of strength was required; just knowledge.

After a few health and safety tips, we got stuck into portioning up a chicken. I am rather ashamed to say I've not done this before, but under David's watchful eye, it was surprisingly easy.

Legs were carved off with the oysters,and wings were removed. We were instructed how to carve the breasts off as supremes, perfect for chicken kievs.

We were each then presented with a whole oxtail. Each joint on the tail is the same size, and if your super-sharp knife doesn't glide through it easily, you're going wrong. I went wrong a few times and David's colleague, Michael, patiently helped me along.

Next, we were to portion up a French-trimmed rack of lamb. David demonstrated it to us and it looked like hard work; there were saws involved. I told myself to stop being such a wimp and before long, I was sawing my way through with determination. Bones were scraped, fat was trimmed off and I was left with a new skill and a seriously good-looking piece of meat.

I knew something of the complexities of aging meat after The Hawksmoor steak tasting, and David explained that at Allens, all their beef is aged on the animal. They go to great lengths to ensure their meat is aged well so that no mould grows on it and you're left with impeccable product. After sniffing the deep beefiness of the fillet on the left, I was astounded when, as a treat, we were presented with a 3 bone piece of sirloin to take off the bone for a roasting joint. Knives started slicing away with myself in particular fretting over whether I was doing it right. It's not a cheap cut and I was very nervous.

Gristle was sliced off, knots were demonstrated (a few times - they're tricky little things) and I was left with my masterpiece.

Roughly an hour and a half later, our lesson was over. Time passed quickly; David is a natural host, the other butchers helping out were entertaining and accomodating. I had such a good time and really surprised myself by overcoming my squeamishness. All the meat we had butchered ourselves was wrapped up and bagged for us to take home - it's a serious haul and the bags strained at my fingers. The chicken carcass is bubbling away into stock as I type and I know for the next couple of weeks I will be eating extremely well.

If you're a fan of meat (and why wouldn't you be?), I suggest you book yourself in immediately. At £100 it may seem dear, but given that you take a haul of meat home - what type and cut changes, especially according to the seasons - and you learn some valuable lessons. We all left grinning and plotting what to do with our treasure; it's well worth it. For more details visit their website.

Allens of Mayfair

117 Mount Street,
London W1K 3LA

Tel: 020 7499 5831

Read other accounts HERE and HERE.

Flickr stream of the course is HERE.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Bob Bob Ricard

After a brief exchange on Twitter and a profession of love for lard, I was invited to a vintage vodka tasting at Bob Bob Ricard. I was excited and the date loomed near. Excitement turned to trepidation when reports of a previous tasting from fellow comrades came trickling in. Blurry memories, amazing dumplings and a bit of sick were at the forefront. I readied myself for a messy night.

Much has been spoken of Bob Bob Ricard. Its funny name, its 'Press Here' for Champagne buttons but on arrival, I was blown away by the decadence of the place. It was the definition of glitzy and was sumptious as anything. Led to the private dining room, I was instructed to sit next to our host and we sipped on gorgeously candy pink rhubarb and gin cocktails.

After a quick introduction from Leonid (aka. Bob, coined by his business partner who found it tricky to pronounce Leonid), we got stuck in. A mouthful of ox tongue in aspic smeared with some horseradish cream was speared onto forks. Kauffman Special Selected Vintage 2006 was poured into cute little crystal glasses, and we were instructed to chuck it down the hatch and follow immediately with the food. Given I'm usually one to hold my nose when drinking shots, this slid down unexpectedly easily. The aspic was completely clear yet meaty, the flavours of the ox tongue well defined, sharpened and rounded off with the horseradish cream. Meanwhile, I quizzed Leonid about Russian life. I want to party in Moscow.

The next Kauffman, the Private Collection Luxury Vintage 2003 was a accompanied by caviar, blinis and sour cream. We were instructed to pile half the tin of caviar on the blinis, and we followed instruction duly. The blinis were warm and fluffy, like biting into a edible pillow. Again, the Kauffman was stand out for it's lack of flavour (a good thing in vodka) and smoothness.

Next came an intermission of starters to share for the table. Beetroot and goats cheese renewed my faith in the pairing - crisp discs of raw beetroot gave way to creamy light goats cheese. A pile of minted crushed broadbeans topped with pea shoots gave the dish a summery tone. Potted shrimp and anchovy was heart-stoppingly buttery, while gently smoked fillet of beef had the unusual but ultimately well balanced garnishes of blueberries and hazelnuts. Foie gras and rabbit terrine studded with dates was appropriately rich and velvety.

