As we sit in lockdown, the one thing on everyone’s minds is food. In the monotony of everyday life, the one space we can plan and make exciting is what we choose to eat for each meal, and what better way to make your meal-times exciting than to infuse a little restaurant quality cooking into the home?!
It all starts with produce:
Undeniably the most important aspect of cooking isn’t the cuisine, style or equipment, it is the produce! All good restaurants utilise a selection of tried and trusted producers to help deliver only the best for their patrons, so it is only fitting that we emulate this in our homes! Whilst we don’t have our own farmers and producers on hand, we can find great alternatives in certain supermarkets. ‘Harris Farm’ is well known for its great selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as their large array of packaged dips, dairy products, meats and others. For a one stop shop, this is definitely the place to go! When planning your meals, do some research into what produce is seasonal at the moment, and base your dishes around this. You won’t be able to find anything of quality if that particular ingredient is not in season.
Choose your cuisine:
Now that we have the perfect produce, it is time to pick our dish! During our regular lives we often simply rotate through a selection of trusted meals and cuisines, but lockdown is the perfect time to try something new! Whilst there are no boundaries, it is important to remember what works with your family, as well as what skill-level and cooking abilities you have. If you are just beginning your cook-like-a-professional journey, start by looking at some simple cuisines such as Mod-Aus or Italian. These are both really easy to master and elevate to restaurant quality. Look at trying a few tray bakes or some slow cooking Italian pastas. For someone with a bit more experience, try your hand at some of the Asian and Mexican dishes. There is nothing better than a perfected, restaurant-quality noodle, curry or spruced-up taco.
Presentation, Presentation, Presentation:
Now you have cooked your fabulous meal utilising fresh produce, it is time to consider how we might plate this dish to our family. To really create the ambiance of a restaurant, pull out some of your finer crockery, and take some inspiration from our friendly home-cooks on this season of MasterChef Australia. Think about the colours of your crockery, as well as what colours are present in your dish and aim to draw the eyes to this colour. Vibrancy is always eye-catching and plating slightly off-centre is very chic.
Oxtail Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta:
- 60g unsalted butter
- 60ml olive oil
- 1kg oxtail, cut by your butcher into 5cm chunks
- 2 rashers bacon, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 small brown onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 500 ml full-bodied red wine
- 2 x 400g cans Italian tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 400g dried pappardelle
- Parmesan, to serve.
- Heat a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and add the butter and olive oil. When melted, add the oxtail pieces, bacon, celery, carrot, onion, garlic and a little sea salt. Stir over a low heat for 15 minutes until the meat is lightly browned. Increase the heat, add the red wine and simmer for about 10 minutes or until reduced by half.
- Stir in the tomatoes, the tomato juice and chicken stock, and simmer covered for about 2 hours, or until the oxtail is completely tender. Remove the oxtail and when it has cooled sufficiently pull the meat off, discarding the bones. Place the meat back in the sauce. Check the seasoning and add a grind of pepper.
- Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and combine with the oxtail ragu. Gently toss together.
- Using a pair of tongs, divide the pasta among four bowls. Spoon over the remaining sauce and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.