My favourite dish and combination of the night was the Russian salt-cured herring with raw onions and new potato. We were instructed to neck the Russian Standard Platinum vodka, then to eat the herring with the onion followed by the potato. As Leonid rightly told us, the salty fish was tartened by the onion, and then neutralised by the potato. The vodka was smooth, flavour-free and went down easily. The cheeky Dan asked for seconds, and Leonid looked doubtful. "I don't want you to go the wrong way like the others did". We reassured him otherwise and got stuck in.

Next, we faced an onslaught of quails eggs. They were stuffed with salmon roe, served with Imperia by Russian Standard. I'd have never thought fish eggs would work with quails eggs, but work they did and the salmon roe popped pleasingly in the mouth. Next up, quails egg mayonnaise, topped with a sliver of anchovy accompanied Beluga Vodka. The tasting notes describe this as having a hint of winter wheat, but I was still dazzled by the Russian Standard to take any notice.

Meat pelmeni reminded me of the Chinese Xiao Long Bao. Meaty dumplings surrounded by broth were encased in a thin yet chewy dough. Saucers of sour cream or white vinegar were for dipping and smearing, and they were good and hearty. We stopped our lovely and attentive waiter from taking them away to make room for the next dish, greedily shovelling any stragglers into our mouths.

Salo on rye bread, a fatty, cured pork was what prompted my declaration of piggy love, and the reason I was invited. Wafer thin, the pork fat melted on the tongue, but didn't detract from the fact that the Stolichnaya Gold vodka, so highly revered in London's clubs, felt as rough as a badger's arse. 'Twice distilled', a quality so highly prized is actually laughable; many of Russia's vodkas are distilled at least eight times.

When all this was over, we were treated to an immense beef wellington, much shinier and more bronzed than mine have ever turned out, in a final effort to soak up the booze and make sure we were compus mentus for work the next day. Desserts were ingested and the evening drew to a close. There was much discussion about the merits of vodka, since the whole point of the stuff is not to taste anything, unlike wine, which is all about the nose and the flavour. I don't think the two are comparable; they come from such different cultures and are enjoyed in such different ways. I have to say, I loved the Russian way and I have renewed respect for vodka, especially as my favourite is around £15 a bottle. A quick, smooth glug to spike the bloodstream with alcohol, and a delicious morsel in the mouth - what's not to love?

Bob Bob Ricard

1-3 Upper James Street

London W1F 9DF

Tel: 020 3145 1000

Bob Bob Ricard on Urbanspoon

Sunday 21 February 2010

Black Sesame Dessert Dumplings

Chinese New Year goes on for a good two weeks and since I mentioned in a previous post that dumplings symbolise wealth and prosperity due to their similarity to gold ingots, I thought it best I make some. These black sesame dumplings in ginger and sugar syrup are also known as 'tong yuen' in Cantonese. You can get these dumplings in all sorts of colours, but also with different fillings - some with a little lump of palm sugar, others with peanut paste. Red bean or black sesame were my favourite, and you can also get them not filled at all.

They are very different to any European dessert; nestled in the syrup, they are usually served hot. Ginger is the most common flavouring of the syrup that I've come across, but sometimes pandan leaves are used too. The glutinous rice flour that the balls are made from create a gluey, slightly bouncy texture to give way to the smooth, nutty sesame paste within. It's deceptively rich.

As I set about making these, I wished desperately for a food processor. The toasted sesame seeds are ground to a fine powder which was hard work and time consuming in a pestle and mortar. Next, the dough with which to make the balls was frustratingly fragile - it split, stuck and cracked all over the place. In short, these were a right ball-ache to make. I'm buying them frozen from the Chinese supermarket from now on. They still tasted great though, and if you have the patience, give it a try.

Black Sesame Tong Yuen

Makes 16 - 18 dumplings

230gr glutinous rice flour
180ml boiling water

50gr black sesame seeds
50gr sugar
40gr lard (yes, lard. It makes the filling silky smooth. If you're too scared, use butter)

Per serving -
300ml water
3 slices of ginger
A sprinkling of dried crysanthemum flowers
1.5 tbsp white sugar (to taste)

Toast the black sesame seeds in a pan until fragrant. Leave to cool and grind to a fine powder. Melt the lard or the butter in a pan and then add the sugar until it's melted. Add the black sesame powder and mix to form a smooth paste. Add more butter / lard if it's looking a bit dry. Put it in a bowl and leave to cool and place in the fridge.

Set the water on to simmer with the ginger and sugar - simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Mix the water with the flour bit by bit until it forms a smooth dough and leave to cool. Make into 16 balls and flour your work surface. Flatten the balls out and place a little black sesame mixture in the middle, folding it up so that it's sealed. Roll around your palm VERY carefully (this was the point at which my first one completely fell apart) and place on a floured plate. To cook, place the dumplings in a separate pot of boiling water. Once they float to the surface, they are cooked. To serve, place in a bowl and pour the sweet ginger broth over the dumplings and garnish with some dried crysanthemum.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Chinese New Year Feasting

An important part of Chinese New Year is feasting, and lots of it. There's a lot of symbolism in the Chinese culture. Lai see packets stuffed with money are given to people younger than you and singletons, though the above, kindly given to us by EuWen, were full of chocolate gold coins. To have a good year, auspicious foods should be eaten to help you along your way. Noodles symbolise longevity, black moss (more on that later) for wealth, whole fish served also symbolises prosperity, dumplings too. The Chinese like to be rich. The colour gold is seen everywhere (see previous point) as well as red, to be seen as lucky.

An important part of the festivities is to visit your family and friends. Unfortunately my family had no plans and didn't really celebrate the new year, so I was pretty pleased when I was invited to a big Chinese New Year dinner, organised by A Rather Unusual Chinaman. The main feature was to be whole suckling pig. I was beside myself with excitement.

Firstly - Pearl Liang, our venue, is in the arse-end of nowhere. I relied on my iPhone like the fool I am and got quite lost in the streets of Paddington. The website has far better directions. We were led straight to the private dining room to host 18 of us.

To start, we ordered the 'cold toss'. Cue much sniggering. This was a platter of cold appetisers - sliced pig's knuckle was slightly chewy and well seasoned. Five spiced beef shin was surprisingly tender and very moreish. 'Artic clam' was chewy and fishy, and jellyfish, interspersed with slices of chilli, cucumber and spring onion, were heavily flavoured with sesame and were just as I like them; like chewing on rubber bands. The star of the platters was the drunken chicken. The chunks were flavoured through with Shaoxing rice wine and were so tender and juicy.

Next, the two suckling pigs were paraded in, to be greeted by many cameras and "oohs". They were tantalisingly shiny, and the waitress looked as if the weight would buckle her arms. This was then taken away to be portioned up. Upon its return, big steamers filled with steamed sweetened discs of dough - much like char siu bao - accompanied them. A slick of hoi sin and a shard of crackling was placed in it and it was folded over. The warm, soft dough contrasted beautifully with the crisp glass-shatter of the laquered crackling. I had wondered if it would be at all chewy as it wasn't puffed like crackling you'd make at home, but it was completely smooth. All my fears were allayed after that initial mouthful. The pigs were again removed for further portioning of the sweet succulent meat.

Man cannot live on pig alone though, so next we had some salt and pepper tofu. The cubes were perfectly fried and greaseless, with a great tongue-tingling hit of Sichuan pepper, and some crispy squid, which I thought quite forgettable. This could possibly have been due to the arrival of two whole aromatic ducks, which were shredded for us to stuff into pancakes. A fine example of the dish of which we made light work.

At this point I started to fret. I was stuffed beyond belief and my shirt buttons strained worryingly. I abandoned my beer for oolong tea to aid digestion, and contemplated some Roman-style purging. Thankfully, after a short period I got a second wind, just as the seabass fried with garlic and soy sauce was placed before me. I preferred the steamed version we also had, with ginger and spring onion as it was a more delicate and fresh flavour, but both dishes were cooked well. The plain fried noodles revolved under my nose without assault. Gai laan (chinese brocolli) stir-fried with garlic was sweet and crisp and the water spinach, stir-fried with garlic and chilli made up for not having my favourite vegetable available, the pea shoots.

After this much feasting, wewere pretty replete but I couldn't resist some mango and grapefruit pudding with sago. Grapefruit wouldn't be my first choice, but in this instant the bitter sourness was a great palate cleanser and made me feel less full.

For the 18 of us, it was probably the heftiest bill I've laid eyes on, but looking back at all the food and merriment we had, it was well worth it. I was given a huge bag of leftovers too - no one wanted them, honest! - which will feed me for days.

That's what Chinese New Year is all about. Given the demonstration of excellent service and delicious food, I'll definitely be back to Pearl Liang, even if it is a schlep.

Pearl Liang

8 Sheldon Square
London W2 6EZ

Tel: 020 7289 7000

Pearl Liang on Urbanspoon

Sunday 14 February 2010

Chinese Turnip Cake

Traditionally, my grandmother made Chinese turnip cake (loh bak goh) every Chinese new year. Hers was always the best, far better than ones I've been served at dim sum. When I asked my mum what her secret was, she said "lard." Right then.

I made this last year, but mistakenly added dark soy amongst a variety of mishaps. It still tasted good but had a brown tinge to it. I made sure to read recipes closely and to take my time over it. It turned out perfectly; well flavoured, a good consistency and the proper colour. It's not as good as my grandmother's, but I'm not entirely surprised at that. Fried up in a little oil and served with chilli oil to dip into it, it made a brilliant brunch and will feed me for days.

Chinese Turnip Cake (Loh Bak Goh)

1 mooli / daikon / Chinese turnip, around 700gr in size
3 Chinese sausages (lap cheung)
4 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
4 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in 50ml hot water
1 tbsp dried shrimp, also in 50ml hot water
2 spring onions
50gr lard (optional)
280gr rice flour (not glutinous)
40gr potato starch or tapoica starch
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
300ml stock or water

Grate the radish, reserving the water chop the mushrooms and shrimp. Slice the sausage and simmer in a little water for a few minutes. Chop the garlic and shallots finely. In a bowl, mix together the flour, starch, sesame oil, white pepper and stock / water until it's a smooth consistency. In a wok, add the lard (you can use oil if you prefer) and when it's hot add the shallots and garlic. Stir fry until fragrant and then add the mushrooms, shrimp and sausage.

Add the turnip and stir fry for a few minutes, and then add the reserved water from soaking the shrimp and mushrooms. Simmer for a few minutes until the turnip is cooked and then add the flour mixture and the spring onions, chopped Stir in the salt and the soy sauce. Take off the heat and mix together carefully - it should thicken up with the residual heat. Pour into a greased tin and smooth the top. Steam for an hour - if you don't have a big enough steamer like me, put the tin in a baking tray of boiling water, cover with foil and put it in a 150 degree preheated oven for an hour.

When cooked, leave it to cool in the tin. To serve, slice and fry in some hot oil until crispy on both sides. Serve with some chilli oil.

Happy year of the Tiger (my year!) to you all - kung hei fat choi!

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Hereford Road

After an good few hours drinking some lovely gin, sustenance was needed. I had spotted Hereford Road on the walk from Notting Hill Gate station, and at a late(ish) hour, we decided to go here for dinner.

When we walked in I was quite taken aback. Rather than the gastropub look and atmosphere I was expecting, there were red upholstered booths, sparse furniture and simple table settings. The A4 printed menu with the date on it, indicating it changes every day. Not very surprising, considering the chef is ex-St John.

As soon as I saw the word 'pickles' on the menu, I knew I had to have it. Unfortunately, the salf beef dish was a bit miserable. Dry, cold and over salty, there was none of the juiciness and mouth-coating fat that I had expected. I've had better in a Brick Lane beigel. I looked enviously at my friend's generous black pudding, topped with a gloriously runny fried egg.

I had a lot of trouble choosing what to have for my main. I was torn between roasted lamb with celeriac and anchovies and a brill dish. The waiter could offer no help and told me he couldn't choose for me. In the end, the lamb and anchovies won out. The lamb was served beautifully pink, the fat enrobing it crispy and delicious. The celeriac had a hint on anchovy about it, but halfway through the dish I found it was overwhelmingly salty. Something acidic to balance it out would have helped enormously. Again, my companion chose better. I had a serious case of food envy.

We were too full for dessert and opted to finish off our wine. The staff started cleaning the place down, putting chairs on the table - I understand that people want to get home after work, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Otherwise, service was good.

For £37.50 a head for two courses each and a shared bottle of wine, I found it to be a bit on the dear side. It's all very well saying you made the wrong menu choices, but I don't think a good restaurant should have any duff dishes. All a bit 'meh' if you ask me.

For the other side of the table, read Chris' post here.

Hereford Road

3 Hereford Road
Westbourne Grove
London, W2 4AB

Tel: 020 7727 1144

Hereford Road on Urbanspoon

Monday 8 February 2010

Hot & Sour Tofu with Aubergine

After I saw Helen's post on crispy tofu, I immediately got a craving for it. I've always loved tofu in all it's forms, but nothing quite beats fresh firm tofu, dipped in cornflour and fried in hot fat creates a crunchy, grease-free coating. It may seem strange to then go and braise it, potentially ruining that crisp exterior, but it actually soaks up the juices, flavouring the tofu throughout while its subtle flavour shines through. You still get the crispy bits as they don't languish long in the sauce.

I'm biased as I love them so, but I think the perfect texture to complement the tofu was soft, melting aubergines. Fried first and then braised, these silky beauties also absorb all the flavour in the dish. I was only gutted that I'd only made one portion. It's important to balance the sweet, hot, sour and salty so taste, taste and taste until you get what you think is right.

Hot & Sour Tofu with Aubergines

Serves 2

Half a block of fresh tofu
1 medium aubergine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2" ginger, chopped finely
2 red birds eye chillis, deseeded and chopped finely
1 large handful of Thai holy basil leaves chopped finely
A few sprigs of coriander, roughly chopped
Fish sauce to taste (or soy if you're vegan or vegetarian)
Palm sugar to taste
1 lime
1 spring onion, sliced diagonally
50 mls of water
Vegetable oil

Slice the tofu into thick rectangles and leave to drain on kitchen paper. On a plate, shake out some cornflour to coat the tofu with. Heat about 1cm of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Coat the tofu in the cornflour and place immediately in the hot oil and fry carefully until golden brown. Leave to drain on a fresh piece of kitchen towel. Meanwhile, slice the aubergine to the thickness of a pound coin and fry in a little oil until, again, browned on both sides.

In a wok, heat some oil and add the ginger, garlic and chillis to the oil. Open every single window in a 10 mile radius unless you want napalm in your lungs. Add the aubergines and half of the holy basil, as well as the water. Bring to the simmer and add the tofu. Season with fish sauce and palm sugar (I started off with 1 tbsp of each) and the rest of the holy basil and cook until the sauce has been absorbed and has thickened slightly. Take off the heat, taste and add more fish sauce or sugar as appropriate, as well as a hefty squeeze of lime. Garnish with the chopped spring onion and coriander and serve with rice.

If your palm sugar comes in a big block as mine does, I've found the best way to use it is to grate it on the coarse bit.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Gin Love - Miller's

I've walked into mysterious non-descript doorways more times than I'd care to admit, but none pleased me as much as the sight that greeted me when I walked through this one. It was the entrance to Miller's Residence for Martin Miller's Gin Masterclass for the Gintelligentsia (try saying that after a couple...). I had been invited to the event by Craig Harper, the brand's ambassador, after declaring my love of this particular gin on Twitter. The hallway, painted in a brave bright azure blue, was covered in paintings. As we walked up the red carpeted stairs, I noticed trays and piles of sweets everywhere. There was always something to look at and I instantly fell in love with the place.

Martin Miller (above) himself briefly welcomed us, and armed with a martini each, we took our places to be educated of the ways of this cocktail by Craig, who turned out to be an enigmatic and engaging host.

I've always been a bit afraid of martinis, mainly because they're so strong and the ones I'd drunk had that horrible booze burn that can almost make you retch. There is also the fear of getting roaring drunk after a couple of sips. However, a martini made for me by Essex Eating at The Blaggers' Banquet back in November changed my mind entirely. Rather than that familiar burn, these slid down smoothly. I still got completely shit-faced, so I was right to be afraid in one respect.

After a brief history on cocktails - my favourite factoid being that back in the day cocktails were drunk in the morning to steady oneself from a heavy night before - we started off with one of the original martinis, the Martinez from 1884. Us members of the audience were singled out to make the drinks and like the proper Brits we are, we all looked in any direction to avoid it. It was sweet tasting, unsurprisingly given that it was 1:1 gin to sweet Italian vermouth. In contrast, the dry martini (1903) was heavily scented with citrus. Perhaps predictably, my favourite of the evening was Harry's Dry Martini (1922), shaken by my good self. Craig dispelled myths of shaking a martini to be seen as "bruising" the gin, but instead explained the science behind the slight cloudy appearance of the drink, caused by aerating the liquid.

The revelation of the night was the Super Dry Martini Doble from 1951. Made with 2 parts gin to 1 part Noilly Prat dry and flavoured with absinthe, orange bitters and a lemon twist, it reminded me of childrens' toothpaste. In a good way. I've always associated absinthe with That Terrible Night but having learnt that absinthe can be used to flavour a drink rather than having to endure it in one horrible shot or long drink, this is now the only way it'll pass my lips.

To finish, we had a good ol' chat about gin over delicious gin and tonics, happily served with wedges of lime instead of the dreaded lemon. Little vials of aromatics that flavour Miller's, such as angelica and orris root were sniffed (or inadvertently snorted, in my case - ugh) and just like that, 90 minutes had flown by and the hotel had to be returned to its guests.

Armed with a goody bag that contained a whole big bottle of Miller's and a glossy book about the brand, we repaired to the rather snazzy pub over the road for more gin and to slurp some oysters. I went home an extremely happy girl that night, debunking rumours that gin makes girls cry. It doesn't.

If you like gin (and why wouldn't you?) and want to do this too, tickets are ridiculously good value at £10. Email for details.

For more grainy, dark and slightly out of focus pictures of the evening - I refuse to annoy people with a flash - click HERE.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Pasta Making

I've been wanting to make pasta for ages, but as I haven't got a pasta machine I was put off. I am not a huge fan of fresh pasta unless it's filled, but as ravioli, cappeletti and tortelloni require a really thin sheet of pasta, I decided to crack on regardless and make a noodle shape.

It wasn't an easy job. The pasta dough was well and truly kneaded by The Beast, but in rolling it out it just kept springing right on back at me. It didn't seem like I was getting very far at all. I worked the biceps harder and eventually it started to get thinner. It took over my work top.

When I thought it was thin enough, I cut ribbons out of it and hung it up on the oven door handle to hang around until I was ready to cook it. These were well dusted with flour to make sure they didn't stick together.

When it came to cooking it, I dumped all the noodles in a huge pan of salty boiling water. As soon as I did I realised I didn't roll it nearly thin enough. It was going to be a filling dinner.

As thick and rustic as the pasta was, it was actually really good, especially with the slow-cooked oxtail ragu. Perhaps it was the sense of achievement for my rolling efforts, or because I love a stodgy carb-fest - the pasta was chewy and toothsome. Completely unrefined but ultimately very satisfying.


Per person

110gr pasta flour
1 egg

Make a well in the flour and crack the egg into it. Mix it well and then knead it for 10 minutes until it is a smooth elastic ball. Leave to rest for half an hour. Roll the hell out of it as thinly as possible on a floured work surface. When you think you've got it thin enough, think again and carry on rolling. Cut into your desired thickness and hang on a rack to dry for 5 or 10 minutes.

Cook in boiling salted water for just a minute or so and serve with a meaty, rich ragu.

Oxtail Ragu

Serves 3 greedy girls

1 small whole oxtail, chopped into pieces
2 carrots
3 sticks of celery
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
A few sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary (optional)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tin of tomatoes
Half a bottle of red wine
1 tsp Marmite
1/2 a star anise
A handful of mushrooms
A big squirt of tomato puree
Salt & pepper

To remove the fat easier, make this the day before to let the fat cool and solidify.

In a frying pan, brown the oxtail pieces and set aside. Dice the onion, carrots and celery and mince the garlic. In a large saucepan, add some oil and then add these in there. Fry slowly for about 20 mins. Add the browned oxtail and the red wine and simmer briskly until reduced by half. Add the tinned tomatoes, a tin's worth of water, the tomato puree, Marmite and the herbs. Simmer for 3 hours. Add more water if it's looking dry.

Lift out the oxtail and remove the meat from the bones. Add the meat back to the sauce, add the mushrooms and star anise and simmer for a further hour. By this time the sauce should be thick and rich. Taste, season and serve with pasta